Cops Are Still Playing Copyrighted Music To Thwart Citizens Recording Their Actions

from the pretty-sure-the-cops-don't-have-a-public-performance-license dept

Cops may have only the vaguest grasp on the laws they use to initiate stops, but they sure as hell understand copyright law. With algorithms doing the heavy lifting to prevent copyright infringement, cops have deployed a new tactic in hopes of preventing accountability activists from livestreaming or uploading their interactions with officers.

When the citizen-deployed cameras start recording, cops play recordings of their own, hoping to trigger auto-blocking of uploads and livestreams by processes designed to recognize and prevent uploads of infringing content. At the very least, officers are apparently hoping to rack up copyright strikes on activists’ accounts, pushing them closer to permabans or deletion.

This tactic hasn’t really been all that effective. If the goal is to make law enforcement officers look like thugs who believe they’re above accountability, then consider it a success. But if the goal is to prevent these recordings from going live, it has failed to accomplish that.

Unfortunately, this string of highly-publicized failures isn’t preventing cops from utilizing this bullshit anti-accountability tactic. A documented failure of success must just mean officers are due for a win. And, in this case reported by Julian Mark for the Washington Post, officers are no longer limiting their abuse of copyright law to one-to-one interactions.

It was around 11 p.m. on April 4 on a residential street in Santa Ana, Calif. — and the Disney songs blared from a police cruiser, according to a YouTube video and news reports. Police had been investigating a stolen vehicle, an officer explains in the video. But after “Un Poco Loco” from Disney’s 2017 movie “Coco” started blasting through the neighborhood, residents began asking questions.

“What’s the music for?” a woman can be heard asking in the video, explaining that she needed to sleep.

Seconds after the music appears to abruptly turn off, a Santa Ana city councilman, Johnathan Hernandez, also asked: “What’s going on with the music here?”

The officer replied it had to do with “copyright infringement” as he pointed toward the man filming the video. Hernandez took that to mean the officer was trying to keep the video off social media.

Fortunately, the intervention of this councilman ended the officer’s public performance of Disney music — something the Santa Ana PD almost certainly does not have a license for. The music was shut off. The councilman pointed out he was “embarrassed” the officer was treating his neighbors this way. The officer then apologized.

Here’s the tail end of that interaction, as captured by the man whose recording the officer was trying to shut down:

And now that officer is under investigation. Santa Ana PD Chief David Valentin says the incident is being looked into and the actions caught on YouTube tape appear to violate his expectations that officers “perform their duties with dignity and respect in the community.”

Nobody’s going to get fired for this. But it’s another failed censorship-via-copyright attempt. And you’d think that would force more officers to reconsider deploying this tactic when being filmed. But if officers aren’t expected to know the laws they’re enforcing, it’s unlikely they’re capable of learning a lesson from yet another blatant attempt to shut down citizen recordings. If cops aren’t worried about the public’s retaliation, maybe it’s time for Disney’s dozens of high-priced lawyers to start asking questions about this apparent misuse of intellectual property.

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Companies: disney, youtube

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Comments on “Cops Are Still Playing Copyrighted Music To Thwart Citizens Recording Their Actions”

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

A neon sign would be more subtle

Few things scream ‘I an doing/about to do something even I know I shouldn’t do and don’t want there to be evidence of my actions’ quite like a cop playing music to try to prevent people from recording them and as such any officer who pulls this stunt should not pass GO, should not collect a pension, they should go straight to ‘You Are Fired’.

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BernardoVerda (profile) says:


It would be give me such a nice, warm schadenfreude glow, if police “officers” were slapped with copyright infringement fines for this sort of behaviour…

… but of course, then these petty authoritarian oriented types would probably just turn around and add a line for “public performance license fees” to the annual operating budget.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:


Yeah, basically if you take steps to prevent future examination of what you’re about to do, that a tacit admission that you know you shouldn’t be doing it.

It’s also extraordinarily dumb, since audio can be muted before it’s uploaded and it will still go viral if what you’re doing looks bad enough to gain traction anyway. So, you really achieve nothing except add an extra step that announces that you intend to cover up the evidence of what you’re doing.

Naughty Autie says:

Re: Re:

This town’s gone wild since I married Adam
They think I’m going straight to Hell
But the charges laid on me of bestiality
Could wind up getting me thrown in a cell

Oh, I’m overrun by madmen
I hear they plan to burn me at the stake
They legit believe I’m Satan
And now I hear that PETA’s gonna take my beast away

After Ever After by Paint

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Anonymous Hero says:

Re: Re:

In theory, all you need to do is add an audio track of the song with the audio inverted.

I have no idea how well this would work in practice, since you have to take sound quality into account, but at the same time, you don’t need to completely cut out the song, you just need to mangle it beyond recognition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So, back to the beginning, why is there a way to do this in a cop car?

i realize the answer is “Oh we just get standard cars now, but with cop engines, cop shocks, cop transmissions, and a boatload of tech equipment, because it’s cheaper. We can’t even afford real paint jobs!”

Yet, this shouldn’t be available. It isn’t necessary for police work, and in fact is a vulnerability. If it were a USB port in a normal business, it would be injected with superglue if unnecessary.

