UK Bans Google Glass in Movie Theaters, Is the U.S. Next?

If you plan on catching the latest blockbuster at any cinema in the United Kingdom, you’ll want to leave your Google Glass at home.

Just days after Google announced that its wearable heads-up information display technology was arriving in the UK, theater owners put a global block on use of the device inside any one of the UK’s roughly 3,900 screens.

See also: How Google Fumbled Glass — and How to Save It

Phil Clapp, CEO of the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association in the UK, the organization which represents UK’s theater owners, cited film piracy concerns and said UK theater managers do not want Google Glass owners wearing the devices “regardless of whether the film is playing or not.”

UK film-goers may see this message in UK theaters:

“As a courtesy to your fellow audience members, and to prevent film theft, we ask that customers do not enter any cinema auditorium using any ‘wearable technology’ capable of recording images. Any customer found wearing such technology will be asked to remove it and may be asked to leave the cinema.”

When contacted for comment on the UK cinema ban, which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and covers 750 cinemas, Google encouraged Glass users to power down and, perhaps, pushed the UK theater owners for a bit more restraint:

“We encourage any cinemas concerned about Glass to treat the device as they treat similar devices like mobile phones: simply ask wearers to turn it off before the film starts. Broadly speaking, we also think it’s best to have direct and first-hand experience with Glass before creating policies around it. 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.”

In the U.S., where Google Glass was born and built, there is no formal ban on Glass wearing in theaters, though they’re not really welcome either. Earlier this year, an Ohio movie patron recounted being removed from a theater and questioned by Homeland Security after he wore Google Glass inside a movie theater. His pair, like those an increasing number of Glass users are wearing since Google finally introduced lens frames, were actually a prescription pair of Google Glasses.

Patrick Corcoran, VP and Chief Communications Officer for the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) recalled the episode. “We did have an incident where someone did have them on and it took a little time to sort out what was going on, whether he was recording or not.” According to the Ohio patron, the Glasses were actually off at the time.

For NATO and its partner, the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA), Google Glass falls under the umbrella of recording devices. “Any recording tech and not just Google Glass, needs to be put away and turned off in the theater,” said Corcoran. In the case of Glass wearers with the new prescription frame models, Corcoran said that for the very small group of current prescription-frame-wearing Google Glass owners out there, they “may get a pass this time, but next time, they need to bring non-Google glasses.”

With their giant, 3D, wrap-around screens, Dolby surround sound and on-screen special effects, movies and the theaters they play in are technological wonderlands. So it’s no surprise that NATO and the MPAA are not, as Corcoran put it, “against tech. We’re against people recording movies in our theaters.” There are no exact numbers for how much piracy costs the movie industry, but preventing film piracy even by one week can add as much as $10 million to a film’s box office grosses, noted Corcoran.

Thus far, there have been no reported cases of anyone actually trying to pirate a movie with their Google Glass. Perhaps that’s because of its inherent limitations: Google Glass can, for instance, only record up to roughly 40-or-so minutes of video on a single charge. On the other hand, Google continually improves the $1,500 product. It recently added a number of new features and apps, including longer battery life, more memory (in the newest model) and a live streaming app that lets you send live video direct from your Google Glass to web browsers around the globe. You can imagine how that might freak out piracy-averse theater managers.

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