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Google Glass faces UK cinema ban: Heaven forbid someone films you crying in a rom-com

Theater body tackles piracy, privacy fears

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Moviegoers in the UK will be asked to remove their Google Glasses and similar camera-fitted wearable computers over privacy and piracy fears.

The Cinema Exhibitors Association (CEA) – which represents virtually all theaters in Blighty – fears bootleggers will don the devices to record and illegally distribute films. As such, customers will be warned the following:

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.

Punters are already told to put away their smartphones in auditoriums, and camcorders are, obviously, a definite no-no. Cinema chains in Blighty – such as Scott Cinemas – have now updated their terms and conditions urging film fans to not use wearable tech in auditoriums.

"The UK cinema industry position on wearable technology capable of recording images is that customers are requested not to wear these into cinema auditorium, regardless of whether the film is playing or not," Phil Clapp, the CEA's chief exec, told The Register today.

"This position is driven by concerns around customer privacy as well as film theft.

"While our position on mobile phones is that we ask people to put these away when the film is playing, with wearable technology – whether Google Glass or otherwise – we believe that it is generally more difficult to detect when they are and are not recording, so our approach is a precautionary one."

The move comes on the heels of the UK launch of Google Glass. The £1,000 headset jumped the Pond last week with the expansion of the Explorer beta program. The Independent on Sunday notes that Glass can only record 45 minutes continuously before the batteries die, but that won't stop someone stitching together footage to sell on – provided the 720p Glass cam works in the darkness.

While Google still considers Glass to be a beta product, the headset has generated controversy in its early trials. Glassholes in the US have been booted from pubs, cited by police and barred from some establishments over concerns that the headset can record others without their knowledge or permission. The issue has grabbed so many headlines that Google published an etiquette guide to help users avoid "creepy" behavior.

"In places where cell phone cameras aren't allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass," the ad giant explained in February. "If you're asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers."

The CEA is not alone in barring the headset.

"It is worth noting that while wearable technology is a comparatively new phenomenon in the UK, in the US – where its use is already more widespread – a range of venues including casinos, bars and restaurants have looked to limit or ban its use," Clapp told us.

Indeed, earlier this month in the US, the Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain banned the devices – citing similar concerns over piracy – and the Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA) has gone so far as to call Homeland Security on a man caught wearing the specs during a movie. ®

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