Thanks to Apple, You May Soon Be Unable To Film Concerts

The company received a grant for a device that prevents iPhone cameras from being used.


Splitshire / Pexels

If you have been to a concert in recent years, chances are you likely noticed the abundance of people capturing the event on their smartphones. It has become a common practice for fans who want to enjoy their favorite artists later on to record some or all of their performances, yet both artists and audience members have found this trend annoying.

Apple is seeking to address the issue, but not by encouraging iPhone users to keep their devices in their pockets; instead, the company has been working on technology to prevent cameras from being useable under certain circumstances.

The tech giant was granted a patent for a new device that, through infrared signals, can block people from using their iPhone's camera to take photographs or video. If the camera app is opened, the phone's screen, according to one of the patent's drawings, would feature the text "RECORDING DISABLED."

This walks a fine line between addressing consumer wants and limiting speech. From a concert attendee's perspective, cellphone use at concerts can be irritating. Rather than enjoying the performance, people are often distracted by bright phone screens and blocked views, thanks to self-absorbed smartphone users.

One can wonder if the problem warrants such a dramatic interference in individual rights. Clearly, property owners should not be legally barred from using such technology in private venues if the technology exists and they so choose. Yet Apple's decision to develop a product that essentially tells people when it is and isn't acceptable to use their iPhones seems to go against the ideals of free speech. And while concert bootlegging still exists in the digital age, it's hard to imagine people's shaky personal footage is really a significant financial threat to the music industry.

It's possible that customers will be displeased by Apple's decision to move forward with this product. But as with so many technologies, there are more potential uses for it than initially meet the eye: According to the patent application, it could even be used to send information on an exhibit to people who open their iPhone cameras inside the museum. Some attractions already use QR barcodes for a similar purpose, but Apple's product looks poised to make the process of delivering information to people even easier.

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  1. Damn! It totally sucks that the only video cameras in existence are in iPhones!

    1. If it’s using infrared it will probably blot out any digital recording device at all. Although it sounds like they’re trying to use the infrared as a transmission carrier as well rather like TV remotes so I’m not sure if it’s the signal that’s interrupting or if they’re just blotting out the screen with infrared. It makes a difference on if it would destroy any signal or just Apple signal.

      Since these types of things are normally recording by the bands/companies themselves, I’d wager it’s a signal interrupt but I’m not sure why they would be using infrared as a transmission carrier. My guess is the ability to shut off Bluetooth on most devices. *shrug*

      1. Probably talking from my ass, but hasn’t that sort of thing been made illegal? I was under the impression certain venues like movie theaters wanted to block signals but couldn’t without violating a law.

        1. uh…. don’t know about that. phone blockers were a thing for a minute, but smartphones are another ball of wax because they can operate on multiple networks

        2. Apple: We have this technology that can block certain signals.
          Gov’t: That’s illegal.
          Apple: It can be used to block iPhone cameras recording cops.
          Gov’t: Proceed.

          1. RBS-
            I also immediately thought about the cops getting their hands on such technology. It’s an abusive cop’s wet dream, to return to the days when you could beat, harass, and steal with no pesky video evidence.

        3. Blocking out a *phone* call is illegal – because, among other things, you’re blocking *RF* signals (IR and visible light are not under FCC control) and those are the baliwick of the FCC and those were general purpose *jammers*, not something that simply broadcasts a signal to tell the phone to turn off, but something to raise the noise-to-signal ratio high enough that the phone can’t receive.

      2. If it’s illegal, it’s probably more likely illegal because such a device can be used to black out security cameras.

      3. Judging by the 3rd paragraph, it sounds like they’re sending an IR signal to the phone to shut the camera app off. If that’s the case, it would only work on Apple products.

        Actually blotting out the screen in a space the size of a concert venue would require a hell of a lot of power. We’re way past hi-intensity IR LEDs here.

        1. Damn you!

          1. I have to win sometimes!

        2. That was exactly my conclusion as well. I’m just baffled on why they would use IR in the first place when Bluetooth is a thing, but my conclusion there was simply that the user can turn off Bluetooth and get around it. Presumably, the camera detecting IR pulses couldn’t be disabled but…I remain unconvinced.

          It is funny though that they’re right back to IR pulse technology that was inside the TV remote forever and a day ago.

