It started last week, when a patent watchdog came across a 2009 proposed filing from Apple to use infraRed signals to jam the video recording capability of an iPhone. The use-case for this technology was copy protection for live events such as concerts, with jamming transmitters positioned on stage and aimed at the crowd.

It must have been a slow news day… for the entire week! I have now seen that story dozens of times, propagated in blogs and mainstream media, all with the how-dare-they calls to action and claims of Big Brother. And more significantly, all acting like it was a foregone conclusion for the anti-piracy feature to be in the next iPhone release.

So let me say this: I will bet my left nut that this IR copy-protection will never see the light of iPhone flash.

There are more than 150,000 patents filed every year, many of which never take form beyond the paper upon which they are printed. This is one of them.

  • The ability to block recording, if even possible, would be exploited by others. Do you think moral upstanding concert promoters would be the only ones to deploy such a jamming technology?
  • Dollars to donuts some hacker would figure out how to subvert, jailbroken or otherwise.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, the whole world does not yet use iDevices. Determined bootleggers would simply switch to another device.

Unless Big Brother really exerts itself to force all devices to implement this scheme (and it won’t), there is no way that Apple alone will introduce a crippling feature to their phones when others will not have it. It’s one thing for an industry to mandate – such as AACS on Blu-ray – but its another thing entirely for a manufacturer to attempt on its own. Besides, Apple has already tried DRM once before, and failed miserably. :)

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