The anti-piracy movement has focused a great deal on education this year, but enforcement is still very much on Hollywood’s mind. Especially when those responsible are as “arrogant and cocksure” as Philip Danks, a 25-year old programmer in the UK who has been handed three years jail time for his ill-advised pirate activity.
Danks was not only brazen in his illegal recording of “Fast & Furious 6″ upon its day of release last year, he also forgot the old adage that “pride comes before a fall.” Boasting on Facebook that he was first and openly taunting the film’s studio, Universal Pictures, it wasn’t long before authorities connected the dots and laid responsibility for the estimated $4 million in losses firmly at his door.
He wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last.
The early days of illegal downloading were marked by high-profile lawsuits, particularly from record labels, as music was the focus of most pirate activity at a time when connections were slower and music proved the most accessible content to steal.
Since then, bandwidth has increased enough that illegal downloading and even streaming of movies. A pre-release leak of “Expendables 3″ showed just how much damage early piracy can do to even an established film franchise, hitting it right where it hurts studios most: opening weekend at the box office.
The “Fast & Furious” franchise has been a popular one at the box office for many years, with the tragic death of its star Paul Walker last year only heightening interest, particularly via illegal channels. These factors combined to make the film’s sixth release one of its most popular, as well as one of 2013′s most pirated movies.
Danks contributed in no small part to the estimated 7.4 million illegal downloads last year, with 779,000 attributed to his early release recording. If the figures are correct, that would attribute around 11% of the titles illegal viewing to Mr. Danks’ , putting him high on the list of pirates for Hollywood to target.
Mr. Danks will have plenty of time to consider the value of subtlety as he serves his 33 month sentence. Hollywood has learned this itself, choosing to pursue a more education-based anti-piracy initiatives and investing in legal online alternatives for viewers to find the content the want to watch, where they want to watch it. Studios can’t sue everyone who downloads a film illegally, but they can clearly put plenty of resources into pursuing the ones who let it loose in the first place.
Education for the masses, enforcement for the earliest offenders? The proverbial “iron fist in a velvet glove” could prove to be the most effective way to curb piracy after all.