Space Ramblings

Jhannet Sejas, Movie Piracy and the Other NATO’s Stupidity

It’s funny sometimes how anti-piracy campaigns can tend to sabotage themselves. Now most people would agree that people recording and taping movies in movie theaters and reselling them is wrong. Maybe not all of them would be fans of new laws that criminally prosecute people who do this with the possibility of years in jail but overall had the test case for this involved some sleazy neckbeard with a camera or some Somali immigrant with a videocamera in a theater, it would have generally gone ignored.

But as with the RIAA’s prosecution of 12 year old girls in housing projects, grandmothers and the dead, NATO (not the one in Europe with all the guns and uniforms but the National Association of Theater Owners, really they should just give it up and get a new acronym that won’t get them confused with an international military organization that can destroy the world. NATO and NATO wield two different kind of bombs entirely) has managed to brilliantly pick about the worst possible test case, namely Jhannet Sejas, a college student, who snapped some clips of Transformers for her little brother with a Canon PowerShot.

Now all Jhannet Sejas did was record a 20 second clip. Suffice it to say that a 20 second clip has a limited resale value and there’s no shortage of bootleg copies of Transformers out there already. If Jhannet Sejas was trying to pirate Transformers she picked about the worst way imaginable. It obviously makes no sense that she was actually pirating the movie. Yet Jhannet Sejas is also about to become the second person to be prosecuted under a federal statute on recording movies in theaters.

Now if NATO and the MPAA had five cents worth of sense they would have aborted the prosecution of Jhannet Sejas once they understood the details. Not because they have any decency or humanity. NATO and MPAA executives have all the humanity of an RIAA lawyer or a snake… but because this kind of thing is the worst possible test case for the law. NATO and the MPAA may win in court, assuming it’s not a jury trial or that prosecutors can browbeat Jhannet Sejas into offering a plea, but they lost with the public. Instead of a slam dunk defense of a law preventing sleazebags from taping movies, NATO and the MPAA are instead going after a teenage girl who taped a 20 second clip with a Canon PowerShot for her younger brother. It’s the RIAA’s Sue Everybody campaign all over again when the punch line is, there’s no reason for it to be.

MPAA and NATO’s response here is baffling until you contemplate that they are actually thugs in suits, still dumb enough to think that their lobbying dollars buys them immunity from the realities of life and that beating up on teenage girls will intimidate everyone. It’s the grocery store owner who shoots a kid stealing beer, all over again.

And now NATO and the MPAA can lay claim to major media outlet news stories that paint the organizations in the worst possible light, while their spokesmen deliver phony claims about piracy costing six gajillion dollars over second.

Arlington police spokesman John Lisle said it was the decision of Regal Cinemas Ballston Common 12 to prosecute the case, a first for Arlington police. “They were the victim in this case, and they felt strongly enough about it,” he said.

Actually no it’s not. It’s the DA’s decision. And the police. If they thought the complaint was groundless, the case would not be going forward. And how exactly is a major movie theater victimized by a 20 second clip of a movie on a Canon PowerShot anyway? Boo hoo.

Kendrick Macdowell, general counsel for the Washington-based National Association of Theatre Owners, said that illegal pirating of films costs the industry billions of dollars and that the industry was stepping up efforts to stamp it out. Because of that, he said, there has to be a “zero-tolerance policy at the theater level.”

“We cannot educate theater managers to be judges and juries in what is acceptable,” he said. “Theater managers cannot distinguish between good and bad stealing.”

Why because they’re mentally retarded? Because they can’t tell the difference between a 20 second clip and a 90 minute recording of a movie? Maybe they should be in a less responsible position then?

And the thing about Zero Tolerance is once you start hanging orphans for stealing bread, it tends to backfire on you. Zero Tolerance, regardless of what was actually done, is tyranny and an invitation to a backlash.

Macdowell said the trade association, which represents 28,000 screens nationwide, realizes there is a difference between “egregious acts of stealing our movies and more innocent ones.” But he said that distinction needed to be made in court rather than by theater managers.

Oh it will be. Just not only in court but in the court of public opinion.

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