Apple wins patent on technology to stop fans filming gigs

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Infrared device would be able to block fans using their iPhones to record shows, films and other live events

Apple wins patent on technology to stop fans filming gigs
Screen saver … a fan films a show on their phone. Photograph: JoeFox/Alamy

The spread of smartphones has created a divide among gig-goers. There are those who like to hold their phone up for large chunks of the show, to capture footage of the band. And there are those who like to stand and watch the group and listen to the music, without any screens in their way.

Now, it seems, the latter group could be on their way to victory in the eternal struggle between the filmers and the watchers. Pitchfork reports that Apple has won approval from the US Patent and Trademark Office for technology that could be used to prevent fans filming or taking photos of gigs on their iPhones.

The patent, headed “Systems and methods for receiving infrared data with a camera designed to detect images based on visible light”, outlines how infrared light could be used to prevent filming: “For example, an infrared emitter can be located in areas where picture or video capture is prohibited, and the emitter can generate infrared signals with encoded data that includes commands to disable the recording functions of devices. An electronic device can then receive the infrared signals, decode the data and temporarily disable the device’s recording function based on the command.”

What makes this relevant to music is that one of Apple’s “perspective view[s] of an illustrative system for communicating infrared data in accordance with one embodiment of the invention” depicts a band on a stage, and an iPhone screen with the words “recording disabled”, suggesting that this – along with preventing filming in cinemas – is one of Apple’s suggested usages for the technology.

Apple wins patent on technology to stop fans filming gigs
Band blocker … How Apple’s new technology would work. Photograph: Public domain

Filming of concerts is not just an annoyance to musicians – many of whom ask their fans to put their devices away at concerts – but also a problem for artists who want to play unreleased songs live, but have to deal with the prospect of those songs popping up on YouTube long before the official release.

In recent months, too, artists have become increasingly vociferous about poor royalty payments from unauthorised YouTube uploads. While technology to stop fans filming concerts would only be a drop in the ocean in this regard, it would end one tranche of the unauthorised uploads that appear on the video site.

Apple wins patent on technology to stop fans filming gigs
An audience member recording a band at a festival – millions of unauthorised videos end up on YouTube. Photograph: Alamy

The specialist Apple site 9to5Mac notes that the technology in Apple’s patent – which the tech giant first applied for in 2011 – is now not the most up-to-date: “It’s possible that the technology described by the patent has been superseded by things like iBeacons, which could conceivably trigger the same kind of functionality more reliably – infrared feels like a rather elderly method of data-transmission these days,” the site commented.


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