Woman Sues Theater For Pressing Charges Over Filming Twilight Snippets At Birthday Party

from the keep-the-dream-alive dept

You may recall the story from late last year of the young woman whose sister had a birthday party, where part of the festivities was going to see the Twilight: New Moon movie. Since it's pretty common for people to record part of events such as birthday parties, this woman, Samantha Tumpach, kept filming part of the party, and that included some snippets from the movie. Because of that, the theater had her arrested under the MPAA's favorite anti-camcording laws. She ended up spending two nights in jail, and and even the movie's director claimed the whole thing was "terribly unfair." The theater and prosecutors stood by the arrest for a while... until finally dropping the charges.

At the time, Tumpach suggested she might sue the theater, but it looks like it took seven months to get everything in order to do just that. Tumpach is now suing the theater company, Muvico, over the arrest, saying that she wasn't warned, and that even the MPAA had told the theater to just delete the content and file a report. But, the lawsuit claims, the theater went further in pressing charges because of the possibility of collecting a monetary reward that was promised to theaters that provide info on bootleggers:
"Buckus signed the criminal complaint in hopes of collecting a reward for providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a person engaged in video piracy when he very well knew that she was guilty of no such act."
When rumors of her planned lawsuit first came out, we pointed out that the Illinois law in quesiton appears to make the theater's actions perfectly legal, so there's probably not much chance of the lawsuit succeeding. However, it does highlight the perverse incentives created by the MPAA in its mad rush to both pass anti-camcording laws like this one, and then to incentivize theaters to press charges against anyone, no matter what the circumstances.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Tank_Szuba (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 7:47am

    MPAA - the new DA?

    Aside from all of the others issues i may take exception to in this case. The one that truly disturbing is in the post from Wired where it states near the bottom "The suit claims that, once local officers took the woman to the station, they called the MPAA for guidance. The suit says the MPAA recommended destroying the footage and releasing her" Why in the world is a police department seeking guidance from a private third party entity and NOT the local DA? I cannot fathom that. The only parties the police should have been contacting are plaintiffs, defendants, and the DA. The MPAA was none of them in this case so why?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 7:49am

    How can you spend 1 night in jail for that, let alone 2? Couldn't police resources be better utilized?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 7:51am

    Re: MPAA - the new DA?

    "Why in the world is a police department seeking guidance from a private third party entity and NOT the local DA?"

    Very charitable donations.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 7:56am

    Standing Up For Fair-Use Rights of a Twilight Fan

    It's like standing up for freedom of speech for racists. You don't want to deny the principle, but it still makes you feel dirty, just because of who they are.

     

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  5.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 8:03am

    Re:

    Because it's Rosemont, IL, just outside of Chicago, probably known for being the 2nd or 3rd most corrupt and mob-influenced town in the Midwest. With the police brass all on the take, no, they don't have anything better to do.

    Besides, working with the mob as they have, taking orders from the MPAA must feel very familiar to them....

     

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  6.  
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    mjb5406 (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 8:40am

    Re: MPAA - the new DA?

    Oh, you obviously don't know about Rosemont, IL... its late mayor, Donald E. Stephens, had reputed mob ties (never proven) and, supposedly, his son, Bradley, who became mayor after his father's death, is no more reputable. The police department is usually not good for much more than directing traffic around Allstate Arena (and they do a poor job of that, too). Nit the best police force, and collusion with the MPAA is no surprise at all.

     

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  7.  
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    mjb5406 (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re:

    Oh no, say it's not true! Those admirable men in blue, protecting Allstate Arena from who knows what heinous crime! And you dare smear the name of the late, great (in his own mind) Donald E. Stephens! His son, Bradley, is gonna get Vinnie "The Corkscrew" after you!

     

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  8.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Wouldn't surprise me, actually. I'm Irish too, so there's another reason for the Italian mobsters to come after me....

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    NullOp, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 9:56am

    MuviCo

    This kind of chicken-shit behavior is becoming far too common in America. Boycott these morons!

     

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  10.  
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    SuperSparky, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 9:59am

    On the other hand...

    I agree fully on the way this entire thing went down. The police, the MPAA, the DA etc.

    However... You have to be dumber than a box of rocks to record anything in a movie theater no matter what the occasion.

    You see, it is against the law to do such things in a movie theater. She has to take responsibility for her own actions. Granted, the Police, movie theater, etc. overreacted, this is true, but she also did something incredibly stupid and incredibly illegal.

    This means the first person to do anything wrong was her, not the Police, not the movie theater, not the MPAA, not the DA.

