Amelia Manera is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
On June 2, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application made by Apple for infrared technology that would allow the disablement of picture and video recordings taken by devices such as the iPhone.
The patent was originally filed in 2009 by the inventors: Victor Tiscareno, Kevin Johnson, and Cindy Lawrence. The patent application was reported on here and a detailed description and explanation of the various potential functions of the proposed infrared technology can be found here.
Primarily, the infrared technology could be used to prevent the unauthorized recording of video and/or the taking of pictures by the camera on a cell phone, portable media player, or tablet. The system functions by enabling a device to detect an infrared signal that would be sent from a transmitter. The signal would carry instructions for the device to temporarily disable the camera as the content currently in view has not been authorized for recording. This type of disablement could also apply to museums or classified facilities where photos and recordings are not permitted.
Similarly, the infrared signal would enable institutions, such a museum, to send instructions through the signal to implant a watermark on any photos or video taken within the range of the signal. In this way, the institution can have their name appear across every photo taken of their facilities.
The signal could also provide information to tourists. While the technology may prevent picture-taking in a museum, it may also send information to be displayed on a person’s device. In this situation, a person would point their device at the object for which more information is desired and that person’s device would read the infrared signal and display the information about the object on the device. This type of application could exist anywhere a signal could be transmitted and could offer information about architecture, heritage buildings, subway stations, etc.
In addition, it was suggested that the infrared signal could be applied in a retail setting. Customers could use their devices to read the infrared signal being emitted from a tag on a piece of merchandise and receive information regarding size, price, inventory stock, etc.
As a practicality, devices that would include the infrared technology would also have operational controls so that the owner could determine when and for what purposes the device would read and display received information. The only exception being the temporary disablement of the camera function to prevent the violation of intellectual property rights; this feature would be permanently enabled.