Saturday, August 04, 2007

Is This An Overreaction? Yeah, Like Using an Uzi to Kill a Fly...

David Harsanyi (author of the book Nanny State) relates the latest story of Big Entertainment using heavy-handed tactics against consumers it accuses of ripping them off. In this case, a Virginia woman is facing up to a year in jail and a $2500 fine for videotaping 20 seconds of a movie in a theatre.

The full story is here. A sample:
A 19-year-old woman is facing up to a year in jail and a fine up to $2,500 when she goes to trial this month on charges of illegally recording part of a motion picture.

Jhannet Sejas readily admits she used her digital camera last month in an Arlington theater to film about 20 seconds of the climax of the hit movie "Transformers." She said she wanted to show the clip to her little brother and had no intention of selling it.

But minutes after filming the clip, police showed up in the theater, shining a flashlight in her face. Sejas and her boyfriend were ordered out, and the camera was confiscated.

Sejas said the theater's assistant manager saw her holding up the digital camera and reported it to the general manager, who called police.

The Marymount University sophomore was charged with a misdemeanor and was banned for life from the Regal Cinemas Ballston Common movie theaters.
It's interesting that the theatre itself is the one pressing charges and consideing itself the victim, when it's the movie studio that holds the copyright. As some of the commenters to Harsanyi's post point out, it's not like Sejas could sell a 20-second clip from a movie if she wanted to, and even if it did end up on YouTube, it would probably end up drumming up more business for the movie than anything else.

It may well be time to do some overhauling of copyright laws so that they are more relevant to today's technology. But in the meantime, the entertainment industry should be more careful with how it goes after people it feels has wronged it; there's no reason to use a big hammer in cases where a prod with a small stick would be more appropriate. And, like Harsanyi and many of his commenters, I lament the death of common sense in this case and others like it.

(Hat tip: Instapundit, who adds, "I'm beginning to think that we need a lot more oversight over prosecutorial discretion, and more consequences for its abuse." Indeed, as the man himself would say.)

Speaking of killing a fly with an Uzi: A woman in Alabama was tired of a mosquito problem that she blamed on the vacant house next door, so she set the place on fire.

Farewell to a (mostly) unsung hero: R.I.P. Art Davis, whom writer Nat Hentoff referred to as "Coltrane's favorite bassist." In addition to Trane, his resume included Monk, The New York Philharmonic and Bob Dylan.

I think it's time to move out now, Son: A mother in Sicily cut off her son's weekly allowance and took away his house keys because she was tired of his "misbehavior." The kicker? The son is 61 years old. (The article also notes that "[m]ost Italian men still live at home late into their 30s, enjoying their "mamma's" cooking, washing and ironing." Talk about some serious apron strings...)

Eww: Thanks to a plumbing mixup, students at Hiroshima University have been accidentally drinking water that was intended for use in toilets. The scary part? This has been happening since 1993.

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