Network Admin Detained in Theater for Wearing Google Glass During Film

Agents from a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement division detained the moviegoer due to concerns that the man was filming a bootleg copy of the movie using Glass, according to reports.

A network administrator from Columbus, Ohio, was removed from a movie theater last weekend and questioned by federal authorities over concerns that he was using the Google Glass on his head to film a bootleg copy of the movie being shown in the theater.

The incident was reported by The Columbus Dispatch in a Jan. 22 story, which described how the 35-year-old man, whose identity was withheld, went to the AMC Theater at the Easton Town Center mall to watch a showing of the film Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with his wife. The man wore his Google Glass device, which has custom-made prescription lenses, but the Glass functions were not activated, the story reported.

After viewing the first hour of the movie, an agent from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations unit came to his seat in the darkened theater and asked him to come along with him, the story reported. The man was then "questioned for two hours on the suspicion that he was recording the movie on Google Glass," according to the report.

Eventually the man was freed when he was able to prove that he had not used Glass to capture the film illegally. While he was detained, he was subjected to detailed questioning about his activities in the theater and about his use of Google Glass, the story reported.

The man, whose identity is being withheld by eWEEK, did not immediately return a phone message and an email seeking comment about the incident.

Meanwhile, Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for ICE, confirmed the detention and questioning of the Google Glass patron in the movie theater.

"On Jan. 18, special agents with ICE's Homeland Security Investigations and local authorities briefly interviewed a man suspected of using an electronic recording device to record a film at an AMC theater in Columbus," Walls said in a statement. "The man, who voluntarily answered questions, confirmed to authorities that the suspected recording device was also a pair of prescription eye glasses in which the recording function had been inactive. No further action was taken."

The agents were at the theater, according to Walls, because "Homeland Security Investigations is responsible for combating criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling, and distributing counterfeit products. ICE routinely responds to requests for assistance or further investigation."

These kinds of investigations in movie theaters occur due to an increasing problem with patrons who come into theaters with the idea of illegally filming the movie on the screen. Such incidents of "counterfeiting, piracy, and other [Intellectual Property Rights] violations have grown in magnitude and complexity, costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue," he wrote. "Industry and trade associations estimate that counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy between $200 [billion] and $250 billion per year, [as well as] a total of 750,000 American jobs."

Ryan Noonan, a spokesman for AMC theaters, confirmed to eWEEK that representatives of the Motion Picture Association of America were at the Easton theater when the Glass wearer was spotted and that the MPAA officials had "asked [the ICE agents] to investigate whether the man was illegally recording the film," according the Dispatch story. There apparently had been recent problems in the theater with some patrons who were using other kinds of devices to capture movies illegally to create pirated versions, the paper reported.

A purported account of the incident was also posted on the blog The Gadgeteer, but it was provided to the site by a friend of the detained man, not directly by the man himself, according to a story on the site.

The man was finally able to prove that he had not filmed the movie using Glass after DHS agents plugged his Glass device into a computer and found no evidence of such a recording, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

The incident and its aftermath caused a stir of comments on social media forums such as Google+.

One commenter, Derek Ross, wrote in a Jan. 20 post that he was angered by the DHS agent's detainment of the Glass user. "Glass isn't always recording though you're wearing it," wrote Ross. "Glass would be a horrible method for bootlegging a movie. The microphone can barely record someone 10 feet in front of you, it's not meant to record movie audio. The battery would die after 45 minutes. Glass is not a movie recording device plain and simple."

In addition, he wrote, the man in the theater insisted that his Glass device was powered off. "I've worn Glass to the movie theater a half a dozen times over the past 7 months without issue," wrote Ross. "This is just absurd."