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Federal Agents Allegedly Detain A Man For Wearing Google Glass In A Movie Theater

"They wanted to know what does Google ask of me in exchange for Glass, how much is Google paying me, who is my boss and why am I recording the movie." Update: AMC Theaters and the MPAA confirm the incident.

Posted on January 21, 2014, at 10:36 a.m. ET

This weekend, at a mall in Columbus, Ohio, a Google Glass user was allegedly detained by federal agents on suspicions of movie piracy after wearing Google Glass into an AMC movie theater. While there is no public record of the encounter, the detained user spoke anonymously to the The Gadgeteer about the incident. Below are a few excerpts from the email:

Because I don't want Glass to distract me during the movie, I turn them off (but since my prescription lenses are on the frame, I still wear them). About an hour into the movie (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says "follow me outside immediately". It was quite embarrassing and outside of the theater there were about 5-10 cops and mall cops. Since I didn't catch his name in the dark of the theater, I asked to see his badge again and I asked what was the problem and I asked for my Glass back. The response was "you see all these cops you know we are legit, we are with the 'federal service' and you have been caught illegally taping the movie".

According to the moviegoer, he was searched, had his electronics confiscated, and led to a mall administrators office, where he was asked to cooperate with a "voluntary interview":

I kept telling them that I wasn't recording anything – my Glass was off, they insisted they saw it on. I told them there would be a light coming out the little screen if Glass was on, and I could show them that, but they insisted that I cannot touch my Glass for the fear "I will erase the evidence against me that was on Glass". I didn't have the intuition to tell them that Glass gets really warm if it records for more than a few minutes and my glasses were not warm. They wanted to know where I got Glass and how did I came by having it. I told them I applied about 1000 times to get in the explorer program, and eventually I was selected, and I got the Glass from Google. I offered to show them receipt and Google Glass website if they would allow me to access any computer with internet. Of course, that was not an option. Then they wanted to know what does Google ask of me in exchange for Glass, how much is Google paying me, who is my boss and why am I recording the movie.

The Glass user was eventually released and given four free movie tickets. The full email interview is available can be read here, and a follow-up with the Glass explorer in question is also available on Phandroid. Google has not yet responded to BuzzFeed's request for comment.

Glass is not yet available to the public, but the device has already been banned by some casinos, strip clubs, as well as on the road in some states. While AMC has no official Glass ban in place, the company's code of conduct forbids "possession of a recording device, audio or video," even though the majority of phones are capable of recording high-quality audio and video.

On Google +, the Google faithful and other Glass users expressed outrage at the alleged incident, highlighting the information gap between early adopters of Glass and law enforcement. "Ask any user of glass, and they will say that the battery won't last recording for 2 hours," one commenter wrote.

Though Glass is not available to the masses, legal incidents like this alleged detainment are becoming increasingly common as the law adjusts to this new style of device. Last week, a San Diego court ruled in favor of a commuter cited for wearing Glass while driving.

Update: AMC Theaters confirmed the incident took place to Business Insider, noting that Homeland Security (the department that oversees movie pirating) conducted the questioning:

Movie theft is something we take very seriously, and our theater managers contact the Motion Picture Association of America anytime it's suspected that someone may be illegally recording content on screen. While we're huge fans of technology and innovation, wearing a device that has the capability to record video is not appropriate at the movie theatre. At AMC Easton 30 last weekend, a guest was questioned for possible movie theft after he was identified wearing a recording device during a film. 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.

Update 2: A spokesperson for the Motion Picture Association of America also confirmed the incident to BuzzFeed this afternoon, noting that it does not consider Google Glass a "significant threat" to movie piracy:

Google Glass is an incredible innovation in the mobile sphere, and we have seen no proof that it is currently a significant threat that could result in content theft. The MPAA works closely with theaters all over the country to curb camcording and theater-originated piracy, and in this particular case, no such activity was discovered.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.