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Woman Filming Sister's Birthday Party Gets Charged With Felony Movie Piracy 705

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the ignorance-knows-no-bounds dept.
A 22-year-old woman from Chicago recently spent two nights in jail and could face up to three years in prison for taping four minutes of the new movie Twilight: New Moon. Samantha Tumpach and family threw her sister a surprise birthday party at the theater and captured much of it on video. Unfortunately, two "very short segments" were enough to make theater managers want to press charges. "Tumpach insisted she recorded no more than three minutes while in the theater — and said not all of the video she shot was of the movie. There's footage of [Tumpach] and her relatives singing to her sister, she said. 'We sang "Happy Birthday" to her in the theater,' Tumpach said. She also took pictures of family members in the theater before the film began, but an usher who saw the photo session never issued them a warning, Tumpach said."
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Woman Filming Sister's Birthday Party Gets Charged With Felony Movie Piracy

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  • 'We sang "Happy Birthday" to her in the theater,'

    A copyrighted work [wikipedia.org]? Performed in public? If I were a lawyer my nipples would explode with joy. The planets have aligned for an orgy of copyright violations! Tell me, in the video were you also photocopying the Harry Potter books with a scanner hooked up to a laptop with a cracked version of Windows 7 on it?

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Friday December 04, 2009 @04:58PM (#30329548) Journal

      Tell me, in the video were you also photocopying the Harry Potter books with a scanner hooked up to a laptop with a cracked version of Windows 7 on it?

      No, it was an Acer Netbook Hackintosh.

    • by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Friday December 04, 2009 @04:59PM (#30329558)

      If I were a lawyer my nipples would explode with joy.

      Really?

      Can we watch - I've never seen nipples explode. Do I need to use an include tag?

    • by pitchpipe (708843) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:04PM (#30329630)

      'We sang "Happy Birthday" to her in the theater,'

      A copyrighted work? Performed in public? If I were a lawyer my nipples would explode with joy. The planets have aligned for an orgy of copyright violations! Tell me, in the video were you also photocopying the Harry Potter books with a scanner hooked up to a laptop with a cracked version of Windows 7 on it?

      Welcome Citizen... to your future!

      We were so busy being scared of the communists (a la 1984) that we forgot to fear the other extreme: Unregulated free markets. It's funny how the unregulated *free* market seems to regulate us so well.

      • by maxume (22995) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:08PM (#30329686)

        Copyright is the epitome of regulation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pitchpipe (708843)

          Copyright is the epitome of regulation.

          It was an observation of irony. Those corporations that participate in the free market are using copyright laws - through the buying of congresscritters - to regulate us. So you are correct in this case: Copyright is the epitome of regulation, the regulation of you.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Shakrai (717556)

            Those corporations that participate in the free market are using copyright laws - through the buying of congresscritters - to regulate us.

            There's nothing wrong with the concept of copyrights and patents. Even the Founding Fathers realized the value of them. They also realized the value of keeping them short in duration -- something we seen to have forgotten of late.

            A decent copyright/patent system promotes innovation. Either extreme (no copyrights/patents or copyrights that last too long) will retard innovation.

      • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:17PM (#30329790)

        Uhm, unregulated free market? It's not the free market slapping her in jail or running the court proceedings. Actually, this is the application of law, and by nature this is a form of regulation. I know it's trendy to rant against "the Man" (who doesn't?) but if you're going to do it at least make sure you know what you're complaining about.

        • by pitchpipe (708843) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:31PM (#30330024)

          Uhm, unregulated free market? It's not the free market slapping her in jail or running the court proceedings. Actually, this is the application of law, and by nature this is a form of regulation. I know it's trendy to rant against "the Man" (who doesn't?) but if you're going to do it at least make sure you know what you're complaining about.

          UHM, yeah, unregulated free market. Or have you not thought deeply about where these draconian laws originate? With the average citizen? No, it comes from *Corporations* (oh noes)! I'm not ranting against "THE MAN." I'm just pointing out that the end result of corporations with lots of money can buy power and influence. Guess what they can do with that power and influence? Change our laws! Surprise Surprise. It's not a rant. It's an observation.

