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Sheriff's Office Told Officer to Play Copyrighted Music to Shut Down Recordings (techdirt.com)
247 points by dredmorbius 35 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 121 comments

So here's what the police could do next-

1. Record an album

2. Copyright the music and get it to all the social medias for automatic DCMA goodness

3. Play the album in all precincts, courthouses, squad cards, prisons, public offices, social disturbances-- like background Musak- or Waffle House music. Hell if they make it corny enough, maybe people will play it for the police. For the lulz.

4. Contract out a third party to pursue DCMA takedowns of anything left behind

5. Use the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center task force for special abusers

Ok-- got a little carried away, but there's still a lot of potential here.

Get the rights to "Silent Tracks of Various Useful Lengths"[0]. Now you can copy strike anything.

[0]https://www.amazon.com/Silent-Tracks-Various-Useful-Lengths/... (Highly recommend the Stadium Remix)

You have discovered: fraud

Let us return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when a firm named "Prenda Law" was still a going concern:


It would certainly be a juicy story for a government agency to stray down this path!

Your parent comment has nothing to do with the behavior that got Prenda sanctioned, which was representing themselves to the court as a third-party law firm retained by the copyright owner when in fact they were the first-party copyright owner themselves.

I have never understood why anyone viewed what happened to Prenda as a victory against copyright trolling. Prenda was a group that engaged in blatant, abusive copyright trolling, yes. And the official opinion of the legal system is that that was fine, and other people should keep doing it.

Fair enough, I think the collusive part would be a vulnerability in the strategy. But even so, Fair Use is still in play.

I imagine the legal fallout from this would be very bad for the police department itself. Communications about this scheme would be public records.

If every police station and cop car in the country exclusively streamed this album, they could probably generate a decent amount of money from Spotify/Apple/YTmusic.

I tried doing something similar a while back, I made tracks with white/brown/pink noise to stream while you study or sleep called DonateYourStreams, with all the money going to nonprofits like Watsi & charity:water. Unfortunately DistroKid thought that was a ToS violation and disabled my account.

If music is playing in a public area then it logically shares the same right to record as photographing someone in public. The infringement lies on the side of the person playing a licensed song in a public venue

1. Have unrecognizable person play music in public 2. Record 3. Upload to YouTube 4. Profit

Or with current copyright crap, you could also record a whole bunch of common noises you hear in public, nature ect, upload to YouTube as ambient sound effects then go after “infringers” who have a sound clip in their video which is more than 90% similar to yours.

You're 100% and 100% delightfully creative and possibly evil.

I can see this all happening and more, but wow the mental gymnastics.

Ha thanks, it's my curse.

That seems like a lot of work.

They could just say that John Cage's 4'33" is playing in the background[1]. :P

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4%E2%80%B233%E2%80%B3

Government bodies and public services should not be allowed to copyright things then.

They just need to collectively buy the rights to the Cops theme song https://youtu.be/fXTn2gSG7es

... or Axel F.

Interesting plan, but fair use would be a problem.

It doesn't matter if the content is actually fair use since the content will just be taken down anyways with little opportunity for appeal because it's YouTube.

A bigger hurdle for the police department is the 1st amendment suits a systemized program would attract.

You would need to counternotice with your personal details. (And the cops abusing the copyright system would get a copy)

YouTube's Content ID ignores Fair Use.

Fair Use is an affirmative defence against copyright infringeement. That is, its effective power is used in a court of law as an argument in defence against a criminal or civil copyright complaint.

TL;DR: Present policy says "F-U" to Fair Use.

Hm. Gotta have faith in the algorithm. If that fails then maybe add to the list to make a phone call so you can go after them criminally for wiretapping.

Maybe it goes both ways. Maybe you can get Mickey Mouse tattooed on your forehead Manson style and you won't show up on mugshot sites due to DMCA takedowns.

Better get it done before 2024, when Mickey Mouse is due to enter the public domain!

