On iPhones, Surreptitious Concert Taping, and The Future

We here at Abnormal Use enjoy going to concerts, which is why we were curious to learn of the recent rumors that Apple is developing some type of software to prevent iPhone users from surreptitiously filming a live music performance. Here’s what The Daily Mail reported earlier this year:

The days of filming a live concert or sporting event on your iPhone may soon be a distant memory.

Apple is developing software that will sense when a smartphone user is trying to record a live event, and then switch off the device’s camera.

Anybody holding up their iPhone will find it triggers infra-red sensors installed at the venue.

These sensors would then automatically instruct the iPhone to shut down its camera function, preventing an footage from being recorded.

Only the iPhone’s camera would be temporarily disabled; other features, such as texting and making calls, would still work.

It may be too early to speculate, as the only evidence is a patent application, one which we here at Abnormal Use have not seen.

But that’s not going to stop us from speculating.  That’s what we do best. Sometimes. Give us a break, we’re a blog. Let’s assume the report is accurate and analyze the issue.

There are some obvious free speech issues if there is a kill switch for a video instrument, but we’ll leave those issues for a con law blog. We suppose that if the venue controls the sensors then they could be disabled for bands that permit video recording of their performances.  However, generally, we’re not sure how we feel about a third party – a rock club – enabling some device which thwarts certain functions on our phones.  But, if the venue elects to enable the sensors at all times, then they may be depriving the owner of a phone from recording the performance of a band that has no objections to such recording.

However, this got us thinking.  If true, the rumor suggests that Apple is being responsive to pressure from record companies who have identified a problem of sorts:  surreptitious and possibly illegal recording of concerts. That irks some artists, too (although others are happy to have their live performances available on the Internet). Might this all set some type of precedent, though?

One wonders how long it will take the Plaintiffs’ bar, inspired by this news, to suggest novel modifications that Apple (or any smartphone manufacturer, really) could have or should have offered.  Often in the news are automobile accidents caused by texting drivers.  Clearly, such an accident is likely the result of that driver’s own negligence – and perhaps even negligence per se in light of recent ordinances and statutes that have been adopted in recent years.  However, if that driver is catastrophically injured, will we soon see plaintiffs’ lawyers suing cell phone manufacturers on the theory that the smart phones, using their own GPS technology or other functions, could have or should have detected that the vehicle was traveling at a certain number of miles per hour and thus the texting function should have been disabled?  The GPS function on the phone can tell a user where they are, where they are going, and they even track in real time the movement of the phone. If a user utilizes the iPhone’s Maps program and clicks on the GPS button, a blue circle appears on the map representing the location of the phone, and if the phone is moving at 60 miles per hour because it is in a moving vehicle, the blue circle moves in real time on the map to correspond with the vehicle’s movements. In sum, the phone recognizes that it is traveling at a high rate of speed and might be configured to disable certain functions under the circumstances. Or perhaps the cars themselves could have been enabled with sensors that thwart texting when the vehicle is in motion? (Obviously, such functions might cause issues with passengers who elect to text while the vehicle is in motion.).

But you get the idea. Sure, it sounds silly, but how many times have we been surprised by the craziness of certain plaintiffs’ theories in recent years?  It’s only a matter of time.  After all, there are devices already in existence which will prohibit a person who is intoxicated from using their car. (Those too would have seemed nutty just a few decades ago). Why not something along these lines?

Maybe, maybe not. It’s not like we’re futurists or anything.

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