Latest Infringement Charge over Incidental Copying

I have to chalk this story (found via Dan at Geekadelphia) from the Chicago Sun-Times up to the ignorance of the movie staff who initiated the complaint and the owners who pressed it forward. A young woman, Samantha Tumpach, is being charged with a felony over mere minutes of video that happens to contain a few minutes of big content’s latest manufactured hit. Tumpach has already spent two nights in jail and is potentially facing years of jail time. All this over a video anyone would be hard pressed to see as worth selling or sharing as a bootleg. Undoubtedly if we could see the video in question, it would bear out Tumpach’s claims that the capture of the movie was merely incidentally to celebratory shenanigans in the course of a birthday outing.

It would be easy to ask why big content hasn’t learned its lesson after the dancing baby case. But according to the story, this was just a theater staffer seeing the camera out and recording. The theater owners insisted on pressing charges–over three minutes of incidental capture?

Tumpach says she will fight the charges and I hope she gets a judge with a lick of common sense who will throw this case out for lack of merit. If not, I hope she has the further courage to press an appeal that might yield a ruling either out of an Illinois district court or the 7th federal circuit (I think that is the right one) that makes everyone, not just Universal who got spanked by Lenz, but smaller operators alike, think twice about stamping so hard on incidental use and fair use alike.

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