A First Amendment right is in danger — cops have been caught playing copyrighted music to stop onlookers and victims from recording and posting their misconduct.
In a Youtube video, California officers can be seen blasting Disney music from their patrol car while conducting a late-night vehicle theft investigation.
Jonathan Hernandez, a Santa Ana councilman and YouTuber, confronted the officer after he and his neighbors woke up to the loud music.
“Why are you doing this,” Hernandez said in the video. The cop responded, “Because they get copyright infringement.”
Hernandez continued, “he [the officer] knows I have a Youtube Channel.”
Freely filming is protected under the First Amendment, as long as there's no interference with police work.
In a separate recorded incident, California police sergeant William Fair starts playing music on his phone when he sees he’s being filmed at a crime scene.
Dr. E. Michael Harrington, professor of music and copyright at Berklee Online, said in a statement that he has witnessed this happening recently —officers are playing music without purchasing the rights to it to discourage recording.
"YouTube has bots that go around and they match the song they're hearing, and then if that's on YouTube and it wasn't cleared, then the music, the song recording and the copyright, they get taken down, and then the person [who] posted it, who is trying to be a good citizen to say, 'Watch what this cop did or cops, they should be prosecuted,' that person now gets a copyright strike for doing an act that's far more important than what the cops are doing," Harrington said.
According to Harrington, this tactic being used by cops to avoid being recorded is "clearly illegal."