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Out of the Theater, Into the Courtroom (Wash. Post article on phone taping of movie)

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Out of the Theater, Into the Courtroom (Wash. Post article on phone taping of movie)

Old 08-02-07, 11:41 AM
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Out of the Theater, Into the Courtroom (Wash. Post article on phone taping of movie)

Out of the Theater, Into the Courtroom
Brief Taping Brings Charges

By Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 2, 2007; Page B01

Jhannet Sejas and her boyfriend were celebrating her 19th birthday by taking in a matinee showing of the hit movie "Transformers" at the theater at Ballston Common mall.

Sejas was enjoying the movie so much that she decided to film a short clip of the sci-fi adventure's climax to get her little brother hyped to go see it.

Minutes later, two Arlington County police officers were pointing their flashlights at the young couple in the darkened theater and ordering them out. They confiscated the digital camera as evidence and charged Sejas, a Marymount University sophomore and Annandale resident, with a crime: illegally recording a motion picture.

"I was terrified," said Sejas, her voice breaking. "I was crying. I've never been in trouble before." She said the assistant manager of the theater saw her holding up the Canon Power Shot and reported it to the general manager, who called police.

Sejas said she had no intention of selling the 20-second film clip. She just wanted to show it to her 13-year-old brother, who had said he wanted to see the movie. She was shocked when the officers showed up.

Sejas faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 when she goes to trial this month in the July 17 incident. Arlington police spokesman John Lisle said it was the decision of Regal Cinemas Ballston Common 12 to prosecute the case, a first for Arlington police.

"They were the victim in this case, and they felt strongly enough about it," he said. The general manager of Regal Cinemas declined to comment yesterday.

Movie pirating cost the industry $18.2 billion worldwide in 2005, the last year for which figures were available, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Moviegoers are increasingly carrying cellphones, digital cameras and other devices capable of recording.

"Ninety percent of recently released films that are pirated are done by camcording in movie theaters," said Kori Bernards, a spokeswoman for the Motion Picture Association of America. "It's happening all over. And there's been a rash of camcording in the Washington area of late."

Besides facing a misdemeanor charge, Sejas was also banned for life from the movie theater she has frequented. Sejas, a Bolivian immigrant who works two part-time jobs to help finance her education, works at the Victoria's Secret store near the movie theater.

Her boyfriend, Ivar Villazon, said the camera belongs to his sister; the couple borrowed it, Sejas said, to "make memories" on her birthday.

Kendrick Macdowell, general counsel for the Washington-based National Association of Theatre Owners, said that illegal pirating of films costs the industry billions of dollars and that the industry was stepping up efforts to stamp it out.

Because of that, he said, there has to be a "zero-tolerance policy at the theater level."

"We cannot educate theater managers to be judges and juries in what is acceptable," he said. "Theater managers cannot distinguish between good and bad stealing."

Macdowell said the trade association, which represents 28,000 screens nationwide, realizes there is a difference between "egregious acts of stealing our movies and more innocent ones." But he said that distinction needed to be made in court rather than by theater managers.

Not everyone agrees.

"The movie industry needs to recognize that their audience isn't the enemy," said Cindy Cohn, general counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit group that specializes in digital rights issues. "They need to stop treating their fans like criminals. . . . What they're doing is extremely unreasonable, coming down on this poor girl who was actually trying to promote their movie."

Copying a motion picture from a theater performance is a felony under the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, punishable by up to three years in a federal prison. Several states, including Virginia, also have anti-piracy laws.

Jason Schultz, senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he is aware of only one case prosecuted under the federal statute. In September 2005, a Missouri theater employee pleaded guilty to two counts of using a camcorder to copy two movies.

He said he has never heard of a case like Sejas's.

"I've heard of people's devices being confiscated, or them being kicked out of the theater," Schultz said. "This is the first criminal arrest for someone filming for personal use that I know of."

Sandy Hughes, Sejas's attorney, said she hopes she can resolve the case before it goes to trial Aug. 21 in Arlington General District Court.

Villazon said he and his girlfriend had taken a bunch of birthday pictures of each other in the mall, posing with a "guy and girl in a cow suit" at the Chick-fil-A restaurant in the food court.

They got to the movie a few minutes after it started. And even though they paid $15 for two matinee tickets, they missed the end.


