Apple's Concert Piracy Patent Should Worry You

It's recently been reported that in 2009 "big brother" Apple (AAPL) filed a patent application for a device that can disable video recording at certain venues.

The NY Times says:
The recording industry could easily use this technology to disable a camera during a music concert by blasting an infrared signal from the stage and in turn disabling an iPhone from recording the concert for purposes of sharing it online, violating copyright laws.

But the mainstream media doesn't ask any questions. Nor do they tell you the implications.

Here's a question. What's the point if it's really for concerts? Let's say you go to a concert and record what's going on around you and on stage, and then you post it on Youtube and Facebook, etc. Who are you harming?

Watching a poor quality video of a concert on the internet hurts no one. The band isn't missing out on ticket sales because no one thinks that watching a video of an event is an adequate substitute for being there in person. No one thinks, "I'll skip the concert because I can watch someone's iPhone recording of it."

If ticket sales aren't affected, then the venue and other parties involved also don't miss out on any revenue.

But what if the concert is being filmed for a DVD? Wouldn't an iPhone video of the same concert on Youtube hurt DVD sales? Maybe. But I can't imagine it would have any noticeable effect. Compare a high quality, professionally filmed, multi-angle production with a low quality, consumer grade video from one angle. Is the latter really competition for the former? Would it prevent a potential customer from buying the high quality version because he's happy with the low quality? For example, compare this pro video with this attendee video. Here's another example: pro and attendee.

Notice, most important of all, that both types videos are available on Youtube anyway. And the professional quality ones have more views.

So what's the video disabling patent really for?

If Apple will use such technology to disable video recording other manufacturers will follow suit. Increasing numbers of new devices will have this technology. As old devices become obsolete, they'll get replaced by new ones. Eventually, the majority of the people will own devices that will have their video disabled at certain venues/events. Then the fun begins.

Wouldn't it be nice if big agribusiness could disable video recording at their facilities? Then we wouldn't get articles that say stuff like this:
For years videos of egregious farm animal cruelty, foodborne illnesses, unsafe employee working conditions, and pollution have painted a very different picture from the once glorified story books when consumers thought farm animals lived in bucolic safety as portrayed by Old MacDonald's Farm. The past few years have uncovered graphic details of farm life that humane organizations discovered to be revolting, inhumane, and deleterious to both the health and safety of animals and humans.

Agribusiness is already trying to claim that it's a violation of their copyright if someone films unsafe working conditions and so on at their facilities.

The TSA is constantly being embarrassed by videos of their security lapses and abuse of airline passengers. You think they'll have a use for video disabling technology? And once it's employed, will they say something like, "we don't abuse people--if we did, there would be videos of it on the internet." I bet that's what they'd do. They turned off their body scanners last Thanksgiving because of a planned protest. And then it was claimed that the protest "fizzled" because no one complained about being scanned--because they weren't. How's that for propaganda?

What about police departments all over the country? If these things are installed on cop cars, might they lower their liabilities from brutality lawsuits? Many cases will go away or be settled for less if there's no video and it's the cop's word against the victim's.

How about some tinpot dictator installing these devices on tanks and so on? That's a nice way of getting rid of all those pesky videos of human rights violations.

You get the idea.

I'm not saying Apple is to blame. They and their competitors will produce this technology because if they don't, someone else will. And I don't think you can fight it. When all recording devices have disabling technology installed (perhaps because of a law that mandates that the technology be installed--here's a prelude), you won't be able to vote with your wallet.

These are happy times we live in.