          If you don't believe that what I just said was true please point out the flaw in my thinking.

          • by PunXX0r (694958) on Friday December 04, 2009 @07:14PM (#30331106)
            And how do the corporations originally acquire the power to regulate themselves into monopolies?

            I'll concede that much of it has to do with being profitable enough to afford great lawyers and lobbyists to effect change in Washington. But the reason that they get into that game in the first place is because of regulation of their own business sector, and once in that position, they use their regulatory power for the express end of reducing competition, which is the only thing that businesses truly fear.

            Here is an example of how it works. I am a linoleum floor manufacturer in the midwest, whose business scope is the entire US. There are about 4 other manufacturers that make linoleum with whom I compete. One day, one of my competitors makes a product using too much of a particular chemical and his floors poison house-pets; someone figures out that it is the floors, and "pop!", a new regulatory body comes into existence to regulate my industry. The first generation of regulators is made up entirely of goody-two-shoes bureaucrats whose mission in life is to stop the big bad corporations from poisoning fluffy, and so they put a few regulations in place to ensure that the manufacturing process is clean and healthy. While they are at it, they also put some specific regulations in place about supply chain, materials, and labor, driving up the cost of making linoleum, and therefore making it more expensive. Fast forward ten years. The first generation of regulators has been mostly replaced by new faces, and now that the poison scare is off the front page, and fluffy is once again safe, the primary interested party in linoleum manufacture regulation is, well, me and my industry. Because of this, we have put many of the second-gen regulators on the payroll, and or, put our own employees into the regulatory body, if possible. By the third generation of regulators, the industry magnates can put any regulations that they want in place, and use this power to stifle competition, artificially keeping linoleum prices high, and ensuring that any linoleum-making startup will have to have enormous capital, just to pay its attorneys to spelunk through the now fifteen books of regulations for its manufacture.

            This is what most modern Socialists call unregulated free market capitalism. But it isn't. The fact that we have a political/social climate so willing to regulate industry is, ironically, the reason why industry is so notably ungoverned. The best, in fact, the ONLY way to regulate business is with demand. It isn't pretty, and it isn't proactive, but it is the only thing that works.

            READ ROTHBARD
      • by feepness (543479) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:46PM (#30330228) Homepage

        Unregulated free markets. It's funny how the unregulated *free* market seems to regulate us so well.

        She was charged with a felony. By the government. And arrested.

        Unregulated markets are not good either. But this is not a case of that. This is a case of poor regulation.

        Furthermore, a free market is a theoretical thought experiment implying equal ability and knowledge among participants and no force or fraud. It is a thought experiment alone and an unregulated market would immediately devolve away from it. They are, in fact, entirely mutually exclusive.

        In short, learn more.

    • by Richard Steiner (1585) <rsteiner@visi.com> on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:04PM (#30329634) Homepage Journal

      While the public can pay to enter, the theater is really private property. Isn't it?

      I still find it shocking that the penalty is so harsh for this type of thing while so many violent crimes in the US result in much more lenient sentences... :-(

      • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:11PM (#30329716)

        That's because nobody cares if you die - they only care if they don't get paid.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MozeeToby (1163751)

        No, it's a privately owned public place. That's why a mall owner can't have a No Pants Day at the mall (show up with no pants and get 10% off!). It's also why a mall owner can't (legally) restrict you from taking photographs inside the mall; just because it's privately owned doesn't make it private.

        • by mysidia (191772) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:18PM (#30329812)

          Yeah, they can have a no-cameras, no flash-photography policy in a privately-owned publicly-accessible place. If they catch you taking pictures, a big guard comes up to you and orders you to leave the premises: then if you stay there, you've committed the crime of trespassing.

          They can't exact physical violence against you to prevent you from taking pictures though, and taking your camera, or destroying film, is illegal for them to do (and may result in you suing).

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by tomhudson (43916)

          No, it's a privately owned public place. That's why a mall owner can't have a No Pants Day at the mall (show up with no pants and get 10% off!).

          That's discrimination against the Scots (kilts) and women (skirts, dresses)!

          Also, in several jurisdictions, topless is legal for both sexes [wikipedia.org].

        • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:26PM (#30329956) Journal

          t's also why a mall owner can't (legally) restrict you from taking photographs inside the mall;

          Yes they can. They can ask you to leave. If you refuse to do so then it's trespassing and the guys with the handcuffs, tasers and firearms get involved. They can't take your property (camera) from you or (legally) require that you delete any pictures you've taken but they can insist that you leave.

          I learned this in my concealed carry classes. My state has no legal provision for a property owner to post "no guns allowed" signs. They can post them but they have no force of law. All they can do is ask you to leave if they discover that you are armed -- you haven't actually broken any laws unless they ask you to leave and you decline to do so.

      • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:25PM (#30329926)

        I still find it shocking that the penalty is so harsh for this type of thing while so many violent crimes in the US result in much more lenient sentences... :-(

        I know! To hell with copyright infringement so we can watch movies! My friends and I are going to go out on a gang rape spree! That way, if we get caught, at least we won't have to worry as much about the penalties.

      • Irrelevant (Score:3, Informative)

        by pavon (30274)

        The term "public performance" in the context of Copyright law isn't just about whether the property is public. It has to do with whether the audience is "the public". If you invite enough people (greater than a judge considers fair use) over to your house to watch a DVD, then you are infringing on the exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder.

        From 17 USC 101 [copyright.gov]

        To perform or display a work “publicly” means —

        (1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or

        We broke both of those rules frequently in college - yay projector night!.

    • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:47PM (#30330244)

      If I were a lawyer my nipples would explode with joy.

      Are you using a Hungarian to English translator? I have to tell you that my hovercraft is full of eels.

    • by Xenographic (557057) on Friday December 04, 2009 @06:12PM (#30330528) Homepage Journal

      We should contact the people at Muvico and let them know that the managers of the theater in Rosemont, IL were being total bastards about this. Here's the contact information I was able to dig up in about 5 minutes:

      We know who decided to press charges because of TFA [suntimes.com]:

      But Tumpach insisted Wednesday that’s not what she was doing — she was actually taping parts of her sister’s surprise birthday party celebrated at the Muvico Theater in Rosemont.
      [...]
      Managers contacted police, who examined the small digital camera, which also records video segments, Cmdr. Frank Siciliano said. Officers found that Tumpach had taped “two very short segments” of the movie — no more than four minutes total, he said.

      Tumpach was arrested after theater managers insisted on pressing charges, he said.

      (emphasis added)

      Muvico is a chain of 9 luxury theaters, as you can read on their about page [muvico.com]:

      Muvico Entertainment, L.L.C. (“Muvico” or “the Company”) is a growing chain of premium, megaplex motion picture theaters in the United States. The Company currently operates 154 screens in 9 locations located in Florida, California, and Illinois. The Company’s theaters have developed a reputation as true entertainment destinations — attracting patrons from as far as 25 miles away.

      The damn site is full of flash & images, but here are the corporate officers who should hear about what the managers of the Rosemont, IL theater's actions:

      President & CEO - Hal Cleveland
      General Counsel & CAO - Neil F Bretan
      VP of Finance - Alan Rainbeau
      VP of Operations - James E. Herd, Jr.

      CONTACT US

      MUVICO THEATERS
      3101 N. Federal Hwy. 6th Floor
      Fort Lauderdale, FL 33306-1042

      For General Questions please contact us at:
      E-mail: Questions@muvico.com [mailto]

  • Good test case (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday December 04, 2009 @04:57PM (#30329540)

    This seems like a good test case. A faithful application of the law here would shock the conscience.

    • Re:Good test case (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RichMan (8097) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:03PM (#30329626)

      > A faithful application of the law here would shock the conscience.

      As to the movie it is going to depend on the legal definition of excerpt and context. Otherwise every photograph with a TV image would be a violation.

      As to the performance of happy birthday I think they are clearly guilty. The key will be to appeal to the jury on reasonableness and the fact that the performance while public was not to the public and thus not technically a public performance.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SlashdotOgre (739181)

      I agree, and from the article (I know...), it seems like there's already some effects. She's quoted as say, "They were so nice to me," which implies the cops were being decent (nice to hear), and the judge released her on a personal recognizance bond (so she didn't have to pay bail or a bail bondsman, assuming she shows at court). She did get two days of jail, but I definitely hope this gets some good media exposure as I believe most folks are going to side with her even if it's not the letter of the law.