    I am sick and tired of idiots blaming other people for their own bad behavior. Sure, her treatment was way above the threshold for acceptable, but SHE did do something wrong.

     

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  11.  
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    Tank_Szuba (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 10:03am

    Re: On the other hand...

    Please do not believe that i was in any way justifying her actions. Personally i believe that although illegal the way laws used to be written and enforced was to allow leeway for actions like this that were not in the intent of breaking the spirit of the law as opposed to the letter of the law. Yes she broke it and eventually was released because someone saw that her intent was not against the spirit of the law. That said my commentary was merely on the way things happened subsequent to her arrest and how ridiculous they were until her release.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 10:07am

    Re: On the other hand...

    I think she would be better of putting a website and calling people to go record the movie with a crowd and see that every last one of them are jailed and they call the media and tweet that to all the world.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 10:10am

    No more birthday parties in movie theaters.

     

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  14.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 10:25am

    Her case is frivolous and a total loser. She should be penalized for even bringing it.

    She's lucky the criminal charges against her were dropped.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 10:42am

    her case is horrible and cannot be won, it would require the jury to entirely ignore the concept that she broke the law, and the theater, while zealous is their actions, was within that law.

    she should be very careful, as the statute of limitations isnt up on the criminal charge, they could always press charges.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 11:01am

    Re: On the other hand...

    However... You have to be dumber than a box of rocks to record anything in a movie theater no matter what the occasion.

    The *reason* you're not supposed to record in a theater is so that the recording does not "compete" with the movie version.

    Filming a birthday party with snippets of a movie showing is not competing with the theater film.

    The law, as written, does not make much sense.

    Claiming that you have to be dumber than a box of rocks to record in a theater is both wrong and obnoxious. Among the younger generation today, growing up with mobile phone cameras, they're used to recording fun snippets of their lives. And that may include part of an event at a movie theater. To them it's natural.

     

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  17.  
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    mjpriz, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 11:02am

    Re: On the other hand...

    One of the basic tenets of the founding fathers was that citizen should not be subject to cruel or UNUSUAL punishment. We do not water board someone for "J" walking in this country. We do not throw someone in jail for two days for filming a snippet of a film. The MPAA's concern, and the purpose of the law, is to prevent people making commercial copies of the movie. If I go to professional football game for my birthday and film part of the game, would I be thrown in jail for two days? But, it I copy or use snippets of the game for commercial gain, the National Football League would come after me. I hope the next time you get pulled over for exceeding the speed limit by 5 miles per hour they throw you in jail for six months.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 11:13am

    Re:

    I'll have to say that might be a good thing...but I would have figured that ejections as a matter of policy would do the trick.

    Perhaps that theater owners saw the (disruptive) party and thought that coming up with something that would get them arrested would really teach them a lesson.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 11:31am

    Re:

    So, how do those MPAA boots taste?

     

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  20.  
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    rooben, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 11:35am

    Re: On the other hand...

    I disagree with your assessment here. The approach you are looking at this is soooo rule of law (its against the law, so she should be punished.) This is more an illogical application of a law, and an example of how a bad law can implicate someone not actually doing anything wrong (in the golden rule sense).
    While she DID disobey the law, calling her dumb for doing so is going far.
    There should not be any reasonable assumption on her part that recording a fragment of a movie, during a birthday party that was being held in the theater, would be illegal. What she did had nothing to do with infringement, and there was no way that the film she had recorded could be
    a) redistributed as the whole movie(unless she had several cell phones to continuously record) or
    b) caused anyone to not see the movie (unless they decided from the 1-2 minute fragments that it was a horrible movie).

    Her actions, if observed by any reasonable person, would never even considered to be unlawful, or infringing.

    Even if you looked at previous copyright law, something like this should fall under "Fair Use" easily. There was no loss, no real infringement.
    This is what happens when lawmakers work for the highest bidder - individuals can't compete with this, and our police(paid for by our taxes) become extensions of their corporate masters.

     

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  21.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 11:52am

    The complaint is here: http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2010/07/moviesuit.pdf

    Her claims are:

    (1) Malicious Prosecution: She claims that the Movico manager acted "without probable cause." He personally watched her hold up her phone and record the movie. That's probable cause. She also claims that the "criminal proceeding was ultimately dismissed" in her favor. I'm not positive, but I don't think the prosecutor deciding not to prosecute satisfies this element of the tort. She wants $50K for this claim.

    (2) Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress: She claims the Movico employees "conducted themselves in an extreme and outrageous manner." Not even close. No court would agree with her on this element. She wants $50K for this claim.

