The Decepticons are Here

One good thing to come out of the YKos FCC session: I was tipped off to this story, which I hadn't heard of even though it happened in a movie theater I occasionally patronize.

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.
...
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.

But Sejas was trying to convince her brother to spend money on a movie.

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."

A "zero-tolerance policy?" Come on, that's cant. Grabbing 20 seconds of a movie isn't like giving someone a tiny sample of cocaine. What Sejas was doing wasn't much different than what iTunes does, whetting your appetite with a 30-second clip of a movie or song.

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  • Christopher Monnier||

    > Grabbing 20 seconds of a movie isn't like giving someone a tiny sample of cocaine.

    Actually they're both rather victimless.

  • ||

    What Sejas was doing wasn't much different than what iTunes does, whetting your appetite with a 30-second clip of a movie or song.

    Yeah, just like rape isn't much different from consensual sex.

  • Episiarch||

    At least she will learn the proper lesson: don't go see Transformers (just kidding; I have no idea how it is).

    Somebody working at that theater called the fuzz. So in other words, they had a paying (possibly recurrent) customer arrested. What is wrong with people?

  • Justin Slotman||

    Lord the entertainement industry has the world's dumbest legal strategy.

  • Justin Slotman||

    Blasted typos....

  • ||

    The facts of this story are unclear. From the accounts, we don't know whether she stopped after 20 seconds and was then approached, or whether the theater employees stopped her after 20 seconds but she might have gone on longer.

    In any event, she was violating clearly-labeled (at least at the theaters I frequent, it is) and well-known policies. Either she's stupid, in which case I don't care, or she was making some bizarre political statement via civil disobedience, in which case I really don't care. This is one aspect of the IP wars in which I have no sympathy for the copiers.

  • ||

    You whip out a camcorder in a movie theater and you are asking for trouble.

    I just dont like the idea that this is a criminal instead of a civil issue. I don't like the idea of police arresting people for copyright violations.

    Also, could this fall under fair use? Isn't buying a ticket to a movie similar to buying a license for it?

    If it were a DVD, I could reproduce 30 seconds of it and use it to promote (or scorn it) and that would fall under fair use guidelines, why is it different when the source is from a bigscreen?

  • ||

    there has to be a "zero-tolerance policy at the theater level."

    Does that mean there's a negative-tolerance policy at the strategic level, and an even more negative-tolerance policy at the political level?

  • D. Greene||

    Zero tolerance doesn't necessarily require punitive legislation. And in-theater piracy is SO 1987. Nobody d/ls cammed torrents unless they have to. This whole case is superlame.

  • ||

    What's wrong with arresting your customers? It's worked so well for the music biz....

  • ||

    Surely whatever we think of this girl's intelligence, kicking her out of the theater would seem like a sufficient punishment. A year in jail and a $2500 fine is clearly absurd.

  • ||

    I just realized how disgusting it is that somebody can be arrested for taping part of a movie. The criminal act is the selling of the bootleg copy. As far as I know, fair use could conceivably cover her taping.

  • SIV||

    a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500


    Sounds kinda light,what kind of zero tolerance is that?

    Draco must be spinning in his grave.

  • ||

    "Sejas said she had no intention of selling the 20-second film clip."

    Yup, she was rapin them thar movie moguls fer shur! No tellin wut she'd git up to next!

    You'd think it was her burthday or sumthin - her tryin ta git away with big-time criminal stuff like this!

  • ||

    Also, 1 year is the maximum penalty for operating a camcorder in a theater. I'd be surprised if she gets that--it's just that there's no crime of "recording part of a movie" separate from "recording all of a movie."

    Tempest in a teapot. NEEEXT!

  • ||

    Looks like their phone number is (703) 527-9730.

    You know, if someone wants to "congratulate" them for saving the neighborhood.

  • Gahan||

    Was this "digital camera" a cam-corder type camera or just a regular snapshot camera that can take 20 seconds or so of video footage?

  • ||

    or perhaps the scourge of police forces everywhere - the cameraphone with video capability?

  • ||

    she was using a digital camera... A DIGITAL CAMERA! How good of recording quality can a digital camera possibly have for video of a movie theater screen? Anyone?

