MPAA: Google Glass is No Threat, but Mobile Phones Are

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Earlier this week a man was detained by Homeland Security for wearing Google Glass in an AMC movie theater. The MPAA, who referred the man to the feds, tried to fix their mistake by stating that Google Glass is not yet a significant movie piracy threat. However, a quick look at the draconian anti-piracy guidelines that the MPAA recommends to theater owners puts this statement in doubt.

mpaaThe MPAA sees illegally recorded movies as one of the biggest piracy threats, and it will go to extremes to stop it.

This stance was illustrated once again this week when a Google Glass wearer was detained in Ohio. When employees at the local AMC movie theater spotted the man they alerted the MPAA, who quickly escalated the matter to the Department of Homeland Security.

The feds wasted no time and rushed to the scene to remove the man from his seat, all while the movie was playing.

“About an hour into the movie, a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says ‘follow me outside immediately’,” the Google glass wearer later recalled.

After hours of questioning and a careful review of the Glass’ contents on a laptop, the feds concluded that the man had done nothing wrong. He was merely using his Google Glass as prescription glasses, and had not recorded a single frame.

Soon after the story made headlines all over the world. The MPAA received numerous inquiries from the press and eventually delivered an official response. The movie group said that the whole incident was an unfortunate misunderstanding, and that Google Glass is actually not a significant piracy threat.

“Google Glass is an incredible innovation in the mobile sphere, and we have seen no proof that it is currently a significant threat that could result in content theft,” the MPAA said in a statement.

The MPAA’s response was cited in dozens of reports without any questioning, but to us it seems puzzling for a number of reasons.

It’s no secret that the MPAA has a strict set of anti-piracy practices they want movie theater owners to adhere to. When reading some of these recommendations it becomes clear why the AMC employees acted as they did.

“The MPAA recommends that theaters adopt a Zero Tolerance policy that prohibits the video or audio recording and the taking of photographs of any portion of a movie,” MPAA states.

The movie group further emphasizes that employees should take immediate action when they spot someone with a recording device, including smartphones. Even when in doubt, the local police should be notified as quickly as possible.

“Theater managers should immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they suspect prohibited activity is taking place. Do not assume that a cell phone or digital camera is being used to take still photographs and not a full-length video recording,” MPAA writes.

“Let the proper authorities determine what laws may have been violated and what enforcement action should be taken,” they add.


But Google Glass isn’t a phone or camcorder, one might think. That is true, but in its best practices the MPAA specifically states that all recording-enabled equipment should be considered a threat, including recording equipment concealed in glasses.

“Movie thieves are very ingenious when it comes to concealing cameras. It may be as simple as placing a coat or hat over the camera, or as innovative as a specially designed concealment device (e.g., a small camera built into eyeglass frames or a camera built into the lid of a beverage container),” MPAA warns.

A camera built into eyeglass frames? Doesn’t that sound exactly like Google Glass?

TorrentFreak asked the MPAA to clarify their stance and explain why Google Glass isn’t seen as a threat. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard back from them on this issue, and it’s doubtful that we ever will.

To us the MPAA’s Google Glass comments were nothing more than an attempt to redirect responsibility for this week’s PR disaster. It’s a clever way to conceal the fact that they themselves are likely the number one reason why the incident escalated in the fist place.

The MPAA clearly instructs theater owners to be suspicious of any device that can capture a single frame of a movie. To them, every person is a potential movie pirate, and they even go as far as putting a $500 bounty on their heads.

As for the future, hopefully people will still be able to see a few minutes of a movie on the big screen, in between the pat downs, questioning rounds, and other anti-piracy efforts.


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