The performing arts industry has been struggling for years, partly because illegal recordings of movies and live performances are cutting into their sales. Law enforcement agencies and the court system all across the country take this type of crime very seriously. If you go to a movie or a live performance and record it on your cell phone or other recording device with the intention of reproducing and selling it for profit, you could be guilty of committing a crime. It is important to understand the details behind New York Penal Code 275.33 to launch a valid defense if you ever get charged with this crime. Following is a breakdown of unauthorized operation of a recording device, an example to help explain it, and some possible defenses.
New York Penal Code 275.33 Explained
A person is guilty of unauthorized operation of a recording device in a motion picture or live theater in the second degree when they use a recording device without the permission of the theater owner and they:
– plan to use the recording for commercial purposes such as showing it to a large group of people or for profit such as selling it or
– the recording is a large portion or substantially all of the performance, or the recording is 15 minutes or longer in length or
– the person involved has been previously convicted within the last five years of violating Penal Code 275.
Person A went to a Broadway play and recorded the final 20 minutes on her cell phone without permission from the theater owner. Her high school drama club was performing the same play and she wanted them to see the portion that they were struggling with. When she showed the illegal recording the the cast of her drama club, she was in violation of New York Code 275.33.
Person B went to a movie and recorded the entire thing on his cell phone without the permission of the theater owner, knowing that the movie wouldn’t be for sell to the general public on disk for several months. He went home and burned several copies of the movie on disk and sold them to his friends. Person B was also in violation of New York Code 275.33.
A violation of New York Penal Code 275.33 could result in a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction could result in up to one year in prison, up to 3 years probation, restitution, and a fine.
Both Persons A and B could claim a defense if they had gotten permission of the theater owner to record either part or the entire performance or movie. In addition, another defense would be if either person made the recording simply for their own personal use and did not distribute it or show it to anyone else. However, simply recording a movie or live performance without permission is illegal whether you intended personal gain or not. In this case, the charges could be reduced from second degree (person gain) to third degree (illegal recording for any reason).
Unauthorized operation of a recording device in a movie or live performance theater is illegal. If you get caught, it is important to contact a good New York City criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even if this is only a misdemeanor charge, a conviction could send you to jail and ruin your life. An experienced attorney will be able to research the details of your individual case and launch the best possible defense to reduce or dismiss the charges.