The Volokh Conspiracy

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Did Police Play Copyrighted Music to Prevent Video Streaming of Citizen Interactions?

Either these police really love playing Sublime at the office, or they came up with a creative way to discourage video streaming of police conduct.


Vice reports on an encounter between a citizen activist and police officers at the Beverly Hills Police Department, in which the latter played copyrighted music ("Santeria" by Sublime), in an apparent effort to prevent hte activist from livestreaming the encounter.

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."

Assuming that Fair wasn't just trying to share his love of '90s stoner music with the citizens of Beverly Hills, this seems to be an intentional (if misguided) tactic to use social media companies' copyright protection policies to prevent himself from being filmed.

The idea here seems to be to play copyrighted music so that the algorithms employed by social media platforms will prevent the livestreamed videos from being played, and perhaps block the account of those attempting to post police conduct.

According to the story, this tactic is not endorsed by the Beverly Hills Police Department, though several officers have begun playing music when approached by citizens who sought to film their interactions. Thus far, it does not appear the tactic has been successful.