Thursday, September 20th 2018

Piracy issues surround a recent Twilight case

As Twilight: Eclipse runs wild throughout the movie theatre, this is an excellent time for an update on a case related to Twilight: New Moon.  It is also especially timely considering the recent government crack-downs on sites streaming copyrighted video.  This is a case of either attempted piracy or willful ignorance, malicious prosecution from a theatre manager or simple negligence.  However it ends, this case revolving around the second Twilight movie shows how seriously Hollywood is taking piracy, particularly of its hottest franchises.

As soon as the internet made file-sharing possible, the movie and music industries have struggled to control a lawless corner of cyberspace that threatened their profits.  The government may crack down on the keepers of physical websites but more will pop up.  File sharing sites, the ones that make downloading copyrighted content possible, are notoriously difficult to stop.  Because the content is held on the hard drives of thousands, if not millions, of users, there is no central server to raid and shut down.  Streaming sites, places where you watch or listen to content without saving it to your computer, are easier to stop.  The government successfully cracked down on nearly a dozen just last week.

The next hurdle in stopping the flood of content on the web is stopping those who put it out there.  Music is much more difficult because as soon as the content is released to the public it is in homes and under the direct control of the purchasers of the CDs.  Movies pose another challenge.  Not counting leaks from within the individual studios, most illegal movies on the web are what are known as “cam” copies; people bring video cameras into the theatre and record the movie as it is projected onto the big screen.  The quality is almost always poor, but folks looking to save on the price of admission often don’t care.

A cam copy is the heart of this recent case.  A Chicago-area woman was caught filming inside of a screening of New Moon.  The police were called in and upon the advice of the MPAA itself the memory card was destroyed and an incident report was filed.  However, the movie theatre manager insisted that charges be filed on behalf of the movie chain.  A month later the court dropped the charges.  Now, seven months after the entire incident appears to have been put to rest the woman is suing the movie chain.

What is her case?  She had claimed, and the judge who dropped the charges clearly agreed, that she had been taping her sister’s birthday party in the theatre.  There were less than three minutes of actual footage from the movie on her camera, footage she claimed she took “hoping to capture the title and beginning as a memory of this exciting event.”  She is also suing for negligence since neither the usher nor the manager attempted to stop her filming prior to calling the police.  Finally she is claiming malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress  and defamation since the manager “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.”

With a judgment in her defense already, this woman seems to have an excellent case.  The court still needs to decide and it could go either way.

Posted by Becky on July 16, 2010 at 12:43pm.

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