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Did Apple Just Crush the Next Revolution?

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This year saw a collection of high-profile uprisings in the Arab world. Revolts taking place in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and the like had a boost of public awareness not from the 24-hour news cycle, but from something as simple yet powerful as millions of mobile phones. Protests, atrocities, demonstrations, speeches, government suppression, everything was documented via Twitter and video-capable smartphones. The world was watching, thanks to the cameras on iPhones, Droids, BlackBerries, etc.

But now, a new patent filed by Apple could potentially crush that worldwide audience for any future revolution.

Fox News reported, "A patent application filed by Apple, and obtained by the Times, reveals how the software would work. If a person were to hold up their iPhone, the device would trigger the attention of infra-red sensors installed at the venue. These sensors would then instruct the iPhone to disable its camera."

The main goal from such technology is to curb unauthorized recordings of concerts, sports, movies, plays, etc.

"The software is seen as an attempt to protect the interests of event organizers and television broadcasters who have exclusive rights to film an event. These companies often sell their own recordings but are frustrated when cell phone videos appear online via websites such as YouTube, allowing people to watch the concert free," the site said.

However, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media Tim O'Reilly sees this as disastrous for the international masses who depended on such technology to document their own revolutions. He believes that this patent could easily be abused by oppressive regimes and silence any record of dissent.

O'Reilly wrote, "I sometimes think that our entertainment industries are one of the most pernicious industries on our planet. Not only are we "Amusing Ourselves to Death" as Neil Postman once suggested, we're letting these industries put a serious crimp on innovations whose impact are far more important to our society. When we look back on the history of media in our era, we will see how, bit by bit, we gutted one of the engines of democracy in the interest of protecting and enlarging media industry profits. A very poor trade indeed."

In response to the news, documentarian Greg Scott suspected it could lead to a series of one-upmanship where conflicting technologies begin canceling the previous one out. "[Some] enterprising programmer will develop an app to disable the venue camera disabler. And so on."

However, it would be much more comforting if Apple didn't cater to the entertainment industry or prevent features that should be universally available to the user.

Otherwise, the results could be much worse than just not being able to record Green Lantern.

(See also: Angry Birds, Disney Reenact Arab Revolts and Congress Tweeting 30% Less Since Weinergate)

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