A Year In Jail For Filming 20 Seconds Of A Movie?

from the disconnect-with-reality dept

For some odd reason, the movie industry has been really focused on the supposed camcorder threat this year. They’ve been talking it up with completely unsubstantiated numbers and getting various governments to pass stricter laws, making it a crime to record movies. The thing is, it’s already against the law in most places. These laws are just much stricter. However, the bigger issue is that camcording is the least of the industry’s worries. After all, a large percentage of the movies that are downloadable online aren’t from camcorders, but are leaked from Hollywood insiders. More importantly, every movie is available online. You’re simply not going to stop movies from getting online by throwing some kids with camcorders in jail. All it takes is for one copy to get online and then it’s available to everyone. Stopping 99% of the people putting movies online won’t make the movie any less available because all it takes is that one person to get a copy online and it can spread like wildfire. Finally, downloadable movies do not appear to be a substitute for the social experience of going to the movies. We’ve seen this over and over and over again — most recently with the Simpsons Movie.

But what happens when you get into the habit of treating your customers like criminals and even get laws past to make it easier to accuse them of crimes? You get ridiculous situations like the story of a 19-year-old girl on her birthday who was having some fun with a video camera to record her trip to the local mall. She and her boyfriend went to see a movie and she decided to film about 20 seconds of it to later send to her brother to convince him to go see the movie (yes, to promote the movie, so her brother might become a paying customer). Instead, she was arrested and now faces fines and jailtime. You would think that anyone would recognize this wasn’t a movie pirating situation and let it go — but instead, the theater owner, Regal Cinemas, is pressing charges, while the MPAA is citing its discredited bogus stats as a reason that this type of action makes sense. It’s difficult to see how this benefits the movie business in any way. It’s scaring off people from going to the theaters, treating movie fans as criminals and discouraging them from promoting movies to their friends. Plus, on top of it all, a company like Regal Cinemas is making itself look like a bully. This helps the industry how exactly?

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: mpaa, regal cinemas

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “A Year In Jail For Filming 20 Seconds Of A Movie?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Gary H. says:

Year In Jail For Filming 20 Seconds.

“she decided to film about 20 seconds of it to later send to her brother to convince him to go see the movie” smells like a big smelly pile of doodoo! Tell your brother to go on-line and check out the previews like everyone else. Who DOESN’T know that taping a movie is illegal?

I agree that the MPAA can go too far sometimes and “downloadable movies do not appear to be a substitute for the social experience of going to the movies” but the pitiful arguments (there are many) this article makes only hurt the cause.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Year In Jail For Filming 20 Seconds.

he pitiful arguments (there are many) this article makes only hurt the cause.

Why is it that nearly every time someone says that I’ve made bad arguments, they don’t bother to point them out so I can actually see whether or not the arguments are bad (and if they’re not bad, respond). Seriously, point out the bad arguments so we can have a discussion. Otherwise, it’s tough to know what to respond to.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Year In Jail For Filming 20 Seconds.

Tell your brother to go on-line and check out the previews like everyone else. Who DOESN’T know that taping a movie is illegal?

What if she felt it was more personal if she could prove that she saw the movie and liked it? It wasn’t about showing *the film*. It was about showing that she went to it.

And, in that spirit, why would she think it was illegal to pull out her camcorder? She KNEW she wasn’t taping much of the actual movie. She KNEW there was no commercial damage being done. It’s completely natural that she wouldn’t think what she was doing was illegal.

Anonymous Coward says:

the real problem

If the movie industry wants to know what hurts their business, I’ll tell them. It’s not me downloading a movie, it’s the fact that my son is only two and the wife and I haven’t been able to “just go to the movies.”

We use to be avid movie goers, at least three or four movies per month if not more, when my son was born that all changed, but not the desire. When we get the chance we love going to the theater, price isn’t that big of deal, it never was, it’s simply a matter of opportunity. Now we have to coordinate our schedule line up a sitter, and pick a time to be back before it’s too late.

