Cop Plays Taylor Swift So BLM Activists Can’t Film Him — It Backfires

by Julie Scagell

The video of a cop harassing a Black Lives Matter demonstration is still available on YouTube and has been viewed thousands of times

A California cop tried to prevent a Black Lives Matter activist from uploading a video of a police officer-involved incident by playing Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” during the interaction, believing that YouTube’s copyright detection would block ping the song and therefore block the video from being uploaded online. Well, his sinister plan backfired, causing the video to instead go viral.

Oakland-based Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), a group which aims to hold police departments accountable, gathered at the Alameda Country courthouse in Oakland before a pretrial hearing for former police officer Jason Fletcher. Fletcher is charged with murdering Steven Taylor, a Black man, at Walmart store last year.

The video captured an officer from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office confront one of the APTP protestors, James Burch, demanding he remove his group’s banner. Burch can be seen challenging the request, asking why the banner needed to be taken down. That’s when the cop, identified as Sgt. David Shelby, takes out his phone and starts playing the Swift song.

Burch, confused, can be heard saying, “Are we having a dance party now?” The officer finally fesses up, saying, “You can record all you want. I just know it can’t be posted to YouTube. I’m playing my music so that you can’t post on YouTube.” Shelby was referring to YouTube’s automated copyright system. The system is meant to detect and remove unauthorized protected material — like popular songs and other content — from being uploaded.

After Shelby admits he’s trying to prevent the video from being posted to YouTube, Burch asks him: “Is there an administrative regulation for this right now?”

“Not that I know of,” Shelby responded.

“Is that procedure?” Burch asked him.

“I’m just listening to music, sir,” Shelby said sarcastically.

Unfortunately for Burch, the video was not only shared successfully on YouTube, it has now gone viral.

“This video of a police officer taking advantage of copyright laws to avoid accountability is the latest chilling example in a line of abuse that stretches back decades,” Lia Holland, campaigns and communications director at digital-rights group Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “The U.S. must fundamentally reform our archaic and corrupt copyright system to put the interests of artists and the public first in the digital era. The last thing we should be doing is giving copyright monopolies more power to abuse, and cops more tools to evade accountability.”

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has referred the incident to an internal affairs unit for further investigation, the Washington Post reported. “The officer was trying to be a little smart, and it kind of backfired,” Sgt. Ray Kelly, a sheriff’s office spokesman, told the outlet. “Instead of censoring it, it made it go viral…There is a code of conduct on how we should carry ourselves in public. This is not a good look for law enforcement,” he explained.

A terrible look, actually.