Cyberclinic: Hold the phone! One tiny Apple patent can't be evil

After reading news stories with headlines like "Apple wants to block iPhone users from filming live events", you'd be forgiven for thinking Apple wants to block iPhone users from filming live events. Media outlets have seized this opportunity to give the technology giant a kicking, placing calls to such noted analysts as Tinie Tempah and the Kaiser Chiefs' Ricky Wilson to ask them what they think. ("Bad idea" and "not sure" respectively.) Even Mashable, a technology blog not predisposed to hysteria, told its readers to "enjoy that experience while you can", causing fury to pour forth from people appalled at the apparent savaging of their digital rights.

Apple merely filed a patent application, 18 months ago. It filed quite a few. It does every week. Someone at Apple's Cupertino HQ could come up with an idea for remote-controlled ravioli and the patent forms would be fetched from the cupboard. It's what technology companies do to protect themselves and it explains why Apple, Nokia, Intel, Samsung and countless others are perpetually involved in legal tussles over patent violations. This application attempts to patent the following process: if a smartphone camera senses an infra-red beam containing a stream of data, something might happen on your phone as a result. That's all. So it might display information if it's pointed at a museum exhibit. It might prevent you from taking photographs of paintings at art exhibitions – or, yes, from filming Primal Scream at Wembley Arena while some 6ft-tall bloke gyrates in front of you. But it's just a patent application. It hasn't even been approved, let alone deployed. But sensationalist reporting drives web traffic, so "reasons" for this patent are stated with greater confidence than even exists in the inventor's mind.

I've read that it's a move to placate "angry" broadcasters who, we're told, are furious at the way their professionally recorded concert footage is devalued by someone uploading woozy footage of the same show to YouTube, in which the music is drowned out by two people having a chat about going to Nando's afterwards. But why would a venue install infrared equipment to disable Apple devices only? And even if this were about to happen – which it isn't – what's with the righteous anger? Ten years ago, if you'd taken a camcorder into the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre to film a show you'd have had it confiscated. Smartphone technology may have rubber-stamped the practice of filming performances without permission, but that doesn't mean you have the moral right to complain when someone says you can't.

When you next hear a scare story about, say, Apple's recent heart-monitoring patent being used to secretly store details of your propensity to succumb to a stroke, or its forthcoming High Tactility Magic Gloves having the potential to be used in smash'n'grab raids on supermarkets, remember that it's speculation based on the ideas of an inventor. Nothing more.

A couple of Twitter accounts, one at @englishassheis, the other at @soapmyvisage, are posting marvellous examples of badly translated English from old foreign phrasebooks: "Give us a pigeon couple, a piece of ham and a salad. What have us expended?" They're funny because they're supposed to be authoritative, but badly translated prose that's endemic on the web – mainly because of Google Translate – is just annoying. While Translate is a brilliantly realised method of getting the gist of foreign text, its automated content-generation tool has led to spammers publishing thousands of blogs that are simply lifted, translated (badly) and reposted.

Google is withdrawing the automated service later this year. Minimising spam content on the web would be a noble enough reason, but a blog at suggests another: the more badly translated content there is online, the more difficult it is for Google's translating algorithm to improve by learning from properly translated text. Translators around the globe will surely permit themselves a small, triumphant whoop at this news, but hopefully there'll still be enough bad translation around to give us the magic of sentences like: "Here is a horse who have a bad looks. Give me another; I will not that."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Ashdown Group: Linux Administrator - London - £50,000

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator ...

    Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Analyst - London - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Server Reporting Analyst (Busine...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower