A California police officer played Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” in an attempt to stop a Black Lives Matter activist from uploading a video to YouTube – believing the platform’s copyright detection system to do so. would block.
It did not work.
In fact, the video in question wasn’t only successfully shared on YouTube, it went viral – garnering widespread attention due to the controversy.
On June 29, BLM protesters gathered at the Alameda Country courthouse in Oakland, Calif., Before a preliminary hearing for Jason Fletcher, a former police officer charged with the murder of Steven Taylor, a black man, in a store Walmart in 2020.
As captured on video, an officer from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office confronted one of the protesters, James Burch of the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), demanding that Burch remove his group’s banner. Burch asked why the banner had to be moved – before the cop pulled out his cell phone and started playing the song Swift.
Burch, confused, said, “Are we having a dance party now?” The officer finally admits, “You can record anything you want. I just know it can’t be posted on YouTube. Later, the officer, identified as Sgt. David Shelby, reiterates to Burch, “I’m playing my music so you can’t post on YouTube.”
The video, available at this link, has been viewed more than 170,000 times since it was shared on Thursday.
Free speech advocates have decried an attempt by a law enforcement official to use copyright law – albeit unsuccessfully – to try to avoid public scrutiny and attempt to thwart Americans’ First Amendment rights.
“This video of a police officer taking advantage of copyright laws to avoid liability is the latest chilling example in a string of abuses stretching back decades,” said Lia Holland, Director of Campaigns and Communications from digital rights group Fight for the Future, in a statement. “The United States must fundamentally reform our archaic and corrupt copyright system to put the interests of artists and audiences first in the digital age. The last thing we should do is give copyright monopolies more power to abuse and cops more tools to escape liability. “
Police have reportedly previously tried to use copyright takedown rules to try to block videos from online services. In February, according to a Vice News report, a Beverly Hills cop played Sublime’s “Santeria” during a meeting with a man disputing a traffic ticket, evidently to prevent the video of the conversation from being broadcast live in Canada. line.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office referred the incident to an internal affairs unit for investigation, The Washington Post reported.
The department does not have a policy on “whether you can play Taylor Swift or music for the purpose of censoring YouTube content from a public meeting,” spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly said. However, he said, the sheriff’s office does not “condone” the actions of the deputy and added that “there is a code of conduct on how we are to behave in public.”
YouTube’s automated Content ID copyright reporting system searches for a match between a reference file (provided by a copyright holder) and a newly uploaded video. When called, YouTube applies a rule to track, monetize, or block the video, depending on the preference selected by the Content ID owner. According to YouTube, Content ID claims are generally “just to track or monetize the video, not to block it.”
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