On May 23, 2013, five unmarked cars containing 10 police officers and representatives from the Federation Against Copyright Theft tracked down UK-based Philip Danks.
From Walsall in the West Midlands, then 24-year-old Danks had cammed Fast and Furious 6 at a local Showcase cinema before uploading it to the Internet. A year later the computer programmer was handed an unprecedented 33 months in prison.
Following a successful appeal to the Ministry of Justice, Danks is now on home detention after serving one year and 18 days of his sentence. Earlier this week he read a TF piece which covered FACT’s warning to potential cammers of the upcoming Bond film ‘Spectre’. We suggested that releasing the movie in the UK almost two weeks before the U.S. launch was a recipe for piracy. Danks agrees.
“The movie industry do staggered releases to build up suspense with a movie but I for one know this does not work. As you know movies are (usually) released in the company they are created in, hence James Bond and Fast 6 being released here in the UK first,” Danks told TF.
“However, this just creates an unnecessary window for pirates to grab the film before anyone else. It gives them the opportunity to obtain maximum results from being the first group or person to leak the movies online because people who cannot watch it at the cinema will be wanting a pirate copy to give them their movie fix.”
That escalated quickly
That urge to be first was what put Danks on the radars of FACT and then the police. After his arrest and subsequent conviction Danks was initially sent to HMP Hewell, a Category B prison in Worcestershire, later being transferred to the low-to-medium risk HMP Oakwood. But despite committing only white-collar crime, Danks was placed alongside those with a thirst for violence.
“I was locked up with all sorts of people, including murderers, bank robbers etc. I remember one guy who I worked with in the kitchens who had been sentenced to 18 years for killing someone. He got out and within six hours was arrested again for killing his victim’s friend,” Danks explains.
Easy prison life…..for a celebrity
Given comments made last week by Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde who said that he’d been asked to sign autographs in prison, it’s interesting that Danks enjoyed a similar reception.
“To be honest I was somewhat of a celebrity in prison, amongst both prisoners and staff alike. Not one person (including my offender manager) thought the punishment fit the crime,” he reveals.
Overall, however, Danks says that prison itself wasn’t that bad.
“Personally I believe locking people up will not work, prison is easier now than ever. I had (which everyone gets) a 22in Sharp TV with 135 channels, a phone in my cell, a kettle, and my own shower and bathroom facilities.
“In all honesty prison was comfortable, I was never scared or even worried about the people around me. So no, prison does not work. Prison isn’t a deterrent for the most heinous acts of crime, let alone ‘copyright theft’.”
Worth it then? Absolutely not…
Despite having an easy life in prison, Danks told TF that the whole punishment package amounts to something a lot more than just being denied freedom for a while. The personal costs outside the prison walls were considerable.
“Prison has affected my life dramatically. I lost my home due to not being able to keep up with rent, I lost my car, job, and everywhere I go I’m not recognized as someone who does good things, I’m just ‘that guy who’s been in prison’,” he explains.
“I applied for a job at a sports shop last week, where I have worked before and known the manager for 13 years. His response was ‘we do not employ ex-cons’. So it’s even difficult to gain employment.”
Having no way to make real money, Danks said that his family were always under pressure to send cash for things like phone credit – and then found themselves worrying when he didn’t manage to call them.
“Life was more of a strain on my family then on me,” he notes. Tragically, his family became significantly smaller during his time in prison.
“Whilst I was in prison I sadly lost two of my uncles and my grandad, all of whom I never got to say goodbye to because I was refused leave to go to funerals. I am not a religious man but was forced to pray at the chapel because it was the only way to say goodbye.”
Just not worth it
Overall, it’s clear that Danks is still upset about what happened to him. He admits that he’s done wrong but blames FACT for an aggressive prosecution and a court system ill-equipped to deal with cases like his.
“Crown Courts are meant for criminals, those who hurt people or are a danger to the public, not for civil cases brought to a criminal trial because the government are in the back pocket of the movie industry. They have their priorities all wrong and favor corporations over consumers,” he says.
Not even Danks’ lawyer escapes criticism.
“My solicitor never actually defended me. He simply sat back and let the prosecution bludgeon me to the point of no return,” he explains.
Thinking of camming? Think again
“People really need to think twice. Going to prison is an extremely tough strain not on yourself, but on your family. You will lose respect from loved ones, friends and work colleagues. Prison never has a happy ending, it will always hang over you wherever you go.”
“Simply put, prison isn’t worth the kudos you get from being the first to leak a movie, stay away from it all and be happy with your family!”
One last thing
The work of movie cammers is often talked about in the media but how they operate is often shrouded in secrecy. Join us next week for an A to Z reveal of Danks’ activities, from selecting movies, locations and equipment, to staying undetected in the cinema and making a clean getaway.
To get a year’s worth of things of his chest, Danks has taken to YouTube. His rant is embedded below.