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.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: beverly hills police, copyright, police, police recordings, sennett devermont, transparency


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 Feb 2021 @ 9:44am

    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.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 10 Feb 2021 @ 1:45pm

      "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.

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

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 10 Feb 2021 @ 9:44am

    "This arrest is brought to you by The Olympics. The Olympics is like the Super Bowl of Les Claypool. Do you like Primus? I love Wynonna's Big Brown Beaver. It goes like this. Give it a listen while I'm tasing you."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 9:45am

    That depends on where you post it

    Some years ago I vloggef a road trip I took and posted on dailymotion with music in the background and it is still there years later

    Dailymotion is in france and is therefore not subject to any american laws.

    So you less likely to get taken down with Dailymotion

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 9:46am

    Send the clips to the collection agencies, as I am sure they are interested in unlicensed public performances.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Feb 2021 @ 10:04am

      Then we can laugh at two evils trying to cancel one another out. Win-freakin’-win, baby!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 5:42pm

        Re:

        two evils trying to cancel one another out

        That sounds like it could turn into unbounded oscillations which could lead to the collapse of the whole time space continuum. Maybe not such a good idea.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2021 @ 10:33am

          Re: Re:

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

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

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Feb 2021 @ 2:40am

            Re: Re: 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.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2021 @ 4:39am

        Re:

        One can wish. But in reality, even if found liable, the cops would just pay the settlement/licence fees with taxpayer money.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      I don't think the police department is subject to those laws, as long as it is on their performance of their duties

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 12:35pm

        Re: Re:

        Qualified Immunity probably.

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

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 10 Feb 2021 @ 1:48pm

        Not subject to those laws

        I am eager to hear how a loud public performance of copyrighted content is necessary or even utilitarian in the performance of law-enforcement duties.

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

        • identicon
          Christenson, 10 Feb 2021 @ 7:05pm

          Re: Not subject to those laws

          Uriel,
          You lack imagination there....a correct loud public performance of popular music could make a huge, and useful diversion or distraction for someone about to do something everyone will regret.

          But that is not this case....

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2021 @ 10:38am

            Re: Re: Not subject to those laws

            Like in Panama. What was it the troops played for Noriega?

            I wonder if they obtained proper licensing prior to their public performance in Panama.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 9:49am

    Is the Police Department paying the appropriate public performance and other licensing fees?

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 10 Feb 2021 @ 4:21pm

      Re:

      Of course not! Laws are for the peons.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 10 Feb 2021 @ 11:39pm

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 10:09am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 10:51am

      Re: Move, counter-move.

      The problem is you are modifying the track - it may not be admissible
      (just thinking out loud)

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 11:02am

        Re: Re: Move, counter-move.

        You keep the unmodified original as evidence.

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

      • identicon
        Christenson, 10 Feb 2021 @ 7:09pm

        Re: Re: Move, counter-move.

        ANY computer data has the issue of being modifiable or even totally fabricated with deep fakes. Someone always has to testify to the origins and chain of custody. It's why they trap pedophiles from on line by having them come to a meeting with their supposed victims.

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

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 10 Feb 2021 @ 11:51am

    And the videos will be reuploaded with the sound muted and a disclaimer that the cops are playing music. If you're caught on video doing crimes, getting the uploader a copyright strike won't make it go away, and copyright won't save you when that footage is brought before a judge as part of a lawsuit.

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

    • identicon
      Christenson, 10 Feb 2021 @ 7:18pm

      Re:

      Announcing the "Streamsafe" service...removes any music from your livestream using AI in real time. Useful for gamers and others subject to music copyright-based denial-of-service attacks.

      Warning: Doesn't work with Tuvan throat-singing or if the officer can sing his commands.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 11:55am

    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

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 4:32pm

      Re: CFAA violation?

      Cfaa would not apply some because you are not breaking a password

      A felony cfaa violation requires that you have used an illegally obtained password

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

      • identicon
        Christenson, 10 Feb 2021 @ 7:13pm

        Re: Re: CFAA violation?

        That's the problem with the CFAA...you can drive a truck through what it actually criminalizes, which is a lot more than the more relatively narrow idea of penetrating substantial security measures such as a decently complex password with substantial conscious effort.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2021 @ 2:42am

          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

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2021 @ 3:15am

        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;

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

  • identicon
    Peter, 10 Feb 2021 @ 12:04pm

    Do the turnaround

    Use the video as evidence to report the officers to the RIAA for a 'public performance'.

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

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 10 Feb 2021 @ 12:28pm

    F DA POLICE

    Which one of these cops will go full irony when invoking the Sacred Powers of the RIAA?

    If I were them, I'd build a playlist with Fuck Da Police by NWA, followed by Alanis Morissette's Ironic.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2021 @ 5:10pm

    By loading up someone else's recording with copyrighted music, officers like this one can nuke a livestream as it's happening

    Isn't that knowingly infringing on copyright? Shouldn't they be charged and fined under the DMCA? They are intentionally infringing copyright.

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

  • icon
    Jeroen Hellingman (profile), 10 Feb 2021 @ 11:24pm

    Playing music in public is also copyright infringement, so they should turn this against them and sue those people. Evidence is clearly available.

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

    • icon
      crade (profile), 11 Feb 2021 @ 8:59am

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2021 @ 8:08am

    I CAN'T HEAR YOU....

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2021 @ 7:52pm

    this should be a first amendment violation for knowingly, willfully, intentionally interfering in a public recording maid for a public conveyance.

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

  • icon
    FurryOne (profile), 17 Feb 2021 @ 8:25am

    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.

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

    • icon
      Wyrm (profile), 17 Feb 2021 @ 9:59am

      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.

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

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 17 Feb 2021 @ 9:50am

    What did the IP holders tell us again?
    Ah right, "Copyright is not a tool for censorship."
    Riiight.

    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
Special Affiliate Offer

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.