Christopher Clarke from Glasgow has made Scottish legal history by becoming the first person to be convicted of filming pirate copies of movies and distributing them over the internet.
Clarke was sentenced to 160 hours of community service at Glasgow Sheriff Court for offences under the Copyright Act after he admitted secretly recording six films on his mobile phone and selling them over a file-sharing website.
The inquiry was launched by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) after film industry bosses became so concerned about the number of illegal copies being made in Glasgow that they considered stopping issuing movies to cinemas in the city.
FACT traced the six films by tracing a digital “watermark” which identifies the cinema screen and time each film was shown. They realised that all six had been copied from screenings at Cineworld in Renfrew Street.
After studying a list of Cineworld’s subscribers, who pay a monthly fee to see unlimited films, they found that Clarke had attended each film. They also discovered that the films had been uploaded onto the web from a computer belonging to Clarke’s girlfriend.
A special preview of the Russell Crowe blockbuster Robin Hood was held in May last year at Cineworld. FACT investigators watched Clarke going into the cinema to watch the film. After the showing, Clarke was stopped and searched by police, who found a copy of the film on his phone.
John Dunn, Area Procurator Fiscal for Glasgow, said, “I hope this sends a strong message to all those who believe that they can remain anonymous solely because they commit their crimes over the internet.
“They should beware that the investigative authorities of Scotland work tirelessly to remain at the forefront of forensic computer analysis and technological specialism – we can and will track down those who pirate films, whether the profit is made in cyberspace or a marketplace.”
Will this be the first of many successful prosecutions? I’m sure it is one scene that the authorities would like to see repeated several times.