Law Enforcement Officer Openly Admits He's Playing Copyrighted Music To Prevent Citizen's Recording From Being Uploaded To YouTube

from the [sad-trombone-copped-from-public-domain] dept

Law enforcement officers are no longer pretending they’re such big fans of recorded music they can’t help but start playing their favorite tracks while interacting with citizens who are recording them.

Earlier this year, police accountability activists noticed a new trend: officers were playing tracks by IP big hitters like Taylor Swift and the Beatles when being filmed, apparently in hopes of triggering copyright strikes that would prevent the videos from being uploaded, if not shut down these activists’ accounts completely.

The officers never admitted this was the reason for the spontaneous tune playing. At least not until now. Sergeant D. Shelby of the Alameda County (CA) Sheriff’s Department started playing a track by Taylor Swift while being recorded by members of the Anti Police-Terror Project. And he admitted this was exactly why he was playing this track.

Here’s a description of what can be observed in the embedded video below, courtesy of Zoe Schiffer and Adi Robertson of The Verge.

A confrontation Tuesday between a police sergeant and member of the public didn’t start out unusually. James Burch, policy director of the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), was standing outside the Alameda Courthouse in Oakland, California when an officer approached him and asked him to move a banner. As the two argued, the sergeant noticed he was being filmed. Then, he pulled out his phone and started playing “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift — in an apparent play to exploit copyright takedowns and keep the video off social media.

Here’s the recording:

As you can see, this doesn’t always work. The video — with Taylor Swift’s song audible in the background — is still live on YouTube. That this one snuck past the copyright protection algorithms isn’t necessarily a sign the system being reverse-engineered by cops scared of accountability doesn’t work. It probably does. But YouTube has gotten a little better at handling DMCA takedown requests and has made some efforts to respect fair use of copyrighted material.

But if sixty-percent of the time it works every time, it will be enough for garbage law enforcement officers like Sergeant Shelby. This is an officer who confidently told activists the sole reason he was playing music was to keep the public from witnessing his encounter with police accountability activists.

Unfortunately for Sergeant Shelby, none of this worked. Not only did the video make its way to YouTube intact, he’s now under investigation for being a fuckhead (paraphrasing here).

An Alameda County sheriff’s sergeant who played Taylor Swift on the courthouse steps in Oakland will be investigated by higher-ups because it appears as though he was trying to avoid having his interactions recorded and uploaded to social media platforms.

Sgt. Ray Kelly, a department spokesman, said the actions of the sergeant, identified on the video as Sgt. Shelby, “is not something we condone or approve. We have a code of conduct all officers must follow,” adding that the matter will be sent to Internal Affairs.

According to Ray Kelly, the sergeant was also instructed to stop doing this while being filmed. We’ll see if that works. It seems the best way to keep Sgt. Shelby from doing this again would be to can him and let him see if his zero personal accountability attitude will fly in the private sector. At the very least, the department should give him an unpaid vacation and a demotion. He knew what he was doing and he was so sure it would work that he said it out loud while on camera.

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Comments on “Law Enforcement Officer Openly Admits He's Playing Copyrighted Music To Prevent Citizen's Recording From Being Uploaded To YouTube”

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

Re: Where's ASCAP in this?

As absolutely hilarious and fitting as it would be for them to do so there is no way they’d pull that pin as you can be sure they’d be ripped into by the police union and corrupt-cop supporters for ‘attacking our brave men and women in blue with baseless legal demands!’

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

Re: Re: Where's ASCAP in this?

ASCAP doesn’t usually have a problem with this; they’re not the RIAA. ASCAP will happily sue people over use of music at a wedding, funeral, bar mitzvah, birthday, or other celebration. They’ll sue over use in a political campaign, or at a special event in a public park. They’ll sue over a small business playing the radio (wrong license).

I see no reason why ASCAP would be concerned about a police union in any state other than California.

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Rico R. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Who says ASCAP can win when there's no prior case law?

Ah, I can see the future Techdirt headline now:
Judge Gives Recording Industry an Undeserved Loss: Cop Playing Taylor Swift to DMCA Recording of Him Protected under Qualified Immunity

You know that the law is super messed up when I can fathom a world where Techdirt says the RIAA losing a potential copyright lawsuit is the wrong result…

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

'You're not supposed to tell them, what's wrong with you?!'

Sgt. Ray Kelly, a department spokesman, said the actions of the sergeant, identified on the video as Sgt. Shelby, "is not something we condone or approve. We have a code of conduct all officers must follow," adding that the matter will be sent to Internal Affairs.

… left unsaid is that the actions in question wasn’t playing music to prevent videos from being uploaded but being stupid enough to admit it to the public since now IA has to slap a wrist and look very disapproving which is just a huge pain.

Points for being honest in their corruption and contempt for the public I guess but if departments really want to stop behavior like this from happening they will have to bring the hammer down hard to make it crystal clear that it’s not acceptable and if police were willing to hold their own accountable we wouldn’t be in this mess so I foresee a lot of US police ‘staving off boredom’ with music in the future.

Darkness Of Course (profile) says:

Streisand Effect recognition

Yet another main stream press article, this one about the cop, his actions, the video, and Mike’s Effect. Which was linked to the BBC referencing Mike’s Effect. But the article didn’t reference him or Techdirt at all.

Of course, I commented, gave them both the Techdirt links as well as Wikipedia. I pointed out that as least Wikipedia had proper links to Mike, Techdirt, and the actual definition of The Streisand Effect.

I might give up and have a file to save time dope slapping them in the future.

dickeyrat says:

"…let him see if his zero personal accountability attitude will fly in the private sector." The pathetic answer is: of course it will! Any number of Trump-worshiping media outlets, or activists of any stripe will stand in line to bring this "patriot" on board, with a huge salary, no doubt. This is just the kind of "garbage law enforcement offficer" (sic–good phrasing!) that good Amerikan Fascists and their fetishists are eager to place into positions of authoritative "responsibility", preferably within neighborhoods with lots of dark-skinned inhabitants. Certainly Mr. Cushing meant well with this article, and indeed has the best public interests in mind–but the sad truth reflects the way things really are in Amerika these late days. So, Sieg Heil Maga!

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