Just for fun, I wonder what the betting odds are that the laws will change before then so it doesn't!

Hey wait, aren't Helter Skelter and Yellow Submarine still under copyright?

Even better, make an original design and then you can cease and desist.

It's ironic because in some countries (e.g. Germany) the police would possibly liable to pay fees to the copyright agencies (GEMA in Germany) because playing the music could be considered a public performance of copyrighted work.

Same here in the UK. The PPLPRS would need paid.


> Broadly speaking, this includes any presentation of music outside of a domestic setting. For example, it will include using music in the following ways as part of your business or organisation (for the benefit of customers and/or employees): playing recorded music via any device, including the radio; showing TV broadcasts, or other audio-visual content, containing music;

They also have an international collections department so I would advise the U.S. Cops against using music from the UK!

This was actually the subject of a recent Supreme Court case where states were found immune unless Congress finds an issue and adjusts the laws.


Even if they're not playing for the public just for their own ears (ahem, wink)?

ASCAP doesn't take kindly to unlicensed public performances, and I imagine they would love to shake down police departments with deep pockets for licensing fees. There might even be a reward for the person who informs them about it.

I can’t imagine ASCAP doesn’t find cops who behave like this as kinfolk.

Few such organizations would ever antagonize law enforcement.

The real problem is that the officer should be sued by the boss of his boss, because is doing a huge damage in the public image of every policemen. If is not happening, this means that they don't care and that the risk for every other officer in the streets has increased (If policemen can break the law, everybody can as long as is not caught doing it). This is wining a stupid battle to lose the war on trust.

> Now I can post any song on Youtube, as long as the backing video is Rodney King.

This is brilliant. I can see people starting to replace the song by a similar melody and the lyrics by 'I can't breath' and the names of 100% proven innocent people killed by police sung in a loop. Probably not on youtube, but easy to browse

Make a check box on upload or video settings that says "Is this a video of cops being dicks?" If checked, it bypasses the Content ID if the new AI/ML trained 'Cop Detector 5000' verifies cops are present in the video. Coming soon, captcha asking you to find all images with police.

Now I can post any song on Youtube, as long as the backing video is Rodney King.

Is this not a serious enough obstruction as to be deemed illegal? Regardless, you now know you’re not dealing with good actors here.

> Is this not a serious enough obstruction as to be deemed illegal?

Seems to be a pretty clear conspiracy against rights and deprivation of rights under color of law, actionable criminally under 18 USC Sec. 241 and civilly under 42 USC Sec. 1983.

Get a court to rule against cops “innocently playing music” …good luck

Their music playing is copyright infringement, since you need permission to play a song in public.

Sooner or later, they will be sued.

By who? You really think a corporation is going to sue police for playing music?

That would risk copyright laws being opened up further…benign neglect will rule the day here, bad faith actors rely on everyone else being to afraid to call them on their BS.

The copyright owner could sue them, not the victims of this policy.

No, someone playing a song on their phone, while walking down the street, is not going to be sued. Ever.

you now know you’re not dealing with good actors here.

How about we instead attack the legal scenario that enables this fucking absurdity? People other than cops can do this.

Because cops will use whatever absurdities they can find. Which is the bigger problem: frivolous copyright enforcement, or police abuse of power? Why would you focus on the first rather than the second?

How long before youtube automatically removes copyrighted music from uploaded videos in a noise-cancelling fashion?


"This option mutes just the claimed song. Other audio, like dialog or sound effects, won’t be muted. "

So this is already a solved problem?

Though it is marked as beta, maybe it's not reliable yet.

Nah, better to stick ads up front, send a little money to the copyright holder and pocket the rest. I mentioned in another comment also that you'd need to use the song to make the pattern for the noise cancellation. So I wonder if the copyright holder could still claim usage and ask for a payout making that more expensive than just dropping.

Put this at the discretion of the uploader.

