Reel Blog

Guilty Plea in Va. Movie Theft

You’ll no doubt remember the case of Jhannet Sejas, the young woman arrested for recording a portion of Transformers at Regal’s Ballston Common multiplex in Arlington, Va. She entered a guilty plea. After one year, if she remains out of trouble, her record will be expunged. Threat Level at Wired Blogs has the story.

The many dire warnings of heavy-handed enforcement and young ruined lives for a “minor offence” that made their way through the blogosphere have proved, in this case, rather hysterical.

The issue here comes down to whether or not theaters have the right to prevent illegal recording of movies in their theaters. Clearly they do, and they will continue to do their jobs. It is the job of the police and prosecutors to exercise their discretion in whether to arrest and if and how to prosecute. That’s what happened in this case.

With the recently reported use of a cell phone to illegally record The Simpsons Movie opening night in Australia, it becomes ever more unreasonable to expect theater employees to discriminate among what type of device is being used to record off the screen. Me, from Threat Level:

“One of the dilemmas that employees face is trying to decide who is copying for distribution and who’s taking just a quick screenshot, which isn’t as harmful but is against the law in most jurisdictions,” Corcoran said in an interview.

In a statement, he added: “We hope that this case reinforces our efforts to educate the public that  unauthorized recording, whether a clip or the whole film, in movie theaters is against the law.”

Recording technology is only going to get better – smaller, clearer, easier to use – and movie thieves are going to get better at disguising their tools. If someone is using a recording device in a theater, they will be stopped. The police will be called.

Leave your cameras at home. Enjoy the movie. Why else would you be there?