World's biggest theater chain pressured prosecutor… (UPDATED)

…to charge a teenager for capturing 20 seconds of "Transformers" on her Canon Powershot, so she could share a video snippet with her kid brother.

[Update: BoingBoing readers' protest action, in the comments at the foot of this post.]

David Kravets at Wired News blogs:

Arlington County's top prosecutor, Richard E. Trodden, tells THREAT LEVEL he was pressured by Regal Entertainment Group, the world's largest movie exhibitor, to prosecute a 19-year-old Virginia woman for filming 20 seconds of Transformers.

"What they were saying, 'Could you get her to admit that it wasn't right.' They wanted to make sure the message gets out," Trodden said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "This was kind of trying to address the concerns of the theater people, and the fact that it was not an outrageous crime."

Trodden, pictured [here], said he spoke with Randy Smith, Regal's general counsel. Messages left for Smith at the company's Knoxville, Tennessee headquarters were not immediately returned.

Jhannet Sejas, 19, pleaded guilty last week in Arlington County General District Court to one misdemeanor count of filming a motion picture in a movie house owned by Regal Cinemas. The statute, like the 37 others nationwide sponsored by the motion picture industry, deems filmgoers guilty for filming a "portion" or a "portion thereof" of a movie.


Reader comment: Jon M says,

In light of the ridiculous action being taken against the 19-year old who took a 20 second clip of the transformers movie, it seems that maybe some boing boing readers should make a project out of filming the entire transformers movie at regal theaters using only cell phones or digital still cameras and afterwards, editing the film together as seamlessly as possible. This is sheer absurdity but a kick in the pants as well. I'd love to send a version of it to Regal so they see that no 'pirate' would steal a movie that way in order to distribute.

Nick says,

If people want to start sending clips to, I'll start to edit the cellphone transformers movie together. Rough timecodes would help, but I'm sure I could just line it up to a street bought copy.

Robotech Master says,

I'd suggest mentioning that anybody who participates in the "tape the
movie" protest be prepared to face the same sort of penalties as the
person whose charging they are protesting. If they are prepared to be
arrested in the name of freedom, like the passive resisters of the
1960s, more power to them, but they should go into it fully aware of
what might happen.

(Personally, judging from the number of camcorded movies that haunt
BitTorrent these days, I'm doubtful that the protest would have any
efficacy. Perhaps people wouldn't *prefer* to watch movies that way,
but all evidence suggests that they'll do it anyway.)

Nick says,

In Response to Robotech Master, I suggest that everyone buy a ticket to another movie and then sneak in to Transformers in order to film it.