Now we just wait for DVD release, if it’s really something I want to see (300/Transformers) I’ll look for a download and guess what, they were so good we decided to actually see them on the big screen just for the effect. “300” came out Tuesday, guess what I bought.

So, some kid filming a movie is not the problem folks, mass black markets like China and Yugoslavia are your worries and half the time those are leaked Hollywood screeners. Don’t be like the RIAA, your customers are still with you; do not alienate another form of media entertainment for unfounded worries of internet downloads.

pacija says:

Re: the real problem

Hahahahahaha this gave me so much laugh. But also the sadness. Nasty evil Yugoslavia (btw. this country does not exist for more than four years) takes profits from American movie industry. Why is it so poor then? Also, did you know that ‘Yugoslavia’ was forbidden to import anything (including movies, music, food etc.) during the period of more than 10 years in the ’90s? So u think those people living there should just have waited 10 years for embargo to stop to see the first movie, or to travel to Hungary to cinema?
I apologize i spoiled quality of your life, Anonymous coward, being citizen of ‘Yugoslavia’. Long live Hollywood and corporations. Kill the freedom. Kill the poor.

Lord Farquhart says:


…as the article in the Post suggests, common sense MUST prevail in court?

If not, there should be a co-ordinated mass protest…everyone should take cameras into their local cinema on a given day and record 20-second clips of the film (=movie 😉 ) being screened! They can’t arrest EVERYBODY!!

GP says:

Come on......

Are you kidding me? The movie was part of the experience she was filming.
I agree with you that recording a movie is illegal not to mention that it takes the fun out of the movie experience.
I can also see why the cinema might have suspected illegal activities initially and maybe she should have requested their permission beforehand but seriously…jailtime??? For 20 seconds of footage???
Does the law replace common sence???

Even if she was lying…I’m sure that you could probably download a better quality version on the internet anyway, which is the point of the article I believe. The MPAA would be better served with thinking up a smarter way of serving their paying customers….this is just a bully’s solution and it doesnt even solve the problem!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Why is the burden not on the owners of the movie theatre? It doesn’t even make sense that it should be on the courts. It is up to the movie owner to decide whether someone has been recording the ENTIRE movie in order to put it up online (even though I could find a better copy anyway) and someone who makes a 20 second clip. And to those that are blaming the girl because she should have known. First off, dumb laws need to be broken to show how silly they are. Second off, when its your birthday and you are having fun, do you think to yourself, “hmm perhaps i shouldn’t record 20 seconds of this movie because my little bro will love it. i might get arrested.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Is it illegal?

It would seem that this actually fits pretty neatly into the “fair use” exception. Taking a small excerpt of a copyrighted work for private review purposes is perfectly legal, and this shouldn’t be a criminal matter.

On the other hand, if the activity violated the theater’s policy, asking them to leave could have been perfectly legitimate.

Finally, if the theater confiscated the video camera and had someone arrested for legal activities, there may be well be some liability for the theater.

npgmbr (profile) says:

Don't Feel Sorry for Her at All

This woman is not stupid. She knew what she was doing was wrong. If she wanted to convince her brother to see the movie she could have easily sat him down infront of a computer to look at the many trailers offered online. No I don’t feel sorry for her and this is not a ridiculous event because what she did was against the law. Its time we stop excusing peoples behavior because we don’t agree with the policies of the particular organization that the offender has violated.

npgmbr says:

Re: Re: Don't Feel Sorry for Her at All

Oh because I believe that what she did was wrong im an a$$hole? The a$$hole is the person that makes excuses for those that knowingly break the rules when everyone else is playing by the rules.

I didn’t make any cliams to be a f*ckin saint, but if I get caught breaking a law, my first response will be to own up to it and not pretend to be an idiot.

Overcast says:

is not a ridiculous event because what she did was against the law.

