Apple (NASDAQ: APPL) has just patented a method to block iPhones and iPads from recording video and taking pictures at concerts and movie theaters. The system uses invisible infrared light emitters installed in those places where recording video is prohibited. The devices’ camera systems will not respond when users try to record or photograph their favorite band playing their favorite song.

The technology also works by bringing extra information to the screen when the camera is on at a museum or a trade show, for instance. Institutions working with Apple’s technology could offer guided tours right on their mobile devices, but the system got the spotlight. The system’s ability to mess up with users’ intentions to record videos whenever they want appears to have taken a left turn.

The gadgets will receive the signals, decode the data and disable the recording function as long as it is around the infrared emitter. Image Credit: ZDNET
The gadgets will receive the signals, decode the data and disable the recording function as long as it is around the infrared emitter. Image Credit: ZDNET

According to the patent, devices located in areas where the picture or video capture is not allowed will be unable to operate their recording functions. The remote ban will take place after an infrared emitter based in those places generates infrared signals with encoded data containing commands to disable such features.

Concert-goers would be the first to be affected by this idea, supposing that it takes off someday. Then infrared emitters would probably be installed in movie theaters and maybe museums and businesses, which might also lead coffee shops and others to join the mix. Of course, it would depend on how easy and cheap it is to set up the small device that blocks all iPhones and iPads around from using their cameras.

PC Magazine’s David Murphy came up with a not-so-unlikely idea that people might even find ways to get money out of the system by charging visitors for taking pictures and recording videos of natural landscapes while on vacation.

The risks Apple’s new patent might represent to freedom of speech

Apple first applied for the patent in 2011. And Save The Internet, a coalition led by the Free Speech advocacy group, warned about the risks of this system falling into the wrong hands by writing an open letter to the former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

The letter mentioned the thousands of people who have used their smartphone cameras to document government abuses across the Middle East, which led the group to warn that tyrants could use the technology to “crack down on their citizens with impunity” by forcing them to stop taking protest videos.

“Any time there is the possibility of an invention or device being used to shut down communication mediums and methods of capturing information, there should be some concern,” Vivek Krishnamurthy, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, told a Christian Science Monitor’s spokeperson during a phone interview Thursday.

He commented that Apple’s new patent might join the mix of the countless patents that are never fully developed. Still, Mr. Krishnamurthy noted it was good news that Apple was the company that was granted the patent given its culture as and advocate for civil liberties reflected in the widely known refusal to unlock iPhones after repeated government’s requests.

Source: PC Magazine