Apple To Patent Anti Piracy Technology

Melanie Gross
Jun 5, 2011
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Apple, Companies, File Sharing

Have you ever seen people at concerts holding an iPhone up in the air, trying to record the live performance (and probably uploading it somewhere later on as well)? But they usually don’t know that the moment they do that, they are infringing on IP copyright law. Piracy is punishable by law, even if it is sporadically enforced. It hurts the device manufacturers as well whose device is being used in ways they never intended. No one wants to be blamed for what they never did. Camera phones are a huge part of our lives these days and often the most handy way of capturing the precious moments around us. But some people do use the built in camera’s in ways that were not intended by the manufacturers. Apple’s R&D department has made a major break-through in anti-piracy technology and has applied to acquire the patent for that as well.

Apple’s anti-piracy technology is based on a simple but ingenious idea. In movie theaters, they distribute special infrared waves for hearing aid devices. Apple’s new technology will enable the iPhone to detect those infrared signals and the iPhone will sense that you are in a movie theater. Now if you will try to record a scene from Kung Fu Panda 2 with your iPhone this weekend, it will automatically sense that you are in a movie theater trying to record, and will shut off the camera automatically. Another possibility with the same technology can be that the movie/snap you capture will be watermarked with the name of the movie.

The same will be true with music concerts, if you try to take a picture of Lady Gaga, the whole picture could be watermarked with LadyGaga, but for that concert the management will have to bombard infrared waves on the audience.

This technology may have other implications as well, such as in museums and historical places. Here the authorities can set up infrared signals for each place, so that when you point your iPhone towards that, it will catch those signals and then show the detailed info about that on your iPhone screen, replacing the human guide or tour guide headphones.

It may take some time to completely implement this technology, and it may take even longer for us to see the practical implications of this technology. But none the less, even though this technology is simple and ingenious, it will have far reaching effects. Whether people like it or not, the millions of artists worldwide will love it since they lose money from piracy on a daily basis.
At the end of the day, anti-piracy laws will more than likely be something that we become accustomed to with time. However, these new laws will no doubt make big waves at first as people begin to think that their personal freedoms are being limited when they can no longer do what they want to do with the hardware that they have purchased. Fortunately or unfortunately, companies are in the business of making money, and taking the hard line with piracy will benefit their bottom line.

Martin's Take: This patent is about remote controlling functionality on Apple devices. Turning off features on the phone while the guy with his Android phone can still take a picture of his loved one on the concert, may be seen positively by the industry, but certainly not by consumers.

I have not found any limitations to that feature online. Can the technology turn off the complete phone? What if the phone is turned off then and someone needs to call in an emergency?

This new technology is one step closer to 1984 in my opinion, with company's being able to control what you can do with your electronic devices, and what you cannot.


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  1. James said on June 7, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    While this is only a patent, not implementation, I do not think it is a good idea. I think users should be able to record the event they attended and re-live their personal memories. The tech should be implemented when being uploaded to a public site like YouTube.

    In the end I dont think there will be enough of a backlash to get Apple’s attention. Most users will just say “oh well” and move on.

  2. bastik said on June 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Will that keep people from phoning at places where they should not?

    I do understand that the industry would like this feature, but “This part of the comment is not available in your country.”

    On the other hand I saw a lot of videos from concerts, recorded with mobile-phones and I have to say that there’s nothing to fear. Although the quality is getting better and better no-one really wants such recordings. I could not bear a recording of any movie taken with a mobile-phone.

    For the customer it’s bad. Another restriction.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 5, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      Next step would be to add punishment to people who try to use restricted functionality. Say an electro shock when you try to take a photo in a concert or some battery acid on your hand when you try to use the record feature in a cinema.

      1. bastik said on June 6, 2011 at 8:32 pm

        Yes, or even better when taking a photo of Lady Gaga you’ll get a copy for 5 $, if you try to use the (audio) recording function you bought her album (50 $) and if you dare to film her you purchased the concert “on tape” (150 $)

        When you take your phone out in cinema a “copyright violation settlement” is charged even if you just looked what time it is.

        And Apple gets 30% on top of that ;)

  3. MartinDK said on June 5, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    > “(and probably uploading it somewhere later on as well)”. On what do you base this? Or are you just making assumptions?

    > “It hurts the device manufacturers as well whose device is being used in ways they never intended.”
    It would be nice with a link to e.g. a lawsuit against a camera manufacturer for their equipment being used for copyright infringement etc. Just because it’s an unintended use doesn’t mean it hurts the manufacturer! (e.g.
    I should think people using their cameras for taking pictures and video of their experiences (IP infringement optional) is exactly spot-on with the uses envisioned for the camera. In perfect coherence with this article, my theory for envisioned camera use is of course completely unsubstantiated…

    As a side note, I can imagine a whole lot of other people than IP owners who could find a use for this tech – just think of all the videos we’ve seen uploaded to the net from citizens in countries where the despots have hindered the access of the world press. There is indeed a potential for Orwellian situations.

    Does your site have customizable rss feeds, where you can filter on authors? Because seems like all the articles on ghacks that I dislike as of late have one common denominator :-/

  4. jfestrada said on June 5, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    This is a great idea for cops, every cop have a “special infrared waves device” and now anybody can record what they do.


    1. JohnMWhite said on June 5, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      See the recent story of police in Miami allegedly threatening a man at gunpoint and destroying his cell phone because he recorded them kill someone in a shootout. Or the story from a couple of years back in the UK, where a police officer was recorded shoving a man to the ground with blatantly no provocation during a protest and the man died as a result. The UK police’s initial response was to express anger and disappointment that someone had filmed them, since they have decided that’s illegal. Kind of them. The last thing we need is the police having a method to stop people recording them.

      Aside from civil liberty issues, and the philosophical argument about whether people should be allowed to actually own the devices they pay for, this does raise questions about personal security. How can the phone tell the difference between a cinema and, say, a bank, where the hearing aid loop system is also likely to be in effect so hard of hearing patrons can hear the clerks? Cue a bank robbery and people unable to use their iPhones to call for help or, if phone functionality still works, being in less of a position to provide information to the police because their cameras are shut off because Apple decided it was vitally important that they protect the profits of a film about a cartoon panda they had nothing to do with.

  5. robin said on June 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    “…millions of artists worldwide will love it since they lose money from piracy on a daily basis.”

    **highly** debatable assertion (two actually) presented as a simple fact = fail at best, paid astroturfing at worst.

    imho, end-user backlash against third-party remote control will be too great a force to fight against.

  6. Dan said on June 5, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Apple can keep their patent, I’ll be using an unencumbered camera thank you very much. For those who prefer to keep their Apple addiction, I guess jailbreaking the device could disable the “feature”.

  7. Actress Images said on June 5, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Great Content …………..

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