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 over the banner, the sergeant noticed he was being filmed. He responded by playing Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” as an attempt to keep the video off of social media from copyright takedowns.
“I don’t – I don’t know why we’re — are we have a dance party now?” Burch asked while the officer loudly played the Swift song.
“You can record all you want,” the officer said in the below video. “I just know it can’t be posted to YouTube.”
Per The Verge, bystanders have a First Amendment right to record police, but apparently, police officers have tried to exploit copyright law to stop people from sharing those videos by playing music that would get the video taken down. Playing music in the background of a video isn’t necessarily against YouTube’s rules but it can set off the company’s automatic takedown system.
One person on Twitter wrote that the officer was “weaponizing copyright in service of police abuse.”
‘You can record all you want. I just know it can’t be posted to YouTube.’— rasha abdulhadi (@rashaabdulhadi) July 1, 2021
Weaponizing copyright in service of police abuse: https://t.co/IGG9LyUxvo
Another user wrote, “Disgusting disruptive tactic being used by cops to prevent sharing of videos.”
Disgusting disruptive tactic being used by cops to prevent sharing of videos. https://t.co/SpOkKjIclq— navina khanna (@navinakhanna) July 1, 2021
“Did y’all see just how fast he was able to pull up this song on his phone?” Wrote another, “He already had that queued in an app & ready to go.”
Did y'all see just how fast he was able to pull up this song on his phone? He already had that queued in an app & ready to go.— Nikki (@nikkivpraze) July 1, 2021
Very interested to know how @taylorswift13 feels about cops using her music to avoid transparency with the public. https://t.co/7xAhSARLDz
Another user wrote, “Copyright enforcement has always been a convenient choke point for authoritarians to abuse for censorship. Now they’re just getting more and more blatant about it.”
Copyright enforcement has always been a convenient choke point for authoritarians to abuse for censorship. Now they're just getting more and more blatant about it https://t.co/t5qIZk4xyR— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) July 1, 2021
According to Vice, activist Sennett Devermont documented a Beverly Hills officer blasting Sublime’s “Santeria” on his phone after being asked questions in February, apparently to make the video more difficult to post online. Devermont said this wasn’t an isolated incident, sharing an earlier video where a different officer used the same tactic with a Beatles song.