    Stupid thing to do? SHYEAH! But certainly not worth anything more than a warning.

  • ||

    """Also, could this fall under fair use? Isn't buying a ticket to a movie similar to buying a license for it?"""

    I seriously doubt it. A ticket only allow entry to a show.

    I'm kinda with jb, I would like to know more. What kind of camera was it? Did she stop taping prior to the arrival of the cops, or after?

    """"Surely whatever we think of this girl's intelligence, kicking her out of the theater would seem like a sufficient punishment. A year in jail and a $2500 fine is clearly absurd.""""

    I'd bet the year in jail and $2500 is the max penalty which she will not get. I agree that kicking her out would be the best course of action.

  • ||

    """" A DIGITAL CAMERA! How good of recording quality can a digital camera possibly have for video of a movie theater screen? Anyone?"""

    Good enough to support a major bootleg industry.

  • ||

    Good enough to support a major bootleg industry.

    Ima wager that the major bootleg industry of which you speak is not supported by people videotaping with a 19 year old's still camera that has video capability (which is how I interpret "digital camera")

  • Alan||

    In 5 years simultaneous releases on theater screens and DVD (or Blu-Ray) will be the norm. The theaters are feeling the squeeze already from the "well, I can rent it in 2 months anyway, so why bother to see it?" mentality with the shorter window between release and home viewing. By that time, theaters will either be digital, made for 3-D viewing, or Imax, so the incentive for bootleggers won't be there anyway. But the slower to innovate theater chains will keep doing stuff like this in the meantime.

  • ||

    Buying a ticket is not a license to record parts of the film. Fair use is a defense to a claim of copyright infringement. There are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people selling obvious bootlegs on the streets of NYC, and cops are busting patrons with digital cameras. Way to focus on the problem there.

    This is like arresting somebody for buying too much Pseudophed because it might be used for meth later on at some undisclosed point.

  • thoreau||

    If everybody were allowed to record clips of Transformers and show it to their friends, their friends would realize how much it sucks and never buy a ticket.

  • ||

    Which theater is it? I want to make sure i never go there. I'll also avoid the regal on route 7.

    Heh, the other theaters might do that same, tho.

  • ||

    Leave to the physicist to think that transformers sucks.

  • the innominate one||

    The punishment is overkill, surely, but this girl couldn't show her little brother the movie trailers that are invariably posted on the internet?

    Also, I hate to defend the authoritahs, but how would they know her intent?

  • ||

    god bless the infesticons

  • k||

    During the Superbowl(tm) halftime show, you see about a million flashbulbs going off--each one probably a copyright violation. Arrest 'em all!!

    Oh, sorry. Those are mostly well-off businessmen. Can't touch them. Only the college sophomores.

  • ed||

    But Sejas was trying to convince her brother to spend money on a movie

    And she can state that for the record:
    "Your Honor, I was acting in good faith on behalf of the motion picture industry! I love this movie so much that I disregarded the contract I accepted when I bought the ticket so I could share 20 seconds of it with my crippled half-wit brother who has no way of viewing the trailers or mountains of publicity on his own!"

    Sheesh. Her lame explanation is as transparent as Radley's over-the-top propaganda. Does anyone here really think she'll do "a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500"? Come on.

  • ed||

    Sorry. The propaganda this time was from Weigel.
    I regret the error.

  • Tom||

    Did she stop taping prior to the arrival of the cops, or after?



    Did the cops get there in 20 seconds?

    Does anyone here really think she'll do "a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500"? Come on.



    It's ridiculous that this is a criminal matter at all.

  • ||

    It was stupid of her. Hasn't she heard of IMDB? She should apologize to the judge and be let go.

  • highnumber||

    What a maroon!

    Maybe she can claim "stupid use"!

  • ||

    I have a zero-tolerance policy for theatres -just don't go. It actually started with 10 f***ing dollar popcorn, but this settles it.

    Lesson: Don't patronize these jerks; just wait for the pirated video.

  • ||

    ...the contract I accepted when I bought the ticket...



    Contract? What contract?

  • iih||

    Another good example of big industry lobbying for such stupid laws.

