Latest Anti-Accountability Move By Cops Involves Playing Music While Being Recorded In Hopes Of Triggering Copyright Takedowns

from the twist-I-did-not-see-coming dept

Cops tend to dislike being recorded. They don’t care much for their own recording devices. They routinely disable equipment or conveniently “forget” to activate body cameras.

And they dislike the recording devices everyone carries with them at all times: cellphones. Cellphone ubiquity means it’s almost impossible for cops to prevent an incident or interaction from being recorded. Add these devices to the steadily-increasing deployment of internet-connected security cameras and there’s really nowhere to hide anymore.

Simply shutting down recordings or arresting citizens for pointing cameras at them is a very risky option. There’s tons of case law on the books that says recording public officials is protected First Amendment activity. So, cops are getting creative. Some of the less creative efforts include shining bright flashlights at people holding cameras in hopes of ruining any footage collected. Sometimes officers just stand directly in front of people who are recording to block their view of searches or arrests taking place. Often the excuse is “crowd control,” when it’s actually just an attempt at narrative control.

Now, here’s the latest twist: cops have figured out a way to prevent recordings from being streamed or uploaded to social media services or video platforms like YouTube. Believe it or not, it involves a particularly pernicious abuse of intellectual property protections.

Sennett Devermont was at the [Beverly Hills police] department to file a form to obtain body camera footage from an incident in which he received a ticket he felt was unfair. Devermont also happens to be a well-known LA area activist, who regularly live-streams protests and interactions with the police to his more than 300,000 followers on Instagram.

So, he streamed this visit as well—and that’s when things got weird.

In a video posted on his Instagram account, we see a mostly cordial conversation between Devermont and BHPD Sgt. Billy Fair turn a corner when Fair becomes upset that Devermont is live-streaming the interaction, including showing work contact information for another officer. Fair asks how many people are watching, to which Devermont replies, “Enough.”

Fair then stops answering questions, pulls out his phone, and starts silently swiping around—and that’s when the ska music starts playing.

Fair boosts the volume, and continues staring at his phone. For nearly a full minute, Fair is silent, and only starts speaking after we’re a good way through Sublime’s “Santeria.”

That’s the angle: copyright infringement. By loading up someone else’s recording with copyrighted music, officers like this one can nuke a livestream as it’s happening or, at the very least, get the user loaded up on copyright strikes once the AI has scanned the recording. (If they really wanted to be evil, the officer could also file a bogus DMCA notice targeting the recording.)

Sure, it’s not guaranteed to destroy a recording, but it’s a great way to ruin one even if the copyright bots don’t decide it’s infringement. As Dexter Thomas points out at Vice, Instagram’s rules allow for incidental music that happens to be in a video, rather than the primary purpose of the video. But that allowance isn’t available on all platforms, so cops like this jerk are more than happy to roll the IP dice and hope for the best. And there’s no guarantee the AI running copyright patrol on Instagram won’t decide a cop’s personal jukebox outweighs the non-infringement surrounding it.

This isn’t the only time this has happened to Devermont. Another officer pulled out the IP big guns during an interaction with him.

By the time Devermont is close enough to speak to him, the officer’s phone is already blasting “In My Life” by the Beatles — a group whose rightsholders have notoriously sued Apple numerous times.

Now that this is in the news, we can expect it to pop up elsewhere. There are a lot of officers out there not nearly as creative as these two Beverly Hills cops, but who will be willing to follow the bad example they’re setting. If nothing else, it will ruin recordings by filling them with the tinny tone of cellphone-blasted tunes. At worst, it will lead to a cascade of copyright strikes that will see these cop accountability activists banished from popular platforms.

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Comments on “Latest Anti-Accountability Move By Cops Involves Playing Music While Being Recorded In Hopes Of Triggering Copyright Takedowns”

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41 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Speaking of flags...

Any goon with a badge who pulls a stunt like this is saying louder than words(or music cranked up to 11 as it were) that they are doing something that they don’t want recorded, and if their employers, unions and the politicians that cover for them had any integrity or courage then that would be enough on it’s own to justify them being fired on the spot.

If a cop is trying to prevent the public from recording their words and actions that makes it crystal clear that even they know they’re doing/saying something they shouldn’t be, and given the power and authority they are granted as part of their job that is completely unacceptable and should be grounds for immediate termination.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "Doing something that they don't want recorded"

It would be grand if commands to turn off bodycams, and mass failures were also interpreted the same way, that the police are, from that moment forward, acting in bad faith, and that a recording of those events would be incriminating for the officers on the scene.

If our counties took police violence and police misconduct seriously, our courts wouldn’t be giving them the benefit of the doubt when they are not being observed, especially considering how often official police recording devices fail.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"Or perpetual motion, free energy like when attaching buttered toast to a cat’s back and dropping it over new carpet."

