Apple granted patent that prohibits iPhones from taking photos at concerts, other sensitive locations

“One of the things that really spoils live concerts these days is that half the people there don’t seem to want to watch it live at all – they’d rather watch it through their phone screen, holding the device up and blocking the view of those behind them,” Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac. “This is a problem Apple is seeking to solve in a patent first applied for in 2011 and granted today.”

“The patent describes the camera detecting an infrared signal and interpreting the data,” Lovejoy reports. “One signal could be used to disable both still photography and video recording. The same approach could be used to prevent video recording in movie theatres, and to block photography in sensitive locations.”

“The same patent describes some more positive uses of the technology,” Lovejoy reports. “In a museum, for example, the system could be used to automatically display information about the object you’re viewing or photographing.

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Sounds intrusive. It’s like an advertisement for jailbreaking. That said, we’re all for disabling iPhones that attempt to shoot video in portrait.


  1. Not a big deal to me, but this is BS. Since when is Apple, who won’t help their loyal customers locate their stolen iPhone, now finding morality in stopping their customers from documenting their life with their device.

    1. People should enjoy actually LIVING their lives instead of “documenting” them. Look, nobody but you gives a flying fart that you were at such and such a concert. So just enjoy the experience of the moment.

      1. I personally enjoy re-watching my videos from concerts later. Sometimes many years later. It’s not about impressing anyone else. It’s about holding onto a moment that was important to me.

        1. “It’s not about impressing anyone else. It’s about holding onto a moment that was important to me.”

          Isn’t that what the mind is for?

          It would be OK to do that if it didn’t interfere with others being able to watch without interruption. Maybe they should make a platform in the back to put all that want to record it.

    2. I was able to track down a friends stolen iPhone. It was pretty amazing . I told him exactly where it was . I could even see the thief moving with it . I was able put a message on the phone. and the they dropped the phone -lol

      1. You were able to this because your friend let you log onto his icloud to track his phone. That’s not what I’m talking about.
        I’m talking about a phone or ipad that gets stolen, and the thief disconnects YOUR icloud so you can’t track your own phone. But ALL cell phone providers can track ALL devices by their IMEI and locate them specifically with triangulation. Apple will NOT help their customers with this situation. And that TOO is BS.

        And by the way, if these iphones were not meant to document your life, then WHY does Apple have very expensively produced commercials showing you exactly HOW to do this very thing.

    3. FYI. Companies can intentionally get a patent on something to PREVENT anyone from doing it. So, for example, Apple may have no interest in doing this, but by patenting it, they’ve prevented anyone else from being able to do the same thing (to the extent that the thing being done is covered by the patent).
      So, this could either be Apple thinking about doing something terrible, or Apple making it impossible for anyone to do this terrible thing.
      Hopefully it is the latter.

  2. In Japan, I think it is, all digital cameras “have” to make a noise, that can’t be disabled, when shooting.

    One thing I can appreciate is limiting the use of cameras in bathrooms. However I think the noise idea is a good one from the standpoint, it doesn’t prevent you from taking a photo, but it does alert others around you, that is what you are doing. Then you have to decide if it’s worth it to get shamed or otherwise for making a lousy decision.

    Remember a patent does not necessarily mean it will be used. It just means they filed a patent claim. It doesn’t suggest a lock on the function as someone else may have filed something similar, before.

    1. That’s rather irrelevant now that phones can record very high quality video. Video recording obviously does not have a shutter sound when it’s used. Instead of shooting sneaky still pictures, somebody can simply record video and subsequently extract still frames from it later.

      1. I can understand that.

        Maybe it’s all moot. But we have to realize then we are all under potential surveillance by “all” of us. We are both subject to a “smith” like takeover of our tech and Soviet style turn in, by our peers. This is not a good thing, this is scary.

        When a lady on a bus can get you fired because she can report you to your boss, no matter how wrong that is – we are all victims of misuse of tech. I can see how movie theaters want something in place to prevent cameras from working.

        Might it be interesting if we could have a personal signal for celebrities or anyone who wants one, that could prevent cameras from working?

        I am logically taking this to the next level, I am not advocating we do this. I simply can understand the perspective of privacy and protection.

  3. I recently found out that scanners will refuse to scan currency. I wonder if the iPhone will refuse to photograph the same. I am not going to try it but there is precedent for conditional digital photography/scanning.

    1. Gollum, I have it on (exceedingly) good authority that for at least one major brand (if not all) that when you attempt to scan currency, the printer will attempt to phone home its IP address; I wasn’t told to whom, but you can take some good guesses.

      So if you’re going to scan currency (which there are honest artistic reasons for doing so), I suggest you use a scanner that is not networked/networkable.

      1. I want to be absolutely clear. For good reason, that I have no plans ever to image or print, fair use or not, legal or otherwise, currency. Not interesting to me. My only interest is in learning new things and I was amazed how this restriction was already in place. I also didn’t know current tech “phones home.”

        Getting back to the iPhone, I still think it should click even if the speaker or sound is off, as a polite gesture that it is in fact a photo that is being taken.

    2. My multi-function printer will scan old currency, though the green is obviously not right. But the newer bills overlay the whole page with red. You can see the currency, but you could never use it as counterfeit

      1. Supsedly there is a star alignment pattern on most major currencies that is recognized by current tech, in the same way that eyes and smiles can be detected. That is this pattern tells the tech not to function correctly.

