Breakthrough: Apple can now stop photographs in concerts

Breakthrough: Apple can now stop photographs in concerts


norman lebrecht

June 29, 2016

The company has been granted a patent for a device that does this:

An infrared emitter can be located in areas where picture or video capture is prohibited, and the emitter can generate infrared signals with encoded data that includes commands to disable the recording functions of devices. An electronic device can then receive the infrared signals, decode the data and temporarily disable the device’s recording function based on the command.

This is positive progress. Can it also disable phones from ringing?

Alan conducts the Stars Spangled Banner after the Serbian National Anthem, 8:10pm, 10/24/10. Photo by Chris Lee


  • Chris Walsh says:

    Problematic, to say the least. If this is an Apple patent, does this imply that the device will only block recording on Apple devices? Good luck getting Google to agree that an Apple device will be allowed to selectively enable/disable functions on Android phones.

    And be careful what you wish for, Norman. A device that can enable/disable phone functions doesn’t have to be restricted to a concert hall. I can think of nefarious uses for such a device, and I’m sure that worse people than I can think of worse.

  • Nicolas says:

    In my view, disabling the signal would be far more valuable! I am an advocate of letting people take pictures in the concert hall or even tweet seats – as long as there is no noise involved of course. It’s not like with an exhibition where you can actually buy a print of a painting, it can be a great souvenir for people who usually also share it around on social media. So maybe an emitter that blocks any sound coming from an electronic device in the hall, automatically putting it on silent?

    • la Verita says:

      Irrespective of the noise, the mere act of taking photos, texting, reading e-mails, tweeting, and whatever else — is very disturbing to the surrounding audience members who are trying to listing to the music. People who indulge in such activities during concerts simply don’t know how to listen to music intelligently: many of them suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder – so they ruin our concert experience with their extra curricular activities. Proper listening requires intense concentration if the full beauty of the music is to be absorbed.

    • Nick says:

      I totally agree with La Verita. If you are sitting next to someone who is constantly taking photographs with their phones, or worse their much larger Pads, and then sending it out on Facebook or some of the apps, it is hugely distracting. Surely it has to be possible to block signals in concert halls, theatres, cinemas etc. but for some inexplicable reason it seems governments are not able to agree to this.

    • Jaybuyer says:

      Tweet seats? Is this a kind of malapropism for ‘eat sweets’?
      Fidgets in concerts drive me mad; handbags, sweet wrappers, page turners who are so bored that they have to keep flicking through their programme, etc, etc. If we are now suggesting that people should be able to take photos during the performance – well, that takes the biscuit! (Ah, yes. Eating biscuits. ….)

      • Bruce says:

        I remember a lady sitting near me at a recital of Bach cello suites… she would crinkle her candy wrappers for an incredibly protracted period of time, to the point where I thought maybe it was a nervous habit and not out of any desire for candy. When the cellist reached the end of a movement, she stopped crinkling, then resumed again when he started the next movement. She saw me looking at her (I was trying not to glare, but just a kind of bright “Hi there! What are you doing?” kind of look), and gave me a friendly smile.

  • Orchestra minion says:

    I do not like being recorded involuntarily when I perform, but that’s the world we live on today. Advocacy for civility in the concert hall and elsewhere is great. Seizing control of other people’s devices or certain device functions is crossing a line; and the probable cost of alienating audience members is not worth it.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Who will want to buy a camera that includes this disabling feature?

    • Big Brother says:

      No one especially in those countries where they have no free press. It’s a tool that will be used extensively in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China and so on. However, there is also a good site: no more illegal videos and photos on YouTube from concerts. So that’s at least good for performing artists.

      • Neil van der Linden says:

        I am afraid it can be use too by US or European police forces, or the IDF. In recent years cases of mishandling up to using in the end lethal force have been published online made by people with mobile phones, which in the past would have gone less notice by lack of visual proof. Several cases in the US, some with a racist context of police using excessive force against black people, or the use of force by the Greek police against student protests with a lethal end, all brought to daylight because somebody had filmed it. In the future the police only needs to switch on this infrared signal, and nothing can be filmed. If the technique works and cannot be bypassed.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    1 So Apple will lose a part of the market to Android (and what will be left of Windows Phone), unless Apple can have the facility made mandatory.
    2 The eerie thing is not prohibition on filming concerts (or movies in cinema’s to release them in bad quality DVDs’), but the abuse of the facility for instance by police and other authorities who can prohibit people from filming their abuse of power.