Companies Issuing Bogus Copyright Claims To Hide Police Training Materials From The Public

from the only-the-motives-are-transparent dept

California law says all police training materials must be published "conspicuously" on its Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) website. This is part of the reforms to public records law that finally allowed the public to have access to law enforcement records related to misconduct and use-of-force. This is the law a bunch of cops sued over, as well as a bunch of journalists and activists. The former group is still trying to argue they shouldn't have to fully comply with the law. The latter is arguing cops aren't fully complying with this law.

But there's a federal law getting in the way of public access, as Dave Maass and Naomi Gilens report for the EFF. Unsurprisingly, it's a law we've seen abused time and time again to restrict access to all sorts of things.

[I]f you visit POST’s Open Data hub and try to download the officer training materials relating to face recognition technology or automated license plate readers (ALPRs), or the California Peace Officers Association’s course on use of force, you will receive only a Word document with a single sentence:

The course presenter has claimed copyright for the expanded course outline.

Here's a link to the state's single automated license plate reader document.

And here's what it looks like when you open the document:

The EFF has called bullshit, pointing out copyright law doesn't forbid the public from obtaining copies of documents created by private companies for government agencies. In fact, the EFF has already done this and the "course preventer" never went after it or the state of California for copyright infringement.

This is unlawful, and unacceptable, EFF told POST in a letter submitted today. Under the new California law, SB 978, POST must post law enforcement training materials online if the materials would be available to the public under the California Public Records Act. Copyrighted material is available to the public under the California Public Records Act—in fact, EFF obtained a full, unredacted copy of POST’s ALPR training through a records request just last year.

The abuse of copyright law by the companies providing training is stupid. The state's refusal to publish anything more than course OUTLINES is both inexplicable and infuriating. The law says everything is supposed to be published, not just limited overviews of course materials.

Commencing January 1, 2020, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training and each local law enforcement agency shall conspicuously post on their Internet Web sites all current standards, policies, practices, operating procedures, and education and training materials that would otherwise be available to the public if a request was made pursuant to the California Public Records Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title 1 of the Government Code).

As the EFF has demonstrated, it can obtain the full course on ALPRs with a public records request. Obviously, this means POST is obligated to make the same course available in full via its web portal. But it hasn't. It has only provided an outline of the training. And the company behind the training, Vigilant Systems, has made the bogus claim that the copyright on its training course supersedes POST's obligations under California law.

The new law was supposed to increase transparency. POST has apparently decided private companies can decide how much transparency is appropriate. And whatever private companies won't remove from public view with bogus copyright claims will be hidden from public view by POST itself, since it's seemingly unwilling to follow the letter of the law, much less the spirit.

Filed Under: california, censorship, copyright, dmca, police, training materials, transparency
Companies: eff, vigilant systems


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 1:46am

    If it's stupid but it works it's not stupid

    The abuse of copyright law by the companies providing training is stupid.

    Well, no.

    'In direct conflict with both the letter and spirit of the law'? Yes.

    'A blatant attempt to keep the public from knowing what the police are being trained in'? Absolutely.

    Stupid though? The content has been removed and if people want it back up they will have to sue, something that will take significant time and money, and you can bet unless the content in question has been specifically listed as a work-for-hire that the claim that the company who wrote up the material ultimately owns it and can act as they see fit to revoke access to prevent infringement will be brought up, adding another hurdle to overcome in that lawsuit even if it ultimately fails.

    As many articles on TD over the years have made clear if you want to remove or make it harder to access content, whether for legitimate reasons or not, copyright is both a quick and easy way to accomplish that, so while this may be a pretty blatant example of people deciding that 'following the law' is for other people 'stupid' it is not, as they saw a tool with a long record of high effectiveness for what they wanted and made use of it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 3:42am

    Bogus? Morally, sure. But otherwise, this is an example of the law working to protect the powerful at all costs — i.e., the law working exactly as intended.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 4:13am

    Seems like the obvious solution would be to update the requirements that the training material must be made available to the public before government funding may be sent on it and for it to count towards continuing training / professional development. If the training is secret the officers can pay for it out of their own pocket.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 5:09pm

      Re:

      Part of the problem is that police departments operate as their own fiefdom, hardly responsible to mayors and councils, and certainly not responsible to the public. As far as i can tell, the only recourse (and usually a scapegoat play anyway) is for a mayor to fire the chief of police and appoint another. Fat lot of good that ever did.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Carlie Coats, 1 Jul 2020 @ 4:19am

    copyright abuse

    Abuse of copyright should be punishable just as severely as copyright infringement.