    As far as I can tell from this brief story, we do not know if she had planned on sexing up the 20 sec clip to make the movie more attractive for her brother to watch, use it in a course project at school, or whatever else is possibly covered by Fair Use Doctrine. Only when she actually reproduces it for illegal sharing and possibly making money out of the bootleg, that she should be considered a criminal. Am I getting something wrong here?

  • iih||

    ... And does this mean that if I make copies of a music CD (e.g., convert it to mp3) then I have committed a crime? I guess if I shared it with my sister, then that would be a crime.

  • ||

    iih,

    According to the DMCA, yes, that is a crime. The converting of copyrighted material from one format to another, that is.

    Ridiculous? Yes, but that's the way 'tis.

  • RonPaul2008||

    Having lived in Arlington for 20 years, I can assure you that the cops there are absolutely Draconian. Ironically, in a so-called 'liberal' area, the government of Arlington and the police are notorious for harassing senior citizens who cannot upkeep their homes and threaten them with major FINES for not keeping the painting and trim up on the outside of their houses.

    I haven't been to the movie theatre in a LONG time (most movies are just plain insulting trash) but I do NOT recall seeing large and plainly posted 'contracts' that we agree on whilst entering that inner sanctum. Boo hoo I'm really crying for big Hollywood.

  • ||

    I'm glad the ushers are on the lookout for surreptious taping - - maybe while there in there they could tell the cell phone yappers to shut up, and the general talkers as well, and occasionaly clean the damn place.

    Its much better to just rent a movie, see the good parts in slow-mo, and drink as much as you want while your watching.

  • ||

    "According to the DMCA, yes, that is a crime. The converting of copyrighted material from one format to another, that is. Ridiculous? Yes, but that's the way 'tis."

    Hey, the RIAA paid a lot of money for that legislation, and probably hookers too.

  • ||

    Hookers paid for the DMCA? That would explain a lot.

  • ||

    Of course the punishment is extreme. It's "broken window" law enforcement - the idea is to strictly enforce the less serious rules in order to prevent the more serious violations from ever occuring.

  • VM||

    Dan T:

    with that you run into issues of marginal deterrence (in for a penny, in for a pound)...

  • ||

    I don't think that was really Dan T.

  • ||

    Mostly, because it was a far more intelligent post than we'd ever see from him.

  • ||

    most movies are just plain insulting trash

    The main insult is the $10 admission.


    This woman is just as stupid as the people who hand-feed bears in the national parks. If you've been to a movie in the last few years, you've seen the warnings. Did she think they'd make a special exemption for her? She gets no sympathy.

  • ||

    Its just some 19 year old kid who thought it would be a fun way to use her digital camera. If you have no sympathy for her then you're just an asshole.

  • ||

    According to the DMCA, yes, that is a crime.

    I would need a clause citation from the law to believe this is true.

    The DMCA is a horrible law that goes to far, but it does not disallow personal use, iirc.

  • LarryA||

    Does anyone here really think she'll do "a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500"? Come on.

    Well, not if she accepts the plea bargain. If she pisses off the prosecutor, however, she could very well get the full ride.

  • ||

    Mostly, because it was a far more intelligent post than we'd ever see from him.

    Dammit, I don't even get credit for my good posts anymore! :)

  • ||

    Zero-tolerance in the sense of a theatre owner telling someone to leave and never come back, fine.

    But prosecutors are supposed to have, and exercise, some discretion in what cases they bring. From what I've read here, it sounds like the prosecutors could use some common sense.

  • ||

    """Ima wager that the major bootleg industry of which you speak is not supported by people videotaping with a 19 year old's still camera that has video capability (which is how I interpret "digital camera")""""

    Well, it's not your interpretation of digital camera that count. It's what kind it really is, which they did not state. However, if your interpretation is correct, I would agree and I believe the cops should have considered that. If you're correct, she should have been booted out at most.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican:

    "Personal use" is covered under the "fair use" doctrine. I'm not sure that defense applies here. But even if it did, it is a defense against copyright infringement. Like "personal defense" is a defense to murder, you still have to admit that you killed the guy. Put that analogy into copyright terms, and you have to admit that you broke the copyright law in order to take advantage of the defense, i.e., you're on the hook and in serious limbo. If you can't afford an awesome attorney, then you don't pass Go. You go straight to "fucked."

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