Apple patent uses infra-red to watermark reality

Apple has applied for a patent that could put an end to the shaky-cam bootleg as we know it.

The filing, entitled 'Systems and methods for receiving infra-red data with a camera designed to detect images based on visible light' outlines technology whereby a camera embedded in a device like an iPhone would be able to read signals that are invisible to the human eye.

One use for such a device would be at music concerts where artists and promoters don't want to see low-quality footage of their labours all over YouTube, and so hide a kill-code for digital devices in the stadium lighting.

The code would be read by the device, probably flash up a warning saying, 'You were told filming wasn't allowed you naughty person' and shut the device's recording abilities down.

The same could be applied to cinema screens which are becoming more an more vulnerable to piracy because of the prevalence of HD video cameras in smaller and smaller devices. Again, the kill-code could be embedded in the on-screen images using the infra-red spectrum to shut down the device.

We're all for movie companies protecting their work by stopping shoddy cinema-shot bootlegs being sold at car boot sales, and quite understand why bands which spend millions on stage shows want to turn a buck on the after-show DVD sales, but how long will it be before Buckingham Palace, or the Pyramids, or Katie Price's cleavage have their own camera-busting IR emitters?

On a more serious note, what happens when the police get their own camera-killing technology, and the kind of brutal behaviour which lead to the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests in London goes unrecorded and unpunished?