Remove the allegedly infringing music, with a notice that audio has been filtered due to copyright claim, unless the uploader permits a revenue passthrough / share with the copyright claimant.

(This still doesn't address the issue of erroneous claims, e.g., the Adam Neely / Kate Perry fraudulent claim, but it does mean that neither YT/Google nor the claimant automatically profit by the appropriation of another's work and audience-development.)

Twitch already does this, even live in some cases.

Twitch mutes the audio.

Ideally the copyrighted portion could be subtracted from the audio in question; without muting the rest.

This could be a 2 edge sword.

How long until the Police departments are sued for unlicensed public performance of copyrighted music?

Really this police officer should be charged criminally as well... with intentional copyright infringement.

Someone else elsewhere in this thread is citing some civil rights statute, but the idea of charging with copyright infringement is just... amusing. If only prosecutors didn't hate charging cops.

Unfortunately in the US the government is immune from copyright infringement.

PS. Taking it back as I was proven wrong

This is incorrect (in the normal civil context), as discussed elsewhere in this thread.

But also, I'm suggesting criminally charging the individual officers, not the government. Police officers are not generally immune to criminal laws, so citation requested that they would be in this instance (it is possible, there are certainly some weird exceptions in the law for LEO, but I'm not aware of one here).

>"But also, I'm suggesting criminally charging the individual officers, not the government."

You might have a problem with prosecution agreeing to prosecute such case I think.

I am glad to be proven wrong.

States indeed have sovereign immunity from copyright lawsuits:

> On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court held that the provisions of the Copyright Act subjecting states to liability for infringement did not validly abrogate states’ sovereign immunity from suit. As a result, copyright owners suffering infringement by state entities cannot seek the remedies provided by the Copyright Act.


Correct, though the assertion here was that the Federal government has immunity.

Practically speaking it almost does not matter in this context. Cops playing music will most likely be state cops, not feds.

Police are typically city or county (latter are sheriffs in most states). Not specifically state government in those cases. There are state police, and usually, state highway patrol.

In that context, this action as described in the article would itself be an interesting counterargument to the SCOTUS decision / Library of Congress Copyright Office finding.

Apparently this was just changed by the SC in a March 2, 2020 case. There's a citation elsewhere in the thread.

That covers suits against states, not against the US government.

The state exemption is apparently based on a sovereignity clause, though ... that seems somewhat twisted and wrong to me.

I'm thinking of ways that might exploit this.

Say, for the sake of argument, that a state government decided it wanted to host and provide legal cover for Sci-Hub.

Or an entity of state government. Maybe, say, the University of California Library.

Unless it comes out of their pocket it’s still the taxpayers funding their misdeeds.

And that's actually fine, because sheriff is an elected office. The good citizens of Alameda County voted for a sheriff who enables warrior cops, they get to pay for the cops' actions because they support the state of affairs.

Presented with no comment, the part of the article about the alameda county sheriff:

> The Alameda County Sheriff's Department has learned from this Streisanding, and has since made it official policy to forbid the playing of copyrighted content for the sole purpose of thwarting the recording of officers by members of the public.

What pool of candidates is the sheriff allowed to be elected from?

In many counties the candidates for sheriff must be active employees of the department or similar, making for an extremely narrow pool of candidates with plenty of opportunity for the incumbent to make their competitors ineligible to run.

Anyone filing a valid candidacy application can run for the office in Alameda County (or in California AFAIU, where the state Secretary of Sate defines qualifications).


Ballotpedia has a more complete narrative description:


It's not even clear to me that there is an minimumm age requirement for municipal or state office. There are a set of petition and/or filing-fee requirements.

Alabama is a state in which I might expect more stringent requirements to be in place. Those are: 18+ years of age, 1 day+ state residency, 1 day+ US citizen, and registered voter. Terms are 4 years, with no limit on terms served.


