MPAA and ICE admit they yanked an innocent man out of a movie for wearing Google Glass

Representatives of the MPAA and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency confirmed that they worked together to yank a Google Glass wearer out of a movie theater, detain him in a small room against his will, confiscate and inspect his electronics (including his phone) and coerce an interview out of him with legal threats. They believed, incorrectly, that their victim had been recording the movie with his gadget. The Google Glass set he wore had been fitted with prescription lenses and he was watching the movie through them because they corrected his vision.

The MPAA's and ICE's statements are bland and anodyne (ICE says that the interview was "voluntary," though the man's account contradicts this). Neither of them explain how it is that a movie theater employee can call an MPAA hotline, and how the MPAA can then command ICE law-enforcement officials to drop everything and rush down to a multiplex to roust a potential camcorderer and treat him like a presumptive criminal.

The problem for the MPAA of camcordering is that they would like to stagger the release of their films -- first to the theatrical exhibition channel, then to airplanes and hotel rooms, then to pay-per-view and streaming services and DVD, etc. This makes them more profitable, but only if they can keep each channel discrete. Lots of businesses struggle with their profit-maximization strategies, but only the MPAA gets to command the forces of federal law-enforcement in the service of their business-model, putting the cost of that strategy onto the tax-payer.

Even so, it seemed incredible that ICE would take direction from the MPAA on something as small as a guy in a movie theater, rushing to the theater to help with the interrogation of someone there, but we underestimated the willingness of ICE to say "how high" when the MPAA says "jump." Yes, we should know better by now, but we thought we'd actually give the MPAA and DHS the benefit of the doubt here. Our mistake.

We find it difficult to believe that there aren't more important things for ICE to be doing than hassling a guy out attending a movie with his wife. Hollywood has gotten ICE into trouble in the past with its over-aggressive claims about websites. You'd think that ICE would have learned by now that the RIAA and MPAA are not exactly trustworthy when they insist someone is a "filthy pirate" who needs to be investigated. There is simply no reason for federal investigators to be involved at all, let alone called in to interrogate some guy wearing a new piece of technology that the MPAA has overreacted to.

MPAA & ICE Confirm They Interrogated A Guy For Wearing Google Glass During A Movie [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]

Notable Replies

  1. That's the point of modern copyright law, right? To enshrine in law the profits of these cartel members? They didn't spend all of that time and money writing laws and bribing Congress to allow their business model to be disrupted by some new technology.

    In a sane world, Copyright Infringement is a civil matter, not a criminal one.

  2. We should really ban libraries too, while we are defending copyright.

  3. People who have Google Glass right now are pretty much by definition going to have both money (I think it's $1500 for what is basically a beta test) and influence (you only get picked if you have people who listen to you). So good plan MPAA. Way to go after the type of person most likely to fight it in court.

  4. MrMark says:

    If someone steals your bike the police probably will shrug their shoulders so make sure you tell them the thief was bootlegging movies to get a serious response from law enforcement.

  5. Ygret says:

    In this post-legal era we are living in, I am constantly amazed at what sticklers people are for enforcement of petty, ridiculous laws. But laundering hundreds of billions for drug cartels is not. Destroying the world economy with massive frauds is not.

    Lets stop pretending that the law is fair, the law is just, the law is anything but a thug with a club ready to beat the shit out of you for any minor infraction... as long as you aren't very rich and working for a corporation.

    We're not lawyers, though apparently many of us love to play one on the internet. So how about we stop worrying about what's "legal" and start worrying about what's ethical, what's moral, acts that REALLY harm people versus ones that don't.

Continue the discussion

56 more replies