No video souvineers, please

While I’m off listening to Negativland, my darling girlfriend and a buddy will be seeing Hairspray. While I’m fond of musicals I draw the line at spending money to see whacko John Travolta offend my sense of irony. Trying to avoid indirectly supporting cults isn’t the only reason to avoid our area theaters either – there’s the whole insane level of copyright enforcement that’s come to our area as well.

In fairness to the MPAA, I normally believe that harassing us legit customers – by doing things like demonizing my cell phone because it has a camera in it – is pretty pointless, given that someone who would watch a crappy hand-held camera capture with bad sound isn’t ever going to spend $9 to see your movie in the theater anyway. However in this case we’re talking about the Transformers movie, which even in full quality is an aural assault with jerky video that’s hard to make out, so perhaps Jhannet could actually have sold that video clip. Plus, if anything would cost the industry money it’s letting people who might have spent cash to go see that in the theater know what they’d be paying to see while they can still get away.

Or maybe we should just all avoid the Ballston mall theater from now on and go somewhere that is spending more time trying to make the experience positive for us and less looking for non-existant boogeymen. Max and some of our commenters have suggestions of other possible places to see movies in the area.

13 Comments so far

  1. Twitch (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 11:16 am

    How is this an “insane level of copyright enforcement”? What she did was illegal. Period. What if she concocted her story after getting caught, meanwhile she had intentions of taping the entire movie and distributing on the internet or via bootleg DVD? The answer is: No one knows.

    Chances are what she is saying is the truth but like the article says it is not up to the theater manager to be judge, jury and executioner.

    I say that she got what she deserved (the removal from the theater and permanent ban on returning). It’s not like this is some obscure law that no one has ever heard of.

  2. Don (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 12:01 pm

    Actually Twitch, since she was supposedly observed by the assistant manager, I assume that person knows whether she just pulled the camera out near the end of the movie or if she’d been holding it up the whole time. Personally I think it’s close to irrelevant – I’ve got a camera of that model and have filmed video clips with it. The result would be a muddy, jittery, and generally unpleasant result to watch.

    The article quotes the MPAA about lost revenue and I continue to say with great confidence that anyone who would watch such a crappy version of the film was never going to pay the $9 to get in anyway. It’s up there with Ruth’s Chris claiming that a McDonalds next door constitutes competition for their steaks.

    All that aside, from the article: “Sejas faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.” You really think that’s a reasonable response to a little clip from the flick?

  3. Tiff (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 1:19 pm

    I have a similar camera, and I don’t know about hers, but mine only takes 30second video clips to begin with, making it pretty much impossible to pirate an entire feature-length film with it.

  4. Twitch (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

    I think that you both (Don and Tiff) assume that the theater manager knew anything about the camera that the young lady was using.

    Don, you also assume that the asst. manager saw her raise the camera up halfway through the movie, for example. The article doesn’t specify how far into the movie they were.

    I just remembered that I saw I Know Pronounce You Chuck and Larry at Ballston last week. It is the first time I have been to that theater since Walk the Line came out. There was a theater employee coming into the theater and walking the perimeter at least twice during the film. Maybe it was even three times. I’m assuming that these routine rounds were when the girl was seen with the camera.

    Do you all really think that she will get the maximum sentence if she’s found guilty? I don’t. But I still think that she should get some type of punishment. She broke the law. Granted, it probably was innocent. Community service maybe?

  5. Don (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 1:44 pm

    You really think this is an offense worthy of punishment, huh? Ever call a friend from a concert so they can hear the singer briefly?

    Every indication is that this woman created a video clip of inferior quality and of briefer duration than that which the movie studio has spent millions trying to show everyone who would hold still long enough. The full extent of the crime, therefor, is preventing them from controlling every nanosecond of the promotion of their film.

    Sorry, I just don’t buy that what she’s done justifies the inconvenience and embarrassment of arrest, much less jail and a fine. If you’re in favor of this just because she “broke the law” then we’ll never see eye to eye. There are and have been plenty of unjust laws in the history of our country and I have never been in favor of enforcing every single one just because it got passed into law.

    If the people who purport to represent us – rather than the corporations they actually represent – had been looking out for us they wouldn’t have passed that garbage DMCA that put in prohibitions like the one being enforced here which pretty plainly steps on fair use.

  6. Twitch (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

    I’m in favor of juries deciding what constitutes the need for punishment. How is this any different then getting pulled over for speeding and using the excuse “I just needed to get home faster”? It’s not. You knew what you were doing was wrong. No one is above the law. However, proving that you were speeding for a “good” reason {insert good reason here} and I can agree to letting someone off the hook. Saying “I wanted to get my brother excited for the movie” doesn’t cut it in my book.

    Thanks for the debate.