Anonymous Coward says:

These officers are not using copyright law to shut down citizen recordings. If they were, they would understand that the citizens are not committing copyright infringement as they are well within Fair Use territory. It’s the officers with their unlicensed public performances who are committing copyright infringement.
What these police officers are using to shut down citizen recordings is the chilling effect of copyright law. That is a very important distinction because it highlights how antithetical copyright law has become to First Amendment rights.

Naughty Autie says:

Re: Re:

I think what AC is saying is that the cops aren’t using copyright legislation itself to duck accountability for their actions, they’re using the tools set up in the light of the Grokster decision et al. to escape accountability. Basically, the cops aren’t using the basic law, they’re using its chilling effects just as AC said.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Fail being the operative word here, and wow is it doing a lot of heavy lifting.

It makes a difference because it changes how to fight the chilling effects. If it’s the law itself that’s causing them, then the law needs to be amended. If it’s case law, which this is, then the bad precedent needs to be overruled. Nuance matters.

Now, sit down and be quiet while the adults are talking.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

It makes a difference because it changes how to fight the chilling effects. If it’s the law itself that’s causing them, then the law needs to be amended. If it’s case law, which this is, then the bad precedent needs to be overruled.

When both the law and subsequent jurisprudence surrounding it both creat the chilling effects, any difference between the two is irrelevant.

Nah says:

I salute these officers for being hilarious.

Annoying you anti-Americans is a fun and rewarding hobby for actual Americans of all stripes.

Every time an American pulls a prank on you degenerates, like the impromptour through the Capitol last year or knocking an autogynephile’s teeth out when they try to groom our children, it’s funny.

The rewarding part is watching you Leftists kvetch endlessly about it. Oy vey!

Naughty Autie says:


“…knocking an autogynephile’s teeth out when they try to groom our children…”

What’s truly funny is the shit you come out with. An autogynephile, by definition, is a physically mature woman sexually attracted to herself, not children. Perhaps you shouldn’t have tried disrupting on a blog frequented by a linguistic (not polyglot) savant. Oy vey!

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Nah says:

Re: Re:

This won’t work out the way you thought it would. When you said ‘linguistic savant’, did you mean ‘idiot savant but without the pesky savant part’?

Autogynephilia is a paraphilia (aka perversion) that causes a man to become sexually aroused when he imagines being a woman. Many but not all transsexuals fall into this category. The other category are true transsexuals, men with a mental delusion that they were born into the wrong sex.

Since you used the Orwellian leftist tactic of saying ‘woman’ when you actually mean ‘person born with testicles, aka male’, can we assume this autogynephile concern is more than academic to you? Are you an Ed Gein?

And to clarify, I didn’t say autogynephiles should have their teeth punched out. I said autogynephiles who try to groom children should get violence.

If you feel child molesters shouldn’t get the chipper, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

I never thought I’d say “feels good to be much, much smarter than a (self-identified) linguistic savant”, but here we are.

Since readers may be curious to know the facts of transsexualism, I recommend 2003’s ‘The Man Who Would Be Queen’ by J. Michael Bailey.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


A prank is something you see on an episode of Jackass. What this cop did was intentionally try (and ultimately fail) to escape accountability by way of using copyright to prevent a video of his behavior from being uploaded on the Internet.

Also, it’s hilarious to watch you fall on your face by misusing a word you just saw on a right-wing blog (autogynephile) in a way that makes you look stupid. That’s peak comedy; keep it up and you’ll have a job with Fox News, which forces its reporters to ask questions that make them sound like ignorant assholes.

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Nah says:

Re: Re:

Oops, you’ve fallen into the trap of thinking your enemy is less well read than you.

Ha ha, blog indeed. No, autogynephilia is something of which I’ve been aware since reading J. Michael Bailey’s excellent book when it first came out in 2003 (‘The Man Who Would Be Queen’).

It’s a great book, and memorable enough that certain enlightening concepts are still fresh in my mind without having re-read it for over 20 years. I recommend it to everyone who has questions or is confused about what this trans phenomenon is exactly.

Stone, you can accurately call me a lot of things, and you don’t have to think I’m right , but don’t pretend you’re smarter than me. You will save yourself a lot of grief if you just accept that, while we may differ politically, I’m a lot smarter than you and have read more books than you.

I dislike having to be so rude, but you did bring it on yourself by making a really dumb assumption.

PS – Fox News indeed. Here’s another belief steeped in ignorance. Nobody worthwhile on the right cares what those neocon propagandists say. (Well, except Tucker Carlson. If I had a television, I might watch him.)

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Charles says:

If the police have nothing to hide, they shouldn’t have to worry about citizens recording the performance of their duties. It’s “public oversight” and protected by the 1st Amendment. If they do their jobs correctly in the first place, they don’t have to worry about using such unscrupulous practices.

Several months ago, I was introduced to a similar incident (from a video from Dr. Rashad Richey’s YouTube channel) where some fat 50 year-old-something cop played a Taylor Swift song to keep a video from being played on YouTube (dude got so roasted by his fellow officers).

Besides the unethical action of the police trying to keep videos (of their actions/misconduct) from being shared on social media, I’m pretty sure that them playing copyrighted music to prevent the public from witnessing their possible misconduct is a “Tampering of Government Record”.

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