When I first started going to concerts, I would leave with half of the show comfortably saved to my phone. According to a new patent that Apple registered for this week, those days might be behind me for good. The patent, which was filed on 6/28, is for a new technology that will disable recording at shows. Now, when your hand creeps to your pocket as your favorite verse is being played, venues could hypothetically set up infrared emitters that will instruct your phone that recording at shows is not permitted. A phone’s camera will then be disabled for the duration of your time in the venue.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized to hold back and understand that paying close attention is sometimes better than being glued to your phone. I’ll still slip my phone out on occasion but it’s no longer glued in place. But not having the choice at all feels like a completely different thing. Of course, paying attention to a show rather than filming the whole thing is more sensitive to those around you, too, and allows artists to feel comfortable playing new material without the fear that it’ll be on the internet months before they have the chance to record it. But, the idea of a private company being able to block or turn off your camera has much larger implications than whether your neighbor at a show is annoyed or not; much more crucial issues of privacy, freedom of speech and surveillance (or lack thereof) are at stake here.
Apparently, the technology can also work in ways that add more information instead of subtracting your ability to record or photograph; for instance, if you train your phone on an item in a museum that has been set up with the infrared emitters, they could transmit more information about the object directly to your iPhone. Although, that also feels a bit 1989, no? Anyway, just because the patent has been filed doesn’t mean that Apple will immediately act on it. Odds are, there will be more than a few hoops for them to jump through before this is approved.