    (3) Negligence: She claims that "Movico had a duty to warn" her that using her camera to record the movie was illegal. This is the most ridiculous claim of them all. Of course Movico had no such duty. If I were her attorney signing this complaint, I'd be worried about being sanctioned for even suggesting so. It's that ridiculous. She wants $50K for this claim.

    (4) Defamation Per Se: She claims that Movico's press release "imputes Samantha lacks integrity." She does lack integrity, but that's not the issue. The issue is that the press release only states facts. Stating facts is per se not defamation per se. She wants $50 for this claim.

    Having read the complaint, at first I felt sorry for her attorney. Assuming he's on a contingency fee, he's gettin' nothin'. But then I realized, he's the dumbass who took this case in the first place.

    Defendant might end up very well having to pay the plaintiff's attorneys for having brought the suit. Her own attorney might even be sanctioned.I really think it's that bad.

    If she does have to pay the plaintiff's attorney's fees, it won't be that bad: A judge will be done with this case in a blink of an eye. :)

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 11:54am

    Re:

    Yeah, because pressing charges worked so well the last time, right TAM?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 11:59am

    Re: MPAA - the new DA?

    Why in the world is a police department seeking guidance from a private third party entity and NOT the local DA?

    You apparently don't know that most police consider it their duty to serve the interests of big business and those with money.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re: On the other hand...

    We do not water board someone for "J" walking in this country.

    There would probably be less jaywalking if we did.

    We do not throw someone in jail for two days for filming a snippet of a film.

    Read the story. Yes, we do.

    The MPAA's concern, and the purpose of the law, is to prevent people making commercial copies of the movie.

    No, the MPAA doesn't want people even engaging in non-commercial sharing of movies.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 12:11pm

    Re:

    Her case is frivolous and a total loser. She should be penalized for even bringing it.
    She's lucky the criminal charges against her were dropped.


    I wonder if they could reinstate the criminal charges just to teach her a lesson.

     

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  26.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re:

    "I wonder if they could reinstate the criminal charges just to teach her a lesson."

    I imagine the humility of publicly losing the civil suit will do just that... especially if she has to pay the defendant's legal fees.

    I also think the prosecutor will continue to decline to prosecute. It wasn't "good for business" then, and it's certainly not now either.

     

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  27.  
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    Chucklebutte, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 12:34pm

    wow

    The whole the theaters get a kick back for snitching thing is soooooooooooooooooooooooooo bothersome, just yet another reason to not ever go to the theater again.

     

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  28.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: On the other hand...

    "'We do not throw someone in jail for two days for filming a snippet of a film.'

    Read the story. Yes, we do."

    I think the reason she was in jail "for two days" was because she got arrested on a Saturday afternoon. That's the worst time to get arrested.

    Getting arrested on Saturday afternoon and being released on bail on Monday is perfectly normal and legitimate. The Supreme Court has even ruled so.

    She should have committed her crime early on a Tuesday. All of the weekend offenders are processed on Monday, so Monday morning is no good. On Tuesday though, you're first up.

    Ah, hindsight! LOL!

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: On the other hand...

    Her crime? What a fucking joke.

     

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  30.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: On the other hand...

    "Her crime? What a fucking joke."

    Yeah, I hear ya.

    Although, according to the law, there's no doubt that what she did was criminal.

    I'm not saying I agree with that. I'm just saying that's how it is.

     

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  31.  
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    Whisk33, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 1:44pm

    Concurrent Events

    This is an interesting read when comparing it to the previous article on the RIAA response of the viacom/youtube ruling.

    Specifically "It will actually discourage service providers from taking steps to minimize the illegal exchange of copyrighted works on their sites."

    You can see that with the movie theaters the relationship has developed into a theaters and hollywood vs consumers through the incentivising of the enforcement of IP. I think the RIAA would very much like to copy its relationship with the theaters into the relationship of the service provides... It is nice to see that this is not the case. (yet...)

     

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  32.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 2:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: On the other hand...

    "Although, according to the law, there's no doubt that what she did was criminal."

    The concept of fair use would like to disagree with you. Even if it was undoubtedly a crime (which it isn't), it's a CIVIL crime not a CRIMINAL charge.

     

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  33.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 4:10am

    "The concept of fair use would like to disagree with you. Even if it was undoubtedly a crime (which it isn't), it's a CIVIL crime not a CRIMINAL charge."

    Reread the article. Mike even linked to the CRIMINAL statute at issue here. It's criminal and tortious.

    And I know what fair use is.

     

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  34.  
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    Niall (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 5:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Ah, I knew there was a reason you made so much sense for someone living in 'Southern Canada' ;)

     

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  35.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 9:13am

    Re: On the other hand...

    > she also did something incredibly stupid and incredibly illegal

    What's the difference between something that's illegal and something that's incredibly illegal?

     

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  36.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: On the other hand...

    > Although, according to the law, there's no doubt that what she
    > did was criminal.

    Actually, there is doubt. This law is not a strict liability offense, which means there is an intent element that must be both present and proven for the violation to be actionable.

    If she was recording the events of the birthday party and only incidentally happened to catch parts of the movie playing in the background, then there was no intent on her part to record the movie and hence no crime occurred.

     

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  37.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: On the other hand...

    > Even if it was undoubtedly a crime (which it isn't), it's a CIVIL crime
    > not a CRIMINAL charge.

    There's no such thing as a "civil crime". The two terms are mutually exclusive. Either it's a civil matter, or a criminal matter. Anything that's a crime is a criminal matter.

     

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  38.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re:

    > Perhaps that theater owners saw the (disruptive) party and thought
    > that coming up with something that would get them arrested would
    > really teach them a lesson.

    Or perhaps they weren't being disruptive at all, because they rented out the theater for their party and no one else except the party-goers was in the theater.

     

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  39.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 9:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: On the other hand...

    "Actually, there is doubt. This law is not a strict liability offense, which means there is an intent element that must be both present and proven for the violation to be actionable.

    If she was recording the events of the birthday party and only incidentally happened to catch parts of the movie playing in the background, then there was no intent on her part to record the movie and hence no crime occurred."

    This wasn't footage innocently caught in the background. She pointed her camera at the movie screen and recorded parts of the movie. Twice.

    I haven't taken a class in criminal law yet, but my understanding of intent means the intent to do the act. She meant to record segments of the movie, so there's the intent. I don't think intent means the intent to break the law. Otherwise ignorance of the law would absolve her of liability, which it doesn't.

    I certainly could be mistaken here.

     

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  40.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 9:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Or perhaps they weren't being disruptive at all, because they rented out the theater for their party and no one else except the party-goers was in the theater."

    They only rented out only a part of the VIP section. There were others there.

     

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  41.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: On the other hand...

    > She pointed her camera at the movie screen and recorded parts of
    > the movie. Twice.

    This seems to be in dispute, which is why I said there's some doubt, and which is probably why the MPAA itself recommended that the police just erase the video and release her instead of pressing charges.

     

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  42.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: VIP

    > They only rented out only a part of the VIP section.

    Movie theaters have VIP sections now? What does that mean? Is it like a night-club where only the hot girls and pretty people get the best seats?

    I think I'd be quite annoyed if I showed up to a theater early to get a good seat but when I walked in, I was told I have to sit right up front or off to the side or way in the back because I'm not a "VIP".

    One more reason to just invest in a nice home theater and never go out to the movies again.

     

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  43.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 10:39am

    "This seems to be in dispute, which is why I said there's some doubt, and which is probably why the MPAA itself recommended that the police just erase the video and release her instead of pressing charges."

    In dispute? Where? Who is disputing that she took the video?

    I got it from her complaint. In her own Statement of the Facts she says:

    "Samantha excitedly began to video the opening scene of the movie . . . ." And then later she recorded again "hoping to capture her favorite actor taking his shirt off."

    There are two incidents where she admits she intentionally pointed her camera at the screen and recorded the movie.

    The complaint is here: http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2010/07/moviesuit.pdf

     

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  44.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: VIP

    "Movie theaters have VIP sections now?"

    I didn't know that either. I read it in her complaint.

    Maybe I'll have my next birthday party at a movie theater! And then McDonald's afterward! LOL!

     

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  45.  
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    average_joe (profile), Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 10:44am

    Re: Re: On the other hand...

    "What's the difference between something that's illegal and something that's incredibly illegal?"

    I think that comes into play during the sentencing phase. ;)

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2010 @ 5:12pm

    Re:

    HOLY SHIT, WHY HAVEN'T THEY LOCKED HER UP PRISON YET!!! SHE MIGHT POINT A CAMERA AT OTHER THINGS SHE'S NOT ALLOWED TO!!!

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2010 @ 5:25am

    MUVICO added to boycott list along side ....

    RIAA
    MPAA
    Garth Brooks
    Prince
    U2/BONO
    SONY
    HP
    APPLE
    BEST BUY
    Yo Momma

     

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  48.  
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    johnlee (profile), Jun 20th, 2012 @ 3:38am

    Individually i believe that while illicit the way laws used to be written and imposed was to allow freedom for dealings like this that were not in the goal of infringement the spirit of the law as disparate to the memo of the law,we have a nice collection of Birthday Messages that you can use for someone special on special day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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