    • Re:Good test case (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tanman (90298) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:06PM (#30329660)

      It's only a good case if it gets bench time. If charges are dropped before it goes to trial, or if she does a plea for probation to avoid possible further jail time, then nothing happens.

      Personally, I would hope this turns into a situation where she goes to trial, is found not guilty, and then is able to sue for malicious prosecution or whatever else the nastiest, meanest, pit-bull-of-an-attorney she hires can drum up since it's obviously not a piracy situation. At least from the story, it sounds like law was not followed to its intent.

      • Re:Good test case (Score:4, Insightful)

        by shentino (1139071) on Friday December 04, 2009 @06:50PM (#30330902)

        Fat lot of luck.

        Remember that when you have a trial by jury you're trusting your fate to 12 people who were too stupid to get out of it. Not to mention that anjy geniuses that WOULD be left are going to be knocked out of the pool by the prosecutor during voir dire.

        Not only are stupid people the only ones left in the jury pool, they're also the only ones that the state will LET you be tried by.

    • Re:Good test case (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hatta (162192) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:46PM (#30330232) Journal

      If anyone's interested, here's the text of the law [onecle.com] she's charged under:

      Criminal use of a motion picture exhibition facility.

      (a) Any person, where a motion picture is being exhibited, who knowingly operates an audiovisual recording function of a device without the consent of the owner or lessee of that exhibition facility and of the licensor of the motion picture being exhibited is guilty of criminal use of a motion picture exhibition facility.

      (b) Sentence. Criminal use of a motion picture exhibition facility is a Class 4 felony.

      (c) The owner or lessee of a facility where a motion picture is being exhibited, the authorized agent or employee of that owner or lessee, or the licensor of the motion picture being exhibited or his or her agent or employee, who alerts law enforcement authorities of an alleged violation of this Section is not liable in any civil action arising out of measures taken by that owner, lessee, licensor, agent, or employee in the course of subsequently detaining a person that the owner, lessee, licensor, agent, or employee, in good faith believed to have violated this Section while awaiting the arrival of law enforcement authorities, unless the plaintiff in such an action shows by clear and convincing evidence that such measures were manifestly unreasonable or the period of detention was unreasonably long.

      (d) This Section does not prevent any lawfully authorized investigative, law enforcement, protective, or intelligence gathering employee or agent of the State or federal government from operating any audiovisual recording device in any facility where a motion picture is being exhibited as part of lawfully authorized investigative, protective, law enforcement, or intelligence gathering activities.

      (e) This Section does not apply to a person who operates an audiovisual recording function of a device in a retail establishment solely to demonstrate the use of that device for sales and display purposes.

      (f) Nothing in this Section prevents the prosecution for conduct that constitutes a violation of this Section under any other provision of law providing for a greater penalty.

      (g) In this Section, "audiovisual recording function" means the capability of a device to record or transmit a motion picture or any part of a motion picture by means of any technology now known or later developed and "facility" does not include a personal residence.

      Not only does the law appear applicable to this case, but the theater management is immune from any resulting civil action. That's a really bad law.

  • by Stratoukos (1446161) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:00PM (#30329568)

    I guess ars didn't think of this when they said that the movie industry won't go down like the music industry did [arstechnica.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:03PM (#30329606)

    Check in the top 100 movies section.

    This should be best release until the R5 which only contains 2 minutes of the movie along with footage of some guy named Dmitri's colonoscopy.

    There is a near screener quality copy of the movie available, but unfortunately it contains the entire run length of the movie and is best avoided.

  • by sartalon (887122) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:03PM (#30329614)
    Two days in jail seems fitting, for the crime of annoying the hell out of every other moviegoer in the theater who paid $$ to watch a cheesy vampire emo movie.
  • by eclectro (227083) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:04PM (#30329636)

    unfortunately two "very shot segments" was enough to make theater managers want to press charges.