When people get less time for manslaughter and rape? Yeah…. right…

I mean ol’ Scooter Libby got a pardon for perjury and obstruction of justice – let’s not forget what Paris Hilton got for repeated drunk driving, nor let us forget what Sandy Berger got for stealing government archives

And she gets a year for this?


We can clearly see where the justice system’s priorities are.

npgmbr (profile) says:

Don't Feel Sorry for Her at All

bubba C,
If I run a red light I’ll automatically get a ticket if a camera is installed at that intersection. If a police officer is three I’ll possibly get my license suspended and points on my record. But if I was stupid enough to do it then I deserve what I get. But the honest truth is that I don’t run red lights because I don’t want to be responsible for ruining the life of another person for my own selfish desires and I certainly don’t want to be stuck having the pay the VA any excessive fees associated with wreckless driving.

What you fail to realize is that our actions have consequences. Stupidity is no escuse for violating a law.

AnonyMOOSE says:

I was just foolin’ around at a party and having a good time when I saw a passed out girl and took her panties down and put just the tip of my penis inside of her when her boyfriend came over and pummeled me and had me arrested for rape. I was only messin’ around and wasn’t even gonna put it in all the way and wasn’t even gonna try to cum or nothin’. Now I’m about to be convicted of a rape and I didn’t even get a happy ending. Somebody please HELP ME!!!

(She is facing a year in jail for being stupid.)

Dan says:

Was what she did illegal? Yes
Does she deserve some sort of punishment? Yes
Can it be argued that a full year in jail is too harsh? Yes

For 20 seconds of film, she needs to remain in jail for a full year. You can say she got what she deserved, but think about this, she is told she will remain in jail for a year simply because she filmed 20 seconds of a video. I am not argueing that what she is did was right, nor am I saying she should get off the hook, however I do believe this is an excessive punishment for her crime.

rstr5105 says:


It’s been mentioned before and I’ll state it again,

IT WASN’T Illegal! She was taping the clip for Personal Review Purposes! It’s fair use and not infringement.

Although I suppose it also depends on where in the film she started taping, because if she started taping at the beginning of the movie her intent COULD have been to film the whole thing.

Geoffrey Kidd says:

Piracy NOT the issue, Proportional Response IS

20 seconds = 1 year in jail. That’s rather like being cut off on the sidewalk by a skateboarder and shooting him. The response is *NOT* I repeat *NOT* proportional to the magnitude of the mistake.

Taking the camcorder from her until the movie’s over. Fine.

Kicking her and camcorder out of the theater. Fine.

Banning her from the theater. Marginal.

1 year in jail. Bullying.

nipseyrussell says:

i’ve never sided with anti-pirate forces before, but here i have to agree. why the hell was her camera out in the first place? shes as bad as the people talking, using phones, etc. you’re at the movies not your living room. SHUT UP, SIT DOWN, AND WATCH THE MOVIE….or go to jail! i love it
now if they would incarcerate the other filth at the movies maybe it would be a more pleasant experience and people would start to go back.

Bill from Phoenix says:

Year in Jail for Filming 20 Seconds

She is a teenager and only shot 20 seconds of a movie for her “Day at the Mall”. What is preventing her from doing the same with a DVD in her home. You all have missed the point. It is the greedy theater and the MPAA. They can not control insider jobs so they go after little teenage girls. They are hurting themselves.

So if all of the current movies now in the theater are on the Internet we all know what to do to slap the MPAA silly. Don’t go to the movies, don’t buy the DVD – Down load it off of the Internet!

Anonymous Coward says:

To all those morons commenting about legality. Laws are made everyday some are good, some are bullshit. The fact is recording a film should NOT be illegal in any way shape or form. If the law makers weren’t such corrupt bastards it wouldn’t be illegal and the worst that could happen to anyone recording a film in part or whole is being kicked out and banned from the cinema.

The second thing to point out is whether what she did (record 20secs) is actually illegal, just because the MPAA says it is doesn’t make it so nor is it any more true when you trolls say it is.

