By Chris Tribbey
Comic-Con has become the go-to event for studios to debut footage for their next summer blockbuster, those multi-million dollar films that rule the box office and home entertainment. And a recording of exclusive footage shared at the event can have a serious impact on how studios market the content.
So it’s no surprise that this year’s event in San Diego saw a new restriction for Comic-Con attendees: zero tolerance for Google Glass, the wearable eyewear technology that can take pictures, access real-time, Web-enabled information, and (most worrisome for content owners) record video in 720p, all using simple voice commands.
“You cannot wear Google Glasses during footage viewing in any program room,” Comic-Con warned attendees in a statement covering convention policies. “If your Google Glasses are prescription, please bring a different pair of glasses to use during these times.”
Comic-Con has long required attendees to turn off their smart phones and tablets during major studio panels, but this marked the first time the annual San Diego event flat-out banned a piece of technology. And the Google Glass ban by Comic-Con is just the latest pushback against the technology by the entertainment industry.
The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association — the British equivalent to America’s National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) — just recently announced a similar ban on Google Glass and other wearable technology. Theatergoers simply aren’t allowed to wear anything capable of recording.
Phil Clapp, CEO of the group, said the ban “is driven by concerns around customer privacy as well as film theft,” and that the difference between mobile phones and wearable technology is that it’s “more difficult to detect when they are and are not recording.”
“Our approach is a precautionary one,” he said.
A spokesman for NATO said U.S. theater chains work with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to establish guidelines for consumer technology in theaters, and while no blanket ban on Google Glass is in place, NATO and MPAA “maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward using any recording device while movies are being shown.”
“If theater managers have indications that illegal recording activity is taking place, they will alert law enforcement authorities when appropriate, who will determine what further action should be taken,” the spokesman said.
In the case of Google Glass and the movies, that’s already happened: in January, a man with Google Glass attached to his prescription glasses at an AMC theater in Columbus, Ohio was pulled out of a showing of Paramount’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and questioned for more than an hour by local and federal law enforcement.
The man wasn’t using his Google Glass to record the film and was released with no charges filed, but an AMC statement about the incident sent to news outlets showed little doubt that wearable technology isn’t welcome in theaters.
“… Our theater managers contact the [MPAA] anytime it’s suspected that someone may be illegally recording content on screen,” the AMC statement reads. “… Wearing a device that has the capability to record video is not appropriate at the movie theatre.
“The presence of this recording device prompted an investigation by the MPAA, which was on site. The MPAA then contacted Homeland Security, which oversees movie theft. The investigation determined the guest was not recording content.”
Google has remained mostly mum about Google Glass and the device’s potential to facilitate piracy (a request for comment for this article was not returned). However, a late-June Fox News article about the U.K. theater ban of the device did yield a reply from the technology giant: “The fact that Glass is worn above the eyes and the screen lights up whenever it’s activated makes it a fairly lousy device for recording things secretly,” a Google spokesman told the news service.