    Shooting at anybody is grounds for assault with a deadly weapon. I didn't know they put guns in camcorders now. Fortunately that she will be out on parole sooner than if this was actually a copyright violation.

  • WTF!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cyberjock1980 (1131059) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:09PM (#30329694)

    Ok, so regardless of the whole argument over whether any short portion of the video would be "Fair Use" and all of the other reasons we'd argue that this was completely legal...

    1. What manager of a movie theater would be stupid enough to push this through? Do they not realize how much VERY bad publicity this is making for his theater.
    2. What manager of a movie theater would be so unreasonable to not just ask them to leave and be done with it? If it was obviously for a birthday, then kindly tell your customer (you know, the one that just paid to get a ticket for the theater) that what they are doing is not permitted and to please leave.
    3. What entity is going to be stupid enough to press charges for this knowing all of the bad publicity this is going to cause?

    Sure, I'd be upset if I was sitting in the row behind them and suddenly a mob came running in and started singing "Happy Birthday" during a movie I paid for, but WTF?

    • Re:WTF!? (Score:5, Informative)

      by greenbird (859670) * on Friday December 04, 2009 @06:18PM (#30330572)

      Ok, so regardless of the whole argument over whether any short portion of the video would be "Fair Use" and all of the other reasons we'd argue that this was completely legal...

      See the actually law here [slashdot.org]. And please mod it up. Fair use doesn't enter into it. You use a recording device in a theater you go to jail. That's the law. It's that simple. She has no defense.

  • by mruizcamauer (551400) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:12PM (#30329732) Homepage
    is everyone in the USA crazy or what? How silly can you get? Are there any adults left? Jeeez...
  • by Tim Ward (514198) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:13PM (#30329752) Homepage

    ... the gods themselves contend in vain."

    Er ... ... well, that's it, really.

  • by nilbog (732352) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:18PM (#30329810) Homepage Journal

    I'm not sure which is worse:

    1. Video taping a movie in a theater
    2. Singing happy birthday in the middle of a movie theater in the middle of a movie
    3. Seeing New Moon

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nschubach (922175)

      I was thinking the same thing... I hope they rented out the whole theater because if I was in a theater and someone started singing when I was trying to watch a movie, I'd be pissed!

  • by nick_davison (217681) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:22PM (#30329856)

    If she's facing three years in jail for filming three minutes of Twilight, what is the movie's director of photography facing? Surely all ninety minutes of it, plus being the original creator of that, merits far more?

  • Note to self: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) <myfirstnameispaul@gmail.com> on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:23PM (#30329898) Homepage Journal
    Don't hold events at theaters.
  • by Perp Atuitie (919967) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:25PM (#30329934)
    is not a crime. Singing during said crap movie should be. Let's get our priorities straight.
  • I can sympathize (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:28PM (#30329978)
    Look, the theater probably has a contract with the movie distributor that states "no one is to be allowed to record any part of this film", which justifies barring anyone from carrying a video camera into the theater, and they should have signage up that clearly states this restriction. Problem is, many cell phones are now also video cameras (with extremely limited storage). The manager is within his rights to 1) bar people from bringing recording equipment in, 2) kick people out with no refund for attempting to record, and 3) ask people who are recording to delete the recording. Criminal charges seems a bit harsh, but if you very politely ask someone you catch in the act of recording the movie to delete the recording and explain that your contract with the distributor requires you to do, and they refuse to comply -- well then, what choice do you have but to use the threat of arrest to force them to comply? I'm not party to exactly what went down here, but like most situations, I'm pretty sure it could have been resolved satisfactorily to all participants long before the cops got there, if both sides weren't being asshats about it.
  • Civil matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:29PM (#30329994)
    This should be a civil matter, no one should have to spend any nights in jail for even the worst cases of copyright infringement.
  • by JumperCable (673155) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:29PM (#30330000)

    This sounds to me like the downside providing cash incentives to employees for catching those who record movies.

    http://www.fightfilmtheft.org/en/todo.asp [fightfilmtheft.org]

    Some employee thinks they are in line for a $500 bonus.

  • by dangitman (862676) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:29PM (#30330004)
    What the fuck kind of crooked cop would put somebody in a cell for this?

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