Third, even if it is illegal to record a film the maximum punishment should be a ban from the cinema and maybe a small fine something like £100.

Fourth, do you morons actually want to pay for this woman to go to prison? Why would you want your taxes to go up and up having to pay for bullshit jail terms?

You morons are so brainwashed by corporate america you actually believe the shit they come out with. Why not just give them all your money you idtiots.

Nasty Old Geezer says:

Proportion, please

THe kid did something dumb. Don’t use a video recorder ina theater — at all, ever.

So, kick her out, no refunds. If she makes a BIG fuss, invoke contract law and civil penalties, cost her a couple hundred dollars.

Jail time for that is idiotic — if it is legal , then it is a bad law. Reserve the jail time for people that are found to be distributing pirated material for profit

supr says:

just wow

I just can’t believe this.Why the MPAA waste time and money with such stupidity?TO scare average Joe?Yes it is.
Record 20 seconds and be jailed for 1 years!I smoke some marijuana in the face of a cops and don’t get arrested.But if i record or download a movie be ready for years of jail.Welcome to this shitty world.If you defend them , than you’re probably one of these fat guy with small penis siting all the day long in the office and setting their own little shitty rules,grabbing your hard making money laughing and drooling like pork.Legal does not always mean good.

It’s hurt the cinema economy?When a actor is paid 10,000,000 a years i think they are looking at the wrong direction of who’s a thief.If the MPAA want to stop file sharing.Than cut the internet plug or sue the reel publisher of pirated content.The true coupable it’s not the guy sharing a file he just download.But the one making it’s easy to access these files by just typing – The transformers

That why caribean pirates it’s a great movie.Because pirates rules

Alidor says:

20 sec = 1 yr.

It’s like the skateboarding analogy.
Imagine getting sentenced to being shot in the groin with one of those weird beanbag guns, you know, the police things? 300 times, at random intervals throughout the year, just for arbitrarily abusing a questionable artwork-protection measure.
Surely a code of humanitarian conduct is being contravened by the the party pressing charges. But even if they are just trying to cozy up to some industry player would it really seem just to fire hundreds of supersonic 1/4-pound bags at their crotch for an entire year? Imagine them at a meeting or at home at the dinner table:
“OK are we ready? Good. Earlier this month Stan Jenkins and I met to discuss the Q3 production sched-BLAM-THOK! Ahhhhhhhh! Ohhhhhhhhh. Ohhh god… not again… Ohooohoohohoo nooo… Aaaa..haaaah. Why can’t they just kill me? Awwww god…”
“Janie? Davie? Don’t you have something to tell mommy? Your teacher told me you got a badge at school today for helping an elderly lady with her groc-BLAM-PWACK! Boh! Hoooh-hawggg…”
“Daddy? Are you sick? Where does it hurt?”
“Leamme-alone! Awwww god nooooh… I need to throw up…”

It just seems like it wouldn’t be a fair punishment. Sure it’d be fun to watch, but I doubt we’d get to.

darkness (profile) says:

While a year in jail might seem harsh, who doesn’t know that this is illegal? How do you stop piracy without sending a stinging message to those who do it? I work in a theater and had to enter the movie recently to stop someone from doing this very thing. It was disruptive (the light from his phone, not me) to everyone else in the theater. I didn’t kick him out, though I probably should have. I just asked him to stop. Luckily for us both, he complied. His feigned ignorance, however, ticked me off. He knew better than that. Who doesn’t these days?

magnetite (profile) says:

A camera might be a camera, but the human eye is also a glorified camera. You can’t post what you see online though, that’s the only difference. However, everything you see, can be recorded into your memory, so you can talk about it with friends. So if the act of taking a picture that is copyrighted, so is viewing it with your eyes, because you’re taking in all that information and recording it into your memory.


Lawmakers think that cameras and eyes aren’t the same thing, but they are.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...