Phillip Danks jailed for filming in cinema

Phillip Danks jailed for filming in cinema

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Introduction

Honestly. You get a suspended sentence for glassing someone, a Community Order for rape, does anyone go to prison anymore? Well, in the Midlands they’re a bit robust, with one Judge leading the way by jailing Phillip Danks for nearly 3 years (2 years, 9 months to be precise) for filming in a cinema.

 

Facts

Obviously, there’s a bit more to it than that … Mr Danks not only filmed Fast and Furious 6, but he uploaded it to the internet where it was downloaded 700,000 times. He also offered to sell it via his facebook page. An assistant of his, Michael Bell, got a Community Order.

Apparently this lead to a loss of revenue to the film company of ‘millions of pounds’. This needs to be approached with a slight degree of scepticism as it is extremely unlikely that all those who downloaded it would otherwise have paid the full price to go and watch it.

What isn’t clear is exactly how much money Mr Danks made from this operation. According to a FACT press release (Federation Against Copyright Theft – the body that prosecuted this) he offered to sell copies of the film for £1.50, and it may be that he made something from all the downloads. It is doubtful if he would have made more than a couple of thousand pounds for this.

 

What were the charges?

They are said to be under the Fraud Act and (probably) s198 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998 (maximum sentence of ten years).

There are guidelines for fraud, but this doesn’t fit too well into any of the categories. At a push we’d say it was a kind of confidence fraud constituting a single transaction of a non-vulnerable victim (page 20), but even then it’s not ideal.

The sentence does seem pretty high. We don’t know if there was a guilty plea, but we think so. Either way, this does seem out of line with sentenced for other offences. We’d expect an appeal.

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

13 COMMENTS

  1. What an outrageous sentence. OK, copyright theft is a criminal offence. But seriously, let’s look at how much money these films make. According to boxoffice.com, the movie had a total budget of $220,000,000. And it had a worldwide box office gross income of $789,917,881; I’m not sure if that is inclusive of the domestic US gross of $238,679,850, but let’s say that it did. $789,917,881 – $220,000,000 = $569,917,881. The film company made $569,917,881 pre-tax profits!

    That’s crazy. Is it any wonder people pirate films? I’m not condoning it but I can see why people do it. Let’s take an average family of two adults and two children go and see the latest Disney film. There’s the entry fee, then the food and drinks. You’re looking at close to £50 for that trip. The the kids will want all the merchandise associated with the movie, such as toys and clothes (and everything else in between). Then there’s the DVD/Blu-ray release! People can’t afford that these days. So they try and find the cheapest method to watch it, and for some people the most appealing option is to download it from the internet.

    There are all these new initiatives springing up about educating the public about using legitimate means to obtain the movies, music, games and other software legally. Well, maybe it’s time someone educated these big fat cats on the realistic cost to the public that support them and pay through the nose to see one of their films!

    • I agree. Why on earth are the police and the courts involved in this at all?

      If the copyright holders can PROVE that they have suffered a financial loss then they should be able to sue the person who breaches copyright in the civil courts, but they would have demonstrate that those who downloaded the film would have paid for the privilege otherwise (which of course they would not have done).

      I do not believe that there is any crime here at all. When I think of all the white collar crime that is going on from tax evasion to bank fraud, which is costing the people of this country so much, and with so few prosecutions and hardly anyone ever going to jail, this sentence make me sick. One law for the rich and another for the ordinary person.

  2. If FACT gave evidence to court that the loss to the owners of the copyright was £2.3 million then I wonder if they should be prosecuted for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Of the alleged 700,000 who downloaded the film for free how many would have paid £3.28 + VAT for the privilege? I suspect that the best answer to that question is “very few indeed”. Firstly most people who download dodgy copies do not generally pay for the real thing, but there are some who after watching a dodgy copy then go on to buy the film from a legitimate source. I would be most interested to see how this figure was calculated.

    Phillip Danks was sentence on the basis of of having caused a huge loss to the film makers. I hope that he appeals his sentence and the police start an investigation into the possibility that false evidence of the size of the loss was given in court.

  3. Philip danks is my brother we are going to appeal against his sentence as most of you say, FACT cannot possibly say they had a loss of 2.3 million. Most people who download would not buy the dvd nor see it at cinema, they wait for a download to come out and every single one of them had to search for the torrent as philip never advertised it. Our local paper is helping with the appeal and we have set up a change.org petition which we are hoping to get as many public to sign to show the public do not agree this sentence is fair.

    • Did FACT use the “£2.3 million loss” nonsense in a statement to the police, or as evidence in court? If so then I am sure that they are guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice – since that would have been a factor in the sentence given by the judge.

      Reading the press reports it seems clear that Philip Danks was guilty, and there were some aggravating factors such as continuing to sell film downloads while on bail, and he did deserve a fine or suspended prison sentence, but the length of his sentence is disproportionate.

      • Hi he was advised not to appeal as if the appeal didn’t go in his favour he would only start his sentence from the date of the appeal. Which means he would possibly have to do an extra 6 months on top of his sentence.

  4. Hi yes philip pleaded guilty from the start. FACT used the 2.3 million as evidence in court with regards to losses. They stated that 50 percent of people WOULD have gone to the cinema to see the film and that’s how they came up with the figure. I completely disagree I believe a lot less would have gone to see the film as most people who download do so as it’s free they would have jus waited for another download. Philip is mentioned in a lot of download forums and every people in the forum downloads dvds. They ALL state that the figure is wrong and I think their figure is more likely to be correct.

  5. Emily, what good do you think your petition will do on appeal?

    It may be that your brother was over-sentenced but thousands of people ticking a box on their computers won;t make it so.

    What really gets my goat is when the copyright protection outfits describe the money their members say they have lost as “a loss to the economy”. Wrong. Even if a rights-owner loses (say) five milion pounds that’s five million pounds spent on other things.

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