      4. If it’s using infrared it will probably blot out any digital recording device at all.

        It’s not new and it’s a digital signal to the iPhone(‘s IR receiver) to trigger a software disable. You couldn’t practically dump enough IR to drown out the visible signal and, even if you could, it would be readily defeated by a thin sheet of glass. And ramping up the IR from there, well…

        1. I assumed that if they were able to patent it that it was a little more advanced than your typical IR LED or 1980’s television remote, and I rightfully assume Apple developers are far more intelligent and crafty than I am. My guess is the patent is the encoding though, rather than the device itself since those have been around longer than I’ve been alive.

          1. I assumed that if they were able to patent it that it was a little more advanced than your typical IR LED or 1980’s television remote, and I rightfully assume Apple developers are far more intelligent and crafty than I am.

            I think you may be unfamiliar with the patent process. I also think you may be unfamiliar with corporate engineering if you think Apple’s got the best of the best working on the ‘disable video’ feature.

            1. And he might be unfamiliar with Apple product users in general if he thinks they normally have any idea what is happening under the hood.

              Apple’s major selling point is that everything is an appliance – it just works (to steal Todd Howard’s favorite phrase), even when it doesn’t. Then you go to the Apple Store and let a Genius fix it for you.

      5. The cameras should already come with a (cheap) IR filter – usually a piece of IR opaque plastic. CCD cameras have long had them because CCD’s, being sensitive to IR, would be swamped during daylight. Removing it is a cheap way to get a (crappy) night vision camera.

        Still, a bright enough IR light might be able to overwhelm the filter.

        1. if it says ‘recording disabled’ they’re not using IR to swamp out the camera, their using something to tell the camera to not record.

  2. Hey, check it out, Apple is giving free advertising for Android products.

    1. That’s what I thought. There’s no way Samsung, HTC, and all the others are going to pay Apple to remove functionality from their products.

      1. Funny thing is – even if they *did*, Android users would, if they haven’t already, simply root the phone and get it patched out.

    2. Just got my new Nexus 6P, simplified plan from Google for 35 dollars a month, including device protection.

      Suck it Cupertino!

  3. I don’t know if fucking over your own customers is a good way to maintain market share, Apple.

    1. We don’t have customers. We have followers.

      /Tim Cook

  4. Even worse, it only lets you film U2 concerts.

      1. Apple does that pro-bono.

        1. *golf clap*

        2. Boo!
          /throws rotten cabbage

          1. /films cabbage pelting with android phone

            1. U2, being Irish, boil and eat the cabbage.

              Kevin R, (who can say that, since IR12, American version. Still, not all that fond of cabbage.)

    1. I’m so damn old, I can remember when U2 didn’t completely suck.

      1. I think you just fondly remember a time in your life when you were prone to making all sorts of bad decisions.

  5. I think you missed the most pernicious possible use for this technology: cop/the government disabling cell phone cameras to prevent their actions from being filmed.

    1. It’s a disastrously bad idea.

    2. Came here to post that. Thanks WW.

    3. This is the exact scenario I thought of when I first read the headline. Cops will have these devices pinned to their uniforms in place of body cameras. They will be dotted about all government buildings.

      Of course none of this prevents those of us with Android phones and standard cameras.

    4. The thing is cops are so reliably arrogant/stupid hat they would think that turning this on at whatever site they were working would stop all filming.

    5. You shouldn’t film the cops with your phone (if you can help it) anyway; use a device you aren’t too worried about them confiscating.

  6. Now, a concert is a gathering or event of some type?

  7. Apple is looking to police its users behaviors? Its hipster cred just skyrocketed!

  8. Italy has just scammed the EU out of 150 billion Euros. It’s crazy to think that someone would want to leave such a well-run outfit!

  9. Hmm.. one of the drawings shows a settings screen with “Receive IR: On/Off”.. which implies user control.

    … and a flowchart showing:

    Using the camera to capture a second image that includes an infrared signal with encoded data

    Determining whether the encoded data includes a disable command

    Disabling a record function

    1. And it’s reasonably easy to mask over those IR receivers, but still…

      1. I’m curious if the lighting effects from concerts would cause issues with the IR.

  10. It’s good to see Apple is back on board with Big Government regarding a useful piece of technology that would block people from recording that which the government doesn’t want you to record.