~

hmmm.... kind of akin to getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar....

had to laugh at the last sentence....

harsh, but people ought to realize the MPAA and it's piracy policies aren't to be taken lightly.

out of my experiences at the Regal Ballston theatres - they are really mean and authoritarien all the time - at one point they would not allow people with bags or backpacks into the theatre... come on, you're in a Mall for Christ's sake... I don't have a car, I came here on the Metro, my personal shit's in my bag, no I don't have a video camera hiding in it... lighten up... sheesh. This incident will make them even more the assholes they currently are. Regal Rockville also makes people open their bags. Regal Gallery Place hasn't yet searched my backpack when I've gone to movies there.

Last edited by Giles; 08-02-07 at 11:51 AM.
Old 08-02-07, 11:44 AM
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I have no problem with this. There's no such thing as "a little stealing" or "a little pirating". More than likely she'll pay a fine and do CS, and that's the right result.
Old 08-02-07, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by DVD Josh
I have no problem with this. There's no such thing as "a little stealing" or "a little pirating". More than likely she'll pay a fine and do CS, and that's the right result.
I agree. I'm tired of people stealing movies and thinking nothing of it.
Old 08-02-07, 11:55 AM
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... has the world gone nuts?

By your logic, there's no such thing as "a little speeding", so everybody doing 66 in a 65 should be fined? Everbody jaywalking on an empty street as well?

There are gray areas, and the distinction of intent does need to be made. She did not intend to pirate, nor steal. If the story is correct, then she was intending to promote the movie. The studio would suffer absolutely no loss, but rather a gain.

Dispensing punishment across the board with no oversight or human judgment is exactly the opposite of how our legal system should work.
Old 08-02-07, 12:14 PM
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This has nothing to do with piracy. The theaters are coming down hard on audiences for only one reason...because the studios are coming down hard on theater operators.

The studios are laying the blame for piracy on the theater operators (even though everybody, even the studios, knows that it isn't the theater operators or audiences that are to blame). The studios simply want to blame the theater operators for piracy, because the studio's real goal is to narrow the window between theatrical release and DVD.

The narrower the window (perhaps no window at all, ie simultaneous release to theaters and DVD) the more profits for the studios. The studios would love nothing more than to cut theaters out of all profits, keeping more for themselves. Laying the blame on theaters for piracy allows studios to substantiate their move to cut theaters out of the loop. Theaters are terrified of this, so they are coming down on audiences like fucking Nazis, to create the appearance that they treat piracy seriously and are prepared to do anything to stop it.
Old 08-02-07, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by j_sutton
... has the world gone nuts?

By your logic, there's no such thing as "a little speeding", so everybody doing 66 in a 65 should be fined? Everbody jaywalking on an empty street as well?

There are gray areas, and the distinction of intent does need to be made. She did not intend to pirate, nor steal. If the story is correct, then she was intending to promote the movie. The studio would suffer absolutely no loss, but rather a gain.

Dispensing punishment across the board with no oversight or human judgment is exactly the opposite of how our legal system should work.
Your analogy is irrelevant to this situation. You are missing the point entirely. Intent is not at issue here when the act itself is a crime. Just because you steal bread to feed your family doesn't mean the act itself is not a crime.

Seriously, you have to be a stone retard not to know that taping a movie is illegal. This girl has no defense.
Old 08-02-07, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Josh
Your analogy is irrelevant to this situation. You are missing the point entirely. Intent is not at issue here when the act itself is a crime. Just because you steal bread to feed your family doesn't mean the act itself is not a crime.

Seriously, you have to be a stone retard not to know that taping a movie is illegal. This girl has no defense.
I understand that, but would you say that a person who stole only to feed their family should be punished with the same sentence as someone who smashes a window and robs simply for personal gain?

This is why there are multiple degrees of murder. It's not purely the act that is in question, it's supposed to be all the circumstances surrounding it.

She may have known that it was a crime, and that's fine, I'm not saying that she didn't. But punishing a person who is going to torrent this movie the same as a person who's showing a clip to their brother is a a bit insane.
Old 08-02-07, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by j_sutton
I understand that, but would you say that a person who stole only to feed their family should be punished with the same sentence as someone who smashes a window and robs simply for personal gain?