    And in this case, since it is abuse for commercial gain, it should be punished just like felony infringement.

    FWIW

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeroen Hellingman (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 4:30am

    The EFF can simply post it themselves, and wait for the copyright claiming party to sue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 5:55am

      Re:

      'Since you couldn't be bothered to follow the law by posting this information as demanded by the law we figured we'd do it for you, and while you could sue us for that I guarantee you it will not go well for you as we will be sure to point out why we posted it and let every press outlet we can get ahold of know about the case.'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:47am

      Re:

      They alread did, as reported in the article above.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 4:49am

    Almost makes you wonder what the training involves that they feel they have to hide it...
    /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 4:56am

    If people know how they're training cops to torture and kill with immunity, they'll pressure police departments to stop using them. Look at what happened once people started to become aware that Killology courses were a thing, that Dave Grossman was going out there and teaching cops deadly force is always necessary, he's started losing clients, not as many as he should, but there was an impact. The others teaching murderous pseudoscience to cops will move heaven and earth to minimise what people know, and the cops will help.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 5:29am

      Re:

      Hey Bloof, you know what I love about America? Places like parler. I just made a small mention of Techdirt, and I'll bet 30+ of like minded Americans came here to post. I dunno, I think around 600 posts, with half of them censored, so you guys really look like idiots. My friends helped me do that, friends I never met. Is that cool or what, Bloof?

      And by the way, you're full of shit about cops. All my friends know that. I was a cop for a lot of years, in NYC, Precinct 75, under Giuliani. You are an idiot. Every American knows it, including all 200k of my followers on parler.

      MAGA

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bloof (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 5:40am

        Good luck with that.

        If they use Parler they've intentionally made the choice to avoid being anywhere they're likely to be challenged for their nonsense, preferring a safe conservative bubble where they can rant about Obama and breathe their own farts.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 6:08am

        Re: Re:

        MAGA? I would have thought by now that most people would settle for MALOALS - Make America Less Of A Laughing Stock.

        USA-GO-LID
        USA: Great Once, Lost Its Direction.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 6:14am

          This is pathetic, even by shitposting standards.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 6:46am

            Re:

            Hoping that's a response to "AC, 1 Jul 2020 @ 5:29am" and not me! If it was to me, I'm not clear what I did.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 10:14am

            Re:

            I’m both Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 6:08am & Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 6:46am. This may come up with another pixel map because of the way my company’s gateway works. No sock-puppets intended. Anyway …

            Stephen (and others),
            Sorry if you think this was some sort of shit-stirring, it really was just an observation. I’ve been voted “funny” a couple of times, so maybe this time I misjudged the mood or was just too terse.

            To be clear – I am no fan of either Trump or the US police tactics often discussed here. The usual suspect would probably tag me as a hard leftie, but from a European viewpoint, I'm merely slight left of centre.

            I think I remember (rose tinted hindsight?) when the USA was held in much higher regard internationally, and the point I was trying (obviously unsuccessfully) to make was that I’d like to think that’s something it could/should come back to. I think at the back of my mind was "Why is a large chunk of the world now viewing the USA (not necessarily its people btw) less favourable on a number of fronts, and what can be done about it?" MAGA is a risible soundbite/chant - perhaps the world needs the USA to have a catchy slogan that's not borne out of a sense of entitlement.

            Yours,
            Not that AC

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 6:17am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hey I like you, you are my new leftist friend. Unlike your compatriots, you are not using a phony name or projecting a phony agenda. You are clear and direct. I like you, really. Let's be friends. Do you like to shoot stop signs? Well, maybe not, being a leftie and all. Do you drink beer? Can I buy you a beer, I dunno, maybe a German Beer? Do you like foreigner beer? I can drink it, not that big a deal. Don't really like it, but I like friends! Proast! (Is that German?)

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Toom1275 (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:50am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            See how Spamiltard is the only one here who resorts to sockpuppet posts like that one above, as no real people have ever agreed with him.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:53am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Come on, you're lying, and everyone knows it! You saw the parler thread, 511 comments as of 10 seconds ago, and the MAJORITY agree with me.

