This week Apple won approval for a patent for technology that would allow infared signals to send data to cellphones and their cameras. The functions of this include allowing a concert venue to block the ability to take pictures or video at a show. It also does a whole lot more, like the ability for a museum to send you information about a particular artifact your camera is pointed at, or to send you ads as you're walking through a shopping mall. Billboard spoke with David Wendell Phillips, the Of Counsel at O&A, P.C. and former General Counsel for IGN, AOL and Napster (in it's Bertelsmann-owned era):

"It's part of a series of related patents" that both Apple and Google are racing to file, Phillips says. "I see this as part of their battle to map the indoors and to connect the digital and physical worlds. This is one of many similar technologies, including iBeacons over Bluetooth, wifi and others that can be used to transmit location-based data and interact with your phone within a defined area."

Whether it's to distribute ads as you walk by a store, or to display a 3D blueprint of a burning building in a heads-up display worn by a firefighter, big tech companies like Apple are exploring multiple options to more tightly integrate their devices and services with the physical world, Phillips says.

Phillips told Billboard he doesn't think Apple will commercialize the camera-blocking aspects of the patent, given how hard it fought the U.S. government on giving them an iPhone "master key":

"On the one hand you can imagine the ability to create a perimeter that can disable a paparazzi zone of influence," Phillips said. "On the other hand, do you have the right to control that within a public area? Does that conflict with the right to film? As a private citizen, I have a right to video the police in a public setting. Does a police officer have the right to restrict my ability to film him?"

Thorny areas for sure.

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