    3. Years ago at work I told the girl in our office to “just put a chitty in the till for £2 and I’ll sort it out later”.

      She couldn’t grasp this idea, so during a slack moment I scanned a £1 note (Isle of Man Bank, it scanned fine) and changed it to a £2 note in Paint Shop Pro (I said it was a while ago!).

      Had a mad panic the next day when I realised she was trying to bank it.

      1. Wow she couldn’t grasp the concept of an IOU to balance the register? Seems she wasn’t the brightest. This is par, frankly. There are very capable people all around us. However they do not practice being thoughtful, only living in the now. That’s how you get a crisis. 🙂

  4. This is the usual double edged sword. Imagine police being able to disable a phone from recording their misconduct or a would be criminal using an IR device to disable phones around where he / she may be perpetrating a crime. I know most criminials are not that smart and prepared and I apologize to the majority of the police out there that perform dutifully and within the law.

  5. This is nothing less than a way to muzzle free speech. What if police carry around remote devices that disable cameras? Or, shutting off cameras to stifle political descent? If they implement this feature I’ll stop using an iPhone immediately.

    1. EXCELLENT point! Cops don’t want you documenting them beating some guy to hell, they flash an IR signal at your camera to kill it. ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ much? It comes back to ‘Who is the boss of who here?’

    2. I am only saying this for clarity.

      This sums it up nicely. Theaters – any private property owner can deny you from recording and taking photos. The bigger issue, is the audio portion, because it falls under wiretapping laws, even in public. So you technically can’t record video, with audio, of a crime, if said criminal is speaking, but a public official speaking to you, can be recorded.

      Laws are very complicated… Read the link and know your rights.

    1. Unfortunately I may have to switch to android too. With the crazy pricing scheme for iPhone and now a photo censorship issue, that is enough. This is coming from someone that has taken the time and effort to learn Objective C, Swift, and Cocoa. I am currently working on OpenCL. So I will be losing some return on some serious time investments. Here is a question: What if I am at a concert and I am taking a picture of my kid having a blast because I want to record the moment for the kid (especially for younger kids)?

      1. My guess is the lift that prevents you from taking video and photo of a concert will come from the stage, in this way they are only preventing you from taking pictures of the act. I know for years I have wondered if Apple had a deal with the music industry as I noticed in concerts for major acts that the people on stage had a strange washed out glow. I don’t get this when I am shooting lesser known acts with just as good lighting. I video tape a lot of acts with my iPhone and post to youtube and share with the act to help promote them.

  6. I was at a concert recently and when I opened my camera app to take a video, a warning appeared instead saying video was not allowed inside the venue. Wow. I was flummoxed by the new experience. “How’d they do that?” I thought. (Geo-Fence? LAN? What?) Then I thought “Why’d they do that?” Oh well, technology check-mates itself. (Again..)

  7. Another use for black adhesive tape.

    I entirely get the obtrusiveness of cell-addicts and their behavior at concerts. I also want to pummel people who think a flash is going to help light their pictures at concerts.

    But this has the scent of DRM-Crap to it as well. As such, the tape-covering-the-IR-sensor workaround. I’ve been taking pictures (without being stupid enough to use a flash) at concerts since I was a kid and I enjoy my pics as mementos. If the powers-that-be are all paranoid about that, I have to ask ‘why?’

    1. That’s all fine and good, unless they use the actual camera lens to detect the IR signal. They can also use wi-fi beacons, geo location in conjunction with date and time (a concert in progress at venue). Definitely a chilling idea based on the possibility of abuse by authorities as others pointed out.

    1. Have any of the knee-jerk reactionary respondents here ever considered that Apple patented for the precise reason of ensuring that nobody ELSE ever implements it (for at least 17 years)?

      Tim Cook is pretty big on civil liberties and this would be a really smart way of preserving them without having to fight another public battle about keeping Big Brother at bay.

      What we need is a law prohibiting companies like Target from tracking you around the store **without your knowledge or permission ** by pinging your phone. Consider iBeacon – an attempt to enable that technology, but also clearly disclosed.

  8. how is this good for Apple consumers?
    I can understand this is good for the concert hall etc people but for iPhone users?

    Also is Android going to implement this? (all kinds of crap happens with android like crapware, and Google gets away with it by saying that they are not responsible as it is ‘free’. Google doesn’t care about copyright etc, look at Youtube)

    if android doesn’t implement this consumers are going to say Androids have the ‘advantage’.

    this looks more like something Iovine etc wants to help out their artist & concert producing friends.
    actually as shareholder I am so tired that Apple tries to ‘do the right thing’ (here helping ‘copyright’ etc) and get punished for it. If Apple had Google’s P.E the stock would be 300 bucks now.

    (look I’m arguing ‘morality’ here. I just rather apple focus on stuff that they would help it’s consumers like upgrade some of it’s macs which have not been upgraded for 3 years, and help it’s shareholders instead of fiddling with ideas that make it’s competitors like Android more attractive to general consumers.)

  9. MDN Take: “That said, we’re all for disabling iPhones that attempt to shoot video in portrait.”

    I hate portrait videos for the most part because it’s a mark of laziness. However, due to the small field of view in video mode, sometimes that’s the only way to capture all the details without panning up and down. Like when you’re in a room and can’t take 5 steps back to capture what’s going on in front of you.

    That’s a failing of the camera optics, IMHO. This was never a problem before with camcorders, which have a much wider field of view (and can optically zoom in on details if necessary).

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