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Police Using Copyrighted Music to Avoid Accountability

by Kevin W. Bliss
Police are avoiding transparency and the public’s right to film by blasting out Disney tunes at a high volume any time a citizen begins video recording interactions between the police and the public. The music triggers certain algorithms on social media sites, which prevents the clip from being viewed because of copyright infringement laws.

Police in California and other states are being advised that they should respond to someone taping their actions in pursuit of their daily law enforcement duties by playing certain tunes loud enough to be heard in the background on the video. Playing this music is perceived as a potential copyright infringement, so the programming for that site shuts down the video before it can be viewed.

Host sites are concerned about the possibility of litigation from utilizing copyrighted material without permission. Disney tunes are the most preferred because police realize it is one of the most litigious of organizations from which to choose. They have also used such artists as the Beetles and Sublime.

Prisoner rights advocacy news organization Vice coined the term “copyright hacking” to describe the latest in police tactics used to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Reason, another news organization dedicated to advocating for people’s civil rights, said it is not any different than grabbing a person’s cell phone and deleting the recording or smashing it. It is an abuse of power and motivated only to prevent the lawful recording of police action. An Oakland cop playing a Taylor Swift song cynically told a citizen recording him, “You can record all you want. I just know it can’t be posted to YouTube.”

Reason describes this police tactic as just another way to “weaponize” the law. It said the courts use too broad a brush on certain issues, allowing some laws to be used inappropriately in a means not truly intended.


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