              Parler is empowering.

              Face it, loser. Twitter is over. Facebook is next. Conservatives RULE!

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 5:16pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Almost all US beer is German beer, you fuckwit. Unless you like a Pilsner, which is a Czech thing.

            Of course, the US has a way of making everything shittier and less tasty, so maybe that would be the non-foreign aspect you seek.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 6:30am

        Re: Re:

        A warped ex/wannabe cop. That explains so much of your mental problems. You should really stop posting here since your post history will inevitably be used against you in the next incident where your anger gets the best of you and you attack another person.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Right. Gotcha. Good advice. Who are you again? Did you register here? We all register on Parler, and we track each other with geological location every minute of every hour of every day. We watch each other. We trust each other. We hookup with each other (A LOT). That's what you anonymous lefties are missing out on. We get a LOT of sex on parler, and you guys get NOTHING because your are PHONEY PONIES that could hold up a pigeon feather with your hardons and you don't have the balls of small squirrel entering puberty.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 5:46am

      Re:

      Nonsense, I'm sure there's a perfect valid reason that they would fight so hard not to let the public know how they are trained and what they are trained to do, and then when that fails violate the law by continuing to hide that information, a reason that has nothing at all to do with that information letting the public know just how horrific that training and therefore the cops trained by it are.

      I mean, the alternative is that the training materials would show exactly that, and since that clearly can't be why they are desperate enough to deliberately violate the law by withholding material that the laws says they must provide the explanation simply must be something else, which I'm sure the police will be happy to explain if someone just asks them nicely enough.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 6:27am

    Simple solution

    Since the cops aren't meeting the obligation placed on them for transparency, we don't have to accept their word on anything else. No police eyewitness accounts will be accepted unless it comes with a video record indicating the same thing. They shouldn't have a double standard in their favor when it comes to enforcing laws and avoiding their enforcement at the same time. Either one, or the other, not both.

    I'm sorry, based on your record, we can't trust your word that the sky is blue. Provide proof or get no state or local legal backing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 6:27am

    Getting Copyright fixed isn't going to happen anytime soon, so the proper response is to amend the CA law.

    Unless the material is put fully onto the website, no payments can or will be made the the provider.

    You'd be shocked how quickly any copyright claims would be dropped.

    The public is paying for these materials but not allowed access b/c 'terrorists' 'trade secrets' 'copyright'.
    Do they think they are GA hiding the laws from the public?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:43am

      Re:

      Yeah, exactly, who do they think they are?! Let's amend the CA Law! What's that again? The Facemask law! yeah, let's amend the Facemask law so that Copyright is automatically EXPIRED! That'll do it. AND, if you protest about Trump, no facemask required! That would be good. AND if you protest about how Police are BAD, FREE MEDICAL CARE, because there is nothing more american than PROTESTING! Especially if you BURN DOWN WENDYS! BURN IT ALL DOWN, just like Tiny Tim said! BURN IT! BURN IT! BLM! BLM!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:07am

    Copyright manuals?

    Wouldn't want the public to start using those training materials to train themselves after all.
    And, just wondering, in what world manuals should have copyright anyway. Because of the creative content? Hmmm...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:36am

      Re: Copyright manuals?

      Well, it's hard to see how these training materials are creative. I mean, you don't need to be creative to be a cop, not at all. As a copy, you often have to resolve difficult conflicts between fully grown and usually fully inebriated adults with weapons, obvious and hidden. No creative skills required. Just shoot them all, that's what's I'd do. Do you have a better idea? Maybe a creative one? I doubt it! Shoot them all! No creativity required. And no copyright required either! Up with China, down with Police! Those chinks, they HATE copyright, and they HATE America, just like ME! America is OVER! Defund the Police!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anymouse, 1 Jul 2020 @ 2:08pm

      Re: Copyright manuals?

      but they have to explain all of the 'undocumented' (other than in their training manuals) methods that police can use to violate the civil rights of the public on a regular and recurring basis.

      You know, making your abuse of the public original, so that it can be thrown out as no other case will match it... so instead of just kicking that suspect when they are down, start singing show-tunes, use your billy club and gun as props while you dance like yosemite sam, THEN KICK THE SUSPECT IN THE HEAD... Can't be punished as nobody has every done this specific thing before, so get out there and GET CREATIVE in your abuse of the public, I mean that's what they are there for right, your entertainment and amusement.

