Apple’s Patent Would Block Your Smartphone Video Concert Bootlegs


Apple Bootleg Patent 1

Ever been tempted to whip out your smartphone to record a live performance? Apple wants to help.

A patent recently granted to Apple Inc. is making waves for allowing the use of infrared signals to remotely turn off smartphone cameras and video recordings.

Federal law already bans concert and movie bootlegs. But such laws only really work if someone who owns a right in material being copied catches someone in the act of making or distributing a bootleg recording. And it’s only gotten harder to police bootlegging in the age of ubiquitous smartphones, when some performers have gotten so sick of being recorded on stage that they’ve begged fans to stop.

Apple’s invention prevents those complications by stopping bootlegs from being created in the first place. It could also have applications in venues such as museums, which often prohibit visitors from photographing exhibitions.

But there are concerns, too. Critics worry that people would be prevented from recording questionable actions by law enforcement officers, or from taking pictures or videos in situations where rights are murky—such as stopping harassing or endangering paparazzi.

For many years, the status of concert bootlegs—usually recordings made by audience members who have no connection to the people putting on the show—was actually unclear. But amendments to the Copyright Act of 1976 and federal criminal law made the ban explicit.

Today, Sections 512 and 513 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994, 17 U.S.C. §1101 and 18 U.S.C. §2319A, impose civil and criminal penalties for recording a performance without the performer’s permission.

Sections 103 and 102 of the Artists Rights and Theft Prevention Act of 2005 (17 U.S.C. §506(a)(3)(B) and 18 U.S.C. §2319B)—known as the “Art Act”— ban camcording a movie being shown in a theater.

But again, bootleggers have to be caught for those laws to work. Unless Apple’s patent steps in first.