This is why there are multiple degrees of murder. It's not purely the act that is in question, it's supposed to be all the circumstances surrounding it.

She may have known that it was a crime, and that's fine, I'm not saying that she didn't. But punishing a person who is going to torrent this movie the same as a person who's showing a clip to their brother is a a bit insane.
That's why I posted she'll likely pay a fine and do some CS. That's the right result. Clearly this person should not go to jail or be heavily fined. But there should be a penalty. If there isn't, what good is deterrence at all?
Old 08-02-07, 01:25 PM
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By your logic, there's no such thing as "a little speeding", so everybody doing 66 in a 65 should be fined? Everbody jaywalking on an empty street as well?
But it's still illegal. If you get pulled over for going 66 in a 65, you DID break the law. You can say "I didn't break the law that much!", but it all boils down to "I broke the law..."
Old 08-02-07, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Seantn
But it's still illegal. If you get pulled over for going 66 in a 65, you DID break the law. You can say "I didn't break the law that much!", but it all boils down to "I broke the law..."

... and the ... law one


sorry
Old 08-02-07, 03:32 PM
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The studios are just blindly lashing out, and they're not even doing any good. Do they really think people that are content to watch a movie off a shaky-cam or phone camera will instantly start ponying up the money for a ticket if this is stopped? They'll just go back to having their friends let them in the fire-exit or something like that.

This type of incident only serves to give the studios a blackeye, and make people hate "the system" even more. Did they even check to see if she only had a few seconds worth of footage on the phone?
Old 08-02-07, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Seantn
But it's still illegal. If you get pulled over for going 66 in a 65, you DID break the law. You can say "I didn't break the law that much!", but it all boils down to "I broke the law..."
Correct. However, even police officers are rational enough that 99% of people doing 0-5 mph over the speed limit will not be pulled over. As mentioned above, it does no good to go after the minor, tiny, inoffensive cases. It merely widens the gap between the common person and the MPAA/RIAA/etc.

When you watch a concert, you see all those hands holding cell phones... usually just sharing a tiny, low-res bit with a friend. Do you really think all those thousands of people should now be arrested, booked, charged, and placed in jail?

There have to be limits in place on everything.
Old 08-02-07, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Giles
[i]Out of the Theater, Into the Courtroom
Brief Taping Brings Charges

.... Arlington police spokesman John Lisle said it was the decision of Regal Cinemas Ballston Common 12 to prosecute the case, a first for Arlington police.
Can someone please explain to me how it was the cinema's decision to have this case prosecuted? Last time I checked, simply showing a film, concert, performance, etc. did not give the venue copyright to that performance. At least that's what the MPAA and MLB keeps telling me when I try to get my friends to pay-per-view in my livingroom.
Old 08-03-07, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Mabuse
This has nothing to do with piracy. The theaters are coming down hard on audiences for only one reason...because the studios are coming down hard on theater operators.

The studios are laying the blame for piracy on the theater operators (even though everybody, even the studios, knows that it isn't the theater operators or audiences that are to blame). The studios simply want to blame the theater operators for piracy, because the studio's real goal is to narrow the window between theatrical release and DVD.

The narrower the window (perhaps no window at all, ie simultaneous release to theaters and DVD) the more profits for the studios. The studios would love nothing more than to cut theaters out of all profits, keeping more for themselves. Laying the blame on theaters for piracy allows studios to substantiate their move to cut theaters out of the loop. Theaters are terrified of this, so they are coming down on audiences like fucking Nazis, to create the appearance that they treat piracy seriously and are prepared to do anything to stop it.
They would make less money having the DVD come out the day after the movie in the theatre closes. The only reason they make it a few months is so it is fresh and new. No ones going to go rent or buy a DVd they just saw 2 weeks ago.
Old 08-03-07, 09:29 PM
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Sounds like the movie industry is trying to out-asshole the music industry.
Old 08-06-07, 02:50 PM
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They would make less money having the DVD come out the day after the movie in the theatre closes. The only reason they make it a few months is so it is fresh and new. No ones going to go rent or buy a DVd they just saw 2 weeks ago.
Movie studios have to share the theatrical boxoffice earnings with the theater owners. With DVD movie stuidos share nothing. DVD is so big right now that studios make more money on the DVD than the theater in many, if not most, cases.
Old 08-06-07, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Giles
"Ninety percent of recently released films that are pirated are done by camcording in movie theaters," said Kori Bernards, a spokeswoman for the Motion Picture Association of America.
----
Because of that, he said, there has to be a "zero-tolerance policy at the theater level."
I've seen samples of some of these types of recordings, and they look like someone set up a high quality camcorder on a tripod (based on the perfectly framed steady picture). Which leads me to believe that the majority of this pirating is being done by theater employees and not customers... how could a customer not only sneak a camera and tripod in but also set it all up without drawing attention?
Old 08-06-07, 04:11 PM
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Theater copies typically look like crap. Anyone likely to buy them isn't really going to be a targeted buyer for the studios. For the most part, the high-quality prating is not done at the theater level.