      All training materials copyrighted via anymouse, all rights reserved (patent pending)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:24am

    Since the public servants referred to as law enforcement refuse to be transparent when dealing with the public, then the public is justified in assuming the worst. Considering their sordid history, one is not too hard pressed to think the worst is probably true - that being they were trained to murder innocent people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:30am

      Re:

      Yeah, I was thinking along the same lines. They have a manual that trains them to murder people, but if you want to see the manual, you have to pay. Wow. They take our taxes, they murder at will, and we have to pay to see how they murder. Well, other terrorist organizations let you see how to murder for free. Lots of 'em. Why should I have to pay for this way to murder when other ways to murder are free? End copyright! Free murder instructions for all! AND, I want the repair manuals for my murder machines FREE AS WELL. Not like John Deere, not like their tractor manuals. I want FREE MURDER MANUALS! BLM! BLM!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:41am

    let's face it. the law was introduced like this so as to be able to block this sort of thing! had it been implemented in the correct way, certain senators wouldn't have gotten their 'campaign contributions' and there would be far less of this sort of thing, if, in fact any at all. it needs a simple little tweek and that is that says ' if it is found that there is no legitimate claim of copyright, the claiment must pay all legal costs of those affected by the false claim (or words to that effect!). fuck me, would that screw up Hollywood, MPAA and RIAA and every other company that jumps on things, knowing they have no right to do so, or what??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TFG, 1 Jul 2020 @ 8:33am

      Re:

      I would love a robust fee-shifting provision for copyright claims that turn out to be false.

      I would also like to see all automated solutions for making or processing copyright claims to be made illegal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 12:17pm

        Re: Re:

        With a robust fee-shifting provision for false copyright claims, there's no need for a ban on automated copyright claim processing. Given the typical accuracy of an automated system, copyright holders will very quickly find the automated system far too expensive to operate.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:44am

    They told me to...no they didn't.

    Think about all the times an officer testify's in court about his 'training and experience' to justify some behavior and then being able to show the actual training belies that statement. No wonder they don't want that material to be public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 7:48am

      Re: They told me to...no they didn't.

      Right, wow, another expert on the Police manuals and Police training and Police motivation here! Wow, you guys are really rich in experience about Police tactics and Police experience and Police behavior, you KNOW IT ALL!

      You couldn't police two six year olds having a bubble gum in the hair fight.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 8:42am

        Re: Re: They told me to...no they didn't.

        Right, wow, another expert on the Police manuals and Police training and Police motivation here!

        What's the matter? Tired of just shit talking amongst yourselves on Parler?

        It's not so much fun when you don't have an audience is it?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 8:43am

        Re: Re:

        Suck off Shiva Ayyadurai today yet, Hamilton? How's Charles Harder planning that appeal?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 2:15pm

        Re: Re: They told me to...no they didn't.

        exactly, because POLICE ARE NOT NEEDED FOR 6 YEAR OLDS...

        Just like school resource officers are not needed, they turn 'fresh adults' into felons overnight for nothing except rumors and hearsay (I speak from experience as my son was persecuted on the word of 2 'mean girls' and after getting run out of his senior year had to finish by getting his GED... the 2 girls recanted their testimony, claiming they were on drugs when they made the statements, to avoid perjury charges, and eventually all charges were dropped because my son wouldn't bow to the prosecutors 'deals'... did I mention the charges were filed 2 days before the Colombine school shooting, and 5 days after his 18th birthday... just in time to charge him with 2 felonies as an adult, based on nothing but hearsay from lying 'mean girls', even though the SRO started 'investigating' 2 months before that date...)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 2:17pm

          Re: Re: Re: They told me to...no they didn't.

          that should have been Colombine school shooting anniversary... not the actual event

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 2:07pm

    Taking bets the "training material" being stripped of all the "kill the niggers" references and guides on how to identify a criminal (hint: not white, not rich).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 5:05pm

    Private companies or "groups of buddies" shouldn't be training police anyway, and no police training should be opaque. All their "investigative methods" and "tools" should be open and transparent also, very especially in court. But they like their secrecy as much as they like their power and their authoritarianism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.