NATO Responds To ‘Twilight’ Pirate’s Lawsuit

By J. Sperling Reich | July 14, 2010 6:45 pm PDT

Less than 24-hours after we posted a story on the lawsuit filed against Muvico by a 22-year-old for being arrested for filming inside a movie theatre an email arrived from Patrick Corcoran, the National Association of Theatre Owners’ Director of Media & Research.

Corcoran not only provided a statement about Samantha Tumpach’s suit, but along with Brigette Buehlman also filled in a few details about the organization’s Take Action reward program.

Tumpach was arrested in November for filming portions of “Twilight: New Moon” during her sister’s birthday party inside a Chicago movie theatre. Her suit alleges that she was given no warning to stop filming and that even after the MPAA suggested releasing her, the theatre’s management had her arrested to collect a reward for stopping a camcorder pirate.

In our previous post Corcoran pointed out that Tumpach’s assertions were printed as fact, rather than allegations. Fair enough. That the history being presented was being drawn from Tumpach’s allegations and news reports could have been made clearer.

Corcoran also wrote:

“Any upset or unpleasantness Miss Tumpach believes she has suffered was a consequence of her own actions. Muvico was well within its rights to act as they did. Recording any part of a movie in a theater is illegal.

Theater employees cannot be expected to divine a person’s intent in illegally camcording a movie on the screen. They should stop the activity, alert the police and let the proper authorities make the determination. That’s what happened in this case and the prosecutor made the right decision.

It is curious that Miss Tumpach seeks to prolong her sense of public humiliation by filing a frivolous suit in a case that most of the world had forgotten about – until now.”

Like Corcoran, I found it a little odd that Tumpach would want to dredge all this up again, reminding the public of her own naiveté which led to her arrest.

The reward Tumpach claims the theatre’s management wanted to collect refers to the Take Action rewards program founded by NATO and the MPAA in 2004. The program awards USD $500 to any theatre employee that stops someone from using a camcorder to capture a film.

Since the programs inception 280 theatre employees have received USD $106,275 for 272 separate incidents. On five occasions two or more theatre employees shared the reward.

No arrest or conviction is necessary for theatre personnel to collect a reward. All that needs to occur is to stop a patron from camcording a film and a police report.

As to the argument regarding fair use, Corcoran said:

“Fair use does not apply in a movie theater, and the length of the recording is pretty irrelevant since, by definition, if you stop someone from camcording, they will not have a complete recording of the movie.”

This would be a perfect moment to highlight what a stellar team NATO has in the likes of Corcoran and Buehlman. And I say that sincerely. This was not the first time they have make contact shortly after a post was published. As well, they are quick to respond to requests for official comments and additional information. They set a great example for trade organizations in any industry.

J. Sperling Reich