That doesn’t create perpetual motion, it just hazards the integrity of causal reality every time you try it. Don’t blame me when enough experimentation on this has irate Old Ones crawling through the resulting rifts in contemporary reality, eager to find the bastard who keeps ringing their door bell.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Performance and licensing fees

Also interesting to watch is how the artists feel about their work being used to dissuade accountability (and further authoritarianism and brutality).

I remember objections not only to use by cruel politicians but also in sonic attacks during sieges, military shock-and-awe raids. Oh and torture.

Typically they are not amused and have lawyers.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Move, counter-move.

I predict we will see software "music removing" services becoming more mainstream. We already have the technology to (separately) identify music from a sample, and to remove a reference sample from an audio track. I found at least two separate companies that offer audio separation apps or services on the first page of a search. Expect these to become more popular, to be chained with streaming apps, etc, in the near future.

Audacity (free, cross platform, open source), for instance, lets you do "noise removal" that you can use to excise music from a track, but the process is involved. It will become easier, with more people wanting to do just that thing.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

CFAA violation?

these guys can probably be also sued for CFAA violation because they intentionally try to cause the stream or the entire user account of the streamer to be taken down for a copyright violation.

yes, purposefully blasting copyrighted music because it will lead to a copyright takedown pretty much qualifies as a "transmission of command" under CFAA.

Criminal offenses under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

(a) Whoever—
[…]
(5)
(A) knowingly causes the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally causes damage without authorization, to a protected computer;
[…]
(7) with intent to extort from any person any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any—
(A) threat to cause damage to a protected computer;
(B) threat to obtain information from a protected computer without authorization or in excess of authorization or to impair the confidentiality of information obtained from a protected computer without authorization or by exceeding authorized access; or
(C) demand or request for money or other thing of value in relation to damage to a protected computer, where such damage was caused to facilitate the extortion

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: CFAA violation?

There are some things things where the cfaa does not apply.

For example when I was exploited one flaw in the filtering the previous owners of the taco bell had, I did not break the cfaa

What I did to circumvent blocking of vpns was to first sign on to the ssl proxy on my home computer and then sign on to the main VPN on my home network by using the internal address on.my network and instead of the external IP without my VPN being blocked

When I did that I was not breaking the cfaa as circumventing filters does not break the either the cfaa or Californias computer crime paw.

Someone on here once thiought I was breaking the cfaa when I used to do that, but I was not.

Using that flaw I found to circumvent their blocking of vpns did not break either California law or federal law including the cfaa

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: CFAA violation?

but CFAA is not only about passwords – it is also about access to protected resources.

(6) knowingly and with intent to defraud traffics (as defined in section 1029) in any password or similar information through which a computer may be accessed without authorization, if—
(A) such trafficking affects interstate or foreign commerce […]

where "traffics" is defined in 1029 as:
the term “traffic” means transfer, or otherwise dispose of, to another, or obtain control of with intent to transfer or dispose of;

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

it’s clearly fair use.. It’s transformative as they are using it to avoid accountability and not as music 🙂

realistically copyright is selectively enforced it wouldn’t be in the interest of the "rightsholders" to pick a fight with the cops, not would it be in their benefit to need to explain and draw attention to where the lines are about what can be considered infringement in that sort of situation.

FurryOne (profile) says:

God, what a bunch of dopes. Here is an A$$hole who’s sole purpose in life is to harass the Police with stupid videos so they can make money on Youtube and a bunch of dopes here are pissed off because some of the Police found a simple way to thwart the A$$holes. And the really dumb bunch mentioning public performance, etc?… You’re even dumber than those A$$holes. Sure, there’s lots wrong with how the Police perform their duties but provoking a response with a video isn’t the way to correct it – VOTING IS.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re:

When we stop having the cops harass ordinary citizens, which is a demonstrated behavior, we might not have to record every little interaction, just in case we need documented proof of police abuse.

For years, police has abused people, and their word was law – quite literally – because of the lack of evidence to their lies in court and in the media. Nowadays, the balance is shifting – a little – in favor of the citizens thanks to cameras everywhere. The cops still have plenty of advantages, but their word is not quite as sacred anymore. It’s a progress, but we can’t stop recording them yet but because we know they still lie. A lot.

You celebrating that they find "clever" workarounds to accountability is a cheap shot. The cops here are clearly abusing a law that is not intended for this purpose. They should be disciplined, if only because they stop working in the middle of an interaction to dumbly listen to music, and ideally for actively trying to prevent a citizen from lawfully recording his interactions with a police officer.

Note that there will be abuse only the day cops are being recorded while off-duty. Otherwise, they are public agents in a public space, and there have been several court cases proving that they don’t have a claim against this behavior from concerned citizens.

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