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Apple patents technology that could stop you from recording concerts

The latest patent awarded to Apple could mean the end of blurry concert videos from friends in your social media feeds. The company's patent covers a camera system with infrared technology that could allow third parties to disable photo and video recording.

Technology would allow third parties to disable your iPhone's photo and video recording

Audience members use their phones during the MTV EMA awards at the Assago forum in Milan, Italy, in October 2015. (Stefano Rellandini/Reuters)

The latest patent awarded to Apple could mean the end of blurry concert videos from friends in your social media feeds. 

The company's patent covers a camera system with infrared technology that could allow third parties to disable photo and video recording. Apple submitted its application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2011 and the patent was approved on Tuesday. 

Apple's patent application illustrates how the technology could be used at a concert venue. (Apple/United States Patent and Trademark Office)

In its application, Apple illustrates how the technology could be used to block concertgoers from recording shows.

As Tech Insider explains, the infrared signal would prevent iPhone users from recording in a specific direction. Images of a concert stage might be blocked, but users would still be able to take photos of their friends from a different direction.

Turn it off

Several musicians have expressed their frustration with the widespread use of smartphones at their concerts, which they say is both distracting as performers and a disservice to the audience. 

In May, Adele called out an audience member at her concert in Italy for recording her performance. "Can you stop filming me with the video camera? Because I'm really here in real life. You can enjoy it in real life rather than through your camera," Adele said. 

Just last week, Alicia Keys made headlines for becoming the latest artist to adopt a no-cellphone policy at her concerts. While fans are not required to give up their phones at the door, they are given lockable pouches to place their phones in and are instructed not to use them within the venue. 

This kind of policy is becoming more common at public venues, but people often ignore the rule and record shows anyway. For musicians and comedians, it's not just about the distraction. Performers are trying to prevent their original content from leaking. 

In 2014, Prince sued 22 people for $1 million each for posting links to bootleg videos of his concerts. The suits were later dropped after the links were removed. 

Digital life

Surveys suggest 68 per cent of Americans and 67 per cent of Canadians own a smartphone, and the percentage increases significantly with a younger demographic. The ability to take and share photos and videos at any time has great appeal, but not everyone agrees on whether the constant digital connection is a good thing.

Intention is key, according to Patricia Rockman, director of education and clinical services at Toronto's Centre for Mindfulness Studies. Rockman previously told CBC News that recording with a phone won't add to your enjoyment of a concert if you're doing it without thinking. 

"Are you so gripped by having to take a picture, or be on your phone, that you don't have any choice about when to use it [or] when not to use it?" Rockman said. "That it invokes, say, so much anxiety or discomfort when you don't have it or aren't using it? I would say this is too much."

As comedian Louis C.K. explained in his appearance on Conan, cellphones are taking away "the ability to just sit there" and "being a person." 

Apple's plan

Apple's patent application includes information on several "embodiment[s] of the invention" beyond blocking the recording of concerts. Disabling the recording function is only one possible use of the system.

In the patent application, Apple also describes how infrared signals might command the device to apply a watermark, rather than shutting down recording completely. 

Other than concert venues, the technology could be used to prevent iPhone users from recording in areas where information is classified. 

Considering Apple fought hard to protect iPhone user data from government surveillance, it remains to be seen whether this technology will actually end up in Apple products. 

Apple did not immediately respond to CBC's request for comment.

About the Author

Avneet Dhillon is a multi-platform journalist based in Toronto. She is currently working as a social editor/presenter for CBC News.

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