Ohio’s Motion Picture Piracy Law

Ohio's Motion Picture Privacy LawYou’ve made your way across the vast parking expanse of your local suburban movie theater.  You’ve paid $9.00 for your ticket, or $12.50 if it’s in RealD 3D, or  $14.00 if it’s in XD RealD 3D.  The website said the movie starts at 9:00 p.m. but you’re running a few minutes late.  You quickly find your seat in the theater close enough to the geographical center.  Fortunately for you, the theater was kind enough to delay starting the movie until you’ve arrived.

In the meantime, the theater has entertained the other patrons with commercials, movie trailers, and even a cute segment about how inconsiderate it would be to others if one were to use his or her cell phone during the movie.  A full-length page of federal copyright law is flashed before your eyes and the movie begins.

Sure enough, a light begins to glow from a cell phone just a few rows ahead of you.  If only there were a law where police would storm the theater and take that man to jail for ruining your $14.00 XD RealD 3D movie experience.  For recent patrons at a Willoughby theater, there sort of was.

Last Friday, 35 year old Jonathan Pacizni was arrested for recording The Avengers movie on his cell phone.  The light, which the recording device emitted, caught the eye of a theater employee who then called the police. The police arrested Pacizni when they saw that the first ten minutes of The Avengers had been recorded on his cell phone.  Although Pacizni claimed he was merely testing out his new phone, he was arrested for Motion Picture Piracy.

Ohio’s Motion Picture Piracy law, Rev. Code Section 2913.07, makes it a misdemeanor for patrons to knowingly operate the audio-visual recording function of a device in a retail establishment or movie theater without consent of the establishment owner and of the motion picture licensor.  Pacizni was surely warned before the movie began that it was not only rude to use his cell phone during the movie, as if anyone still needs to be told this, but he was also warned that it was a violation of federal copyright law to unlawfully reproduce or distribute it.

U.S. Copyright Law, Title 17, Section 106, gives a copyright owner the exclusive right to make copies of a copyrighted work.  However, Section 107 places a limitation on that exclusive right when the copy is made for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, or research.  Someone facing these federal charges for acts similar to Paczini’s could claim he or she recorded the movie merely to start a commentary blog.

However, this is no defense to Pacizni, who instead is accused of violating the state’s Motion Picture Piracy law.  Perhaps if among the various ads and previews theaters would post the state law against using cell phones to record the movie, patrons would be less tempted to even bring them out during the movie for fear of being accused of Motion Picture Piracy.

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