  7. Tiff (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

    Well, it’s pretty obvious that the camera in question is NOT a camcorder, for example, since it looks about as much like a camcorder as my cell phone…

    Meanwhile, going on about how illegal it is to take a 30 second clip (which could be construed as very legal fair use, by the way), is fairly hypocritical unless you also have a moral objection to watching sporting events at bars instead of at home. “Public performance” of games is prohibited, after all…

  8. Twitch (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

    Don’t you think you are splitting hairs with that argument Tiff?

  9. Don (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

    That’s the problem with a “well, that’s the law” approach. There’s not always the requisite amount of subtlety there and some of the laws are just offensive or stupid. Until Lawerence v Texas in 1996 [pdf] blowjobs were illegal in the State of Virginia.

    ยง 18.2-361 Crimes against nature
    A. If any person carnally knows in any manner any brute animal, or carnally knows any male or female person by the anus or by or with the mouth, or voluntarily submits to such carnal knowledge, he or she shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony, except as provided in subsection B.

    Give one or receive one, you were a felon and the penalty was FIVE YEARS. How do you reconcile that with “But I still think that she should get some type of punishment. She broke the law.”

    Personally I can’t, which is why I cannot accept the position that something demands respect and obedience just because “it’s the law.”

  10. Tiff (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

    Not at all. You’re arguing that the person in this story deserves whatever punishment she gets because she took a 30 second clip of a movie to send to her little brother, and that’s OMGillegalz!!!

    I’m arguing that your position is pretty ridiculous unless you would also arrest everyone who has ever watched a sporting event at a bar, as well as every bar owner who ever showed it, because that too, is OMGillegalz!!! and a violation of relevant copyright law.

  11. Twitch (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 5:06 pm

    Don – How do you make your decisions as to which laws you can and cannot break? Which laws you can and cannot bend? I bet that your mind would change as soon as one of these laws hurts you. You seemed to change your tune as soon as the first comment (since deleted) asked for you to remove a photo that was originally attached to this post. Sure, you made your argument as to why you were allowed to use the photo but then you deleted it (and the comments). It appears to everyone that you accepted that what you did was wrong even though you seemed to know the law (if that is the correct term here) stipulated that you could use it. My point is that you seemed to feel for the artist/photag and decided not to apparently hurt him – be it emotionally (“you didn’t ask for my permission”) or financially (“I was going to sell that to XYZ”). If you posted a 30 second Transformers clip here that you found online and the MPAA requested you remove it… would you submit to their request?

    Take the issue up with the court, as happened here:
    I agree that this, along with your example of the Virginia law, are ridiculous and albeit outdated laws. But they are still the laws. They are there to protect citizens. Is everything written in concrete? No, none of it is. Hell, maybe this Transformer videotaping will change how the law is written. But until then, it is what it is.

    Tiff – Thanks for taking this debate down to your level of maturity. LOL WTF BFF!!! PWNED. You beat me on that one. I’m going to end there expect to say that show me the language making the public showing of t.v. illegal along with why bar owners, restaurants, bus stations, airplanes, etc. are not being sued daily for this “public performance.”

  12. Don (unregistered) on August 6th, 2007 @ 5:23 pm

    I changed the photo because we have always honored people’s requests regarding their creations, even if we weren’t obligated to do so. I deleted the comments stating that I was going to change the photo even thought I didn’t have to because I thought better of getting into a pointless argument while providing a link for someone who was making my day more difficult.

    I personally endeavor to follow all the laws unless I’m willing to be a test case. Sometimes I am. I am not trying to promote widespread anarchy here, merely point out to you that I don’t think “it’s the law” is a sufficient response to my assertion that this penalty is excessive.

    I point you to your exact response to me: “How is this an “insane level of copyright enforcement”? What she did was illegal. Period”

    I didn’t take a position on the existence of copyright law or enforcement thereof, I said I think arresting someone over this is stupid and potential year in prison is excessive.

    The theater could have simply demanded she stop. Prior to the DMCA there were civil penalties for the MPAA to utilize and they could have done that if she’d actually engaged in the behavior we’re supposedly worried about. Now instead we have a situation where behavior that may or may not fall under fair use has been made into a criminal matter. The courts and police – funded by our dollars – are in the enforcement business for corporations.

    I think that’s stupid and the fact that “it’s the law” isn’t enough to change my position on the matter.

  13. Tiff (unregistered) on August 7th, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

    I’m not dragging anything down to anything- I’m simply mocking your hysterical contention that something must be wrong because it is illegal. That’s very backwards.

    Meanwhile, “public performance” of a copyrighted work (such as a sports broadcast- haven’t you ever heard the disclaimer at the end of an MLB or NFL game?) is very specifically prohibited in copyright law, and there was such a case just this last year about the NFL getting on a church’s case for having a Super Bowl party.

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