Sejas, an Arlington Virgina teenager, recorded a few seconds of the movie on her cell-phone to show her brother. Under a new Zero-Tolerance Policy, police responded to the call from Regal Cinemas who promptly arrested Sejas.
The recording didn’t cause any losses to Regal Cinemas nor the producers of Transformers, but still Regal Cinemas decided to prosecute to make an example of her..
The Arlington County prosecutor, Richard Trodden, told a Wired blogger that Regal Cinema continued to press the case. “They were saying, ‘Could you get her to admit that it wasn’t right.’ They wanted to make sure the message gets out.”
Indeed, Sejas did later state, “I totally forgot that I was not allowed to do that. I did it without thinking clearly.
In a plea agreement, Sejas pleaded guilty and paid a $71 fine for making an Unlawful Audiovisual Recording of a Motion Picture, a misdemeanor that could have resulted in a fine of up to $2500 and a year in jail. The law was placed on the books in Virgina and 37 other states under pressure by the Motion Picture industry.
Neither Regal Cinemas nor the producers of Transformers stood to take a loss from Sejas’ sharing of a 20-second cell-phone quality clip. The reason it did not occur to Sejas that she was doing something wrong is because she had no criminal intent! Note that Sejas was not charged with any copyright violation, as showing her brother a 20-second low-quality clip certainly would have fallen under Fair Use.
The MPAA decided years ago that copyright laws were not enough in their favor. Instead, the industry had to create new laws that avoided copyright altogether, wait for innocent victims like Sejas to stumble into them, and then make an example of them.