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Copyright Outrage: Woman Arrested for Taking Birthday Pictures at a Twilight Movie Party

This is the opening of “Five Reforms for Copyright,” by law professor Tom Bell (one of the handful of IP attorneys to publicly oppose IP),1 his chapter in the recent book Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess:

ON NOVEMBER 28, 2009, police arrested a 22-year-old Chicago woman named Samantha Tumpach, jailed her for two nights, and charged her with “criminal use of a motion picture exhibition”—a felony offense punishable with up to three years in prison. Her crime? She had captured two brief clips of The Twilight Saga: New Moon while recording her family’s surprise birthday celebration for her sister, who had come to the theater to watch the film.2 Tumpach copied under four minutes of the movie in total and obviously had no intention of making a bootleg for resale. “You can hear me talking the whole time,” she explained.3 Officials eventually dropped the charges, but the damage had been done. Tumpach brought suit for malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and defamation.4 Her complaint did not, however, name the ultimate cause of her distress: a copyright regime that has grown too big and too powerful.


  1. See Patent Lawyers Who Oppose Patent Law; also Reason.TV: Too Much Copyright; Bell’s draft book, Intellectual Privilege: Copyright, Common Law, and the Common GoodThe Great Debate on Intellectual Property, in Cato Policy Report (January/February 2002); Tom Bell: Copyright Erodes Property?Tom W. Bell on Intellectual Propertyother copyright writing by Bell. []
  2. Dan Rozek, “Woman Arrested for Trying to Record ‘Twilight’ on Digital Camera,” Chicago Sun-Times, December 2, 2009. []
  3. Ibid. []
  4. Aliyah Shahid, “Twilight Taper, Samantha Tumpach, Sues Illinois Theater after Taping Twilight Saga: New Moon,” New York Daily News, June 29, 2010. []
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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.