But like the observers who noted years back that targetting Napster would result in FEWER CD sales (& have you noted the decline in sales lately?), movie studios are likewise setting themselves up for a fall.
Old 08-06-07, 04:23 PM
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Her boyfriend, Ivar Villazon, said the camera belongs to his sister; the couple borrowed it, Sejas said, to "make memories" on her birthday.
Pics?
Originally Posted by MrE
But like the observers who noted years back that targetting Napster would result in FEWER CD sales (& have you noted the decline in sales lately?), movie studios are likewise setting themselves up for a fall.
I would argue that the decline in CD sales is due to people downloading music through legitimate methods (iTunes and such), not because of the fall of Napster.
Old 08-06-07, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
Pics?I would argue that the decline in CD sales is due to people downloading music through legitimate methods (iTunes and such), not because of the fall of Napster.
You would be wrong.
Old 08-06-07, 06:02 PM
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Arlington police spokesman John Lisle said it was the decision of Regal Cinemas Ballston Common 12 to prosecute the case, a first for Arlington police.
I hate to argue with the cop, but if a federal law has been violated it's up to a federal prosecutor whether to press charges in this case, not a movie theater chain.
Old 08-06-07, 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
Pics?
Old 08-06-07, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by j_sutton
When you watch a concert, you see all those hands holding cell phones... usually just sharing a tiny, low-res bit with a friend. Do you really think all those thousands of people should now be arrested, booked, charged, and placed in jail?
Actually recording a concert is legal. Recording a movie isn't.
Old 08-06-07, 10:03 PM
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I work in the music industry, friend, and I can tell you that, without a doubt, recording a concert IS QUITE ILLEGAL unless the performer(s) permit it (in any number of ways, depending on who you are & what you do). Example: Metallica allows fan filming/taping with whatever type of equipment you like (as long as it's not too obtrusive), but ONLY in certain sections of the arena, usually the nosebleed seats.

Also, the permanent CD sales slump is due to the simple fact that people now have more things to spend their disposable income on, i.e. movies (DVDs, specifically), video games & systems, and stuff like I-Tunes. It doesn't help that so much music is available for free online, but that primarily hurts the record companies and not the bands so much, since bands make most of their money touring, and record companies make most of their money from CD sales. This is also why all the big (and small) record companies are merging to form bigger companies (more fiscal insulation).

But, back to the subject at hand; the girl probably knew what she was doing was illegal/wrong; but ignorance of the law is no excuse, either way. She should get a REASONABLE fine (though I'm certain she'll be smacked with the full $2500), and some CS.
Old 08-06-07, 10:59 PM
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Originally Posted by zombiezilla
...She should get a REASONABLE fine (though I'm certain she'll be smacked with the full $2500), and some CS.
I don't see that happening, I see the case being dismissed since she only taped a 20 second clip. She obviously wasn't going to pirate the movie plus she has an attorney. Though the case will be dismissed (my prediction), she'll still end up paying $1,000 or so on the attorney unless it's a family friend or something like that. And speaking of pirated versions of Transformers, a friend of mine was in South America a month ago, picked up a copy of the movie on DVD for about $4.

And speaking of theaters in malls - there's a guy I know who works at a chocolate / popcorn store in a mall. He sells quite a bit to people saying that they are going to the movies (there's a theater in the mall). And why not? It's dirt cheap compared to the prices in the theaters.

Last edited by Heat; 08-06-07 at 11:05 PM.

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