The dictum, “Please turn off all cell phones” at your local movie theater may soon be expanded to include Google Glass, smartwatches, GoPros, life-logging cameras, and a cast of thousands of other wearables.
The Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners, which represents 32,000 screens across the U.S., have issued a zero tolerance policy on wearable devices capable of recording video, due to concerns over piracy.
Both groups already had a policy that all phones must be silenced and put away at show time. But all other recording devices, which would include wearables, must also be turned off and put away, the groups said Wednesday in an update to their policy.
MPAA and NATO said they understand that some consumers have taken a liking to wearable “intelligent” devices. “As part of our continued efforts to ensure movies are not recorded in theaters, however, we maintain a zero tolerance policy toward using any recording device while movies are being shown,” they said.
That policy has a legal rationale. Under U.S. law movie patrons can be imprisoned for up to three years for recording a movie in a theater, even if it’s their first offense. But enforcing the expanded policy could be a mess.
The rules cover the entire range of wearable tech with recording devices, whatever form they may take, said MPAA spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield, in an email. And it’s up to theater managers to decide how they’re enforced, she said.
As people put more cameras on their bodies for various reasons, that could get complicated. Crazy as it may sound, there are people who may have legitimate reasons for wearing Google Glass while sitting in a movie theater. A man in Ohio, who said he was wearing Glass with prescription lenses, was interrogated by authorities earlier this year after theater employees thought he was trying to record the film.
Plenty of other businesses, including bars and restaurants, have already banned Glass. Some did it because of concerns over surreptitious video recording and others due to what they deem to be its unsociable nature, or simply “Glasshole” behavior. Some movie theaters on their own have already banned Glass, too.
Policing the broader range of camera-equipped wearable tech will be even trickier as the industry grows. Determining what qualifies as recording-capable wearable tech is getting to be a very nerdy question.
Could theater managers, if they managed to identify it, ask you to remove your Apple Watch? That device, at least in its first generation, won’t have a camera, but it can be used as a remote viewfinder for an iPhone.
And what about devices like the Narrative Clip, a tiny wearable camera that automatically takes a picture every 30 seconds? That probably wouldn’t make for a great pirated movie, but it could lend an artsy effect.
If someone did want to pirate a movie with Google Glass, it would probably have to be a short film. The device’s default video recording only lasts for 10 seconds. But that length can be extended, and some users have reported being able to record for about 30 to 45 minutes before the battery dies.