  11. I’ve done some recording using my iPhone. If the volume is low enough – a rare occasion – the sound isn’t bad. But when I recorded one of my favorite songs during an IAMX show, it came out a distorted mess. Too much low bass for the poor little microphone.

  12. New Iphone accessory: A camera lens that filters out infrared light.

  13. On the one hand, I like the idea of people not hefting their phones over their head all the way through a show, but on the other hand everything that’s wrong with a device that can remotely disable a camera.

    Now if Apple could develop a device that could block drunken assholes from yelling and hooting during a show…

    1. Freebird!!! Freebird!!!

      1. What song is it you wanna hear?

        Play it purdy for Atlanta.

    2. Now if Apple could develop a device that could block drunken assholes from yelling and hooting during a show…

      Unfortunately, some things still have to be done the old-fashioned way.

  14. Anybody ever see the anime Ghost in the Shell? It had this terrorist called “the laughing man” who could hack everyone’s mind so his face was censored with a goofy smiley face over it. I, for one, welcome our shitty cyberpunk future.

  15. Is anyone tracking the hysteria over the spike in ‘hate crimes’ in the UK? Reports to police have jumped 500%!

    “In a number of forces, migrants are reporting verbal abuse, negative social media commentary including xenophobic language, anti-migrant leafleting and, in very limited numbers, physical assaults. All of these incidents are under active investigation.”

    I’ve heard of two cases of actual violence. In neither case has a suspect been caught and motives determined. The rest is basically someone said something mean to me. The actual problem here seems to be they’ve created a system where people can report their neighbors for being impolite. And unsurprisingly after a major and controversial political event, people are taking full advantage of that opportunity.

    How long until this is America?

    1. there needs to be extra scary scare quotes to properly sum up how trivial those hate crimes are. i could accept an emoji scare quote of somebody shitting their satin britches while standing in a puddle of their own urine around the term hate crime.


      1. Ruining your what?

    3. Free expression is lost in Europe…

      SmashTheEU 8m ago

      In the USA freedom of speech is guaranteed by their constitution. Who can deny that it’s done their nation a power of good? The problem is that many of those now climbing on board the ‘shut it down’ bandwagon in the UK and the EU are doing so for very sinister reasons.

      Alan Fidler SmashTheEU 6m ago

      Yes and its not a good thing frankly. Hate crimes are just that, Hiding behind a 200 plus year old constitution as an excuse to say vile things to other people isn’t acceptable here thankfully.

    4. Wait, so you haven’t heard of the ‘See Something, Say Something’ campaign under Obama?

      1. Doesn’t rise to this level.

        1. I think the difference is that here you’re just put on a secret list after being reported. Over there apparently there’s an investigation. Couldn’t really say one way or the other though, since it’s secret.

  16. How old are most people before they realize it is better to enjoy the concert now, than to watch it on an iphone later.

  17. How old are most people before they realize it is better to enjoy the concert now, than to watch it on an iphone later.

    1. Judging by Deadhead tape-traders, 147.

    2. They have to record it – they’re too drunk and stoned to enjoy the concert now.

  18. Perhaps an odd question, but do we have evidence that Apple is planning on implementing such a device/mechanism, beyond registering a patent on the idea? Especially given recent security debates with the FBI and such, it actually strikes me as fully responsible on Apple’s part to file a defensive patent on any technology of which they’re aware to bypass their own proprietary technology ??even if they never plan on implementing it (and indeed, it sounds quite counter-intuitive to what’s been argued in recent public statements and investor calls).

    Of course, stopping third parties (including governments and white-hat hackers like the alleged Israeli group used to break into the San Bernadino iPhone after Apple refused to create a bypass) from patenting such a technology is less exciting than shouting OMG TOP MEN, but eh…

  19. Imagine what will happen when the police get their hands on it.

    No more recording cops doing bad things.

  20. Number of times I’ve taken a picture or video at a concert/sporting event and enjoyed it later. Pretty much zero, they always suck.

    The only people this will affect are white people on facebook who must tell you they are at a live music performance.

  21. Patent filings do not necessarily lead to products. In fact most software patents don’t. Apple came dreamed up the idea, so they patented it. It could theoretically, put a financial or legal hurdle of any other company who would want to implement such a system.

  22. If only there was a technology that could take digital video, but didn’t require an iPhone….

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