> the candidates for sheriff must be active employees of the department or similar

Who made these inane rules? At the end of the day, if a county goes bankrupt for enacting stupid measures, it's on its citizens. Especially if they didn't even bother voting.

Peoples rights and the threat of their abridgement shouldn't be subject to the financial whims of the electorate.

I know. The abuse should have been caught earlier. But when leadership does stupid, the force of the market provides the last stop.

The "market"?

Even for those obsessed with the primacy of market forces to solve all things, counting on them to solve bad police sounds...well, I can't really say how that sounds on HN, because the moderation is too good here. :)

Well, you wait for the market and let's see how long it takes to fix this. Much more likely, direct citizen action will address this long before.

It doesn't surprise me it's Alameda Sheriff's department.

They have one requirement besides a GED, and it BDS (big, dumb, stupid).

They are known for doing stupid stuff around the country.

I grew up with the guy who runs the Coroner's a office, and literally thought he was developmentally disabled.

(CA decided to nix voted in Coroners a few years ago, and replaced all with cops to save money. A Coroner is an executive position. Needs no training. In Marin County, we had a great Coroner, who was a medical doctor, for years.)

Rather, why isn’t software available yet for end users to filter out copyrighted background noises?

There is software like Spleeter [1] that can split songs into stems (seperate drums, vocals, rhythm, etc.) using ML. I imagine it would be possible to adapt it for this. Might even work as-is if you only needed to isolate people's voices.

1. https://github.com/deezer/spleeter

Adding audio is much easier than subtracting audio from a recording when said audio is distorted by imperfect speakers and recorded by imperfect microphones and has who knows what other background noises mixed in.

Said denoiser could easily destroy the audio your looking to preserve, and the altered audio is not good quality evidence of the events that occurred.

I wonder if, for everyone to get their cut still, you'd have to license the music to generate the anti-music pattern.

I actually just mapped it out in my business ideas note folder and yeah. I don’t see how you can build a decent tool for this job without having copies of the actual waveforms requiring some form of commercial license, however it would not need to be a performance license which seems to be the thing the publishers are most familiar licensing. So I’m not sure if this would make the process easier or harder but I definitely don’t see how they can argue the rights to use but not play the music are more valuable so they should in theory be cheaper than the sort of price iTunes and Spotify are paying per track.

It should be part of the YouTube post-upload processing. You find another YouTube link of the offending music, it syncs the two audio tracks, and removes from your upload.

The government has immunity from copyright lawsuits.

Citation requested.

Chapters 1 & 5 of 17 USC address limitations on exclusive rights or remedies. I see no government exclusion:



You may be confusing the lack of copyright protection in US Government works, 17 USC 105:


Congress has specifically cancelled state immunity against copyright suit:


The US government has been successfully sued for copyright violation:


> On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court held that the provisions of the Copyright Act subjecting states to liability for infringement did not validly abrogate states’ sovereign immunity from suit. As a result, copyright owners suffering infringement by state entities cannot seek the remedies provided by the Copyright Act.



That's been effective for ... about two weeks then. Brand spankin' new.

The report is new, the SCOTUS case was last year.

What happens if a state decides ... say ... that it wants to host Sci-Hub?

Alexandra Asanovna Elbakyan would be proud of that.

Is this true? I remember a while ago USPS lost a copyright suit for using a photo of the statue of liberty from the Las Vegas hotel on a stamp.


> On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court held that the provisions of the Copyright Act subjecting states to liability for infringement did not validly abrogate states’ sovereign immunity from suit. As a result, copyright owners suffering infringement by state entities cannot seek the remedies provided by the Copyright Act.


It's more so the govt needs to allow you to sue the govt...sooo

> The government has immunity from copyright lawsuits.

That's kind of (but not very) true of the Federal government [0]. It's not at all true of state governments or local governments.

[0] They have somewhat different liability than normal actors, which can only be pursued in the Court of Federal Claims.

> On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court held that the provisions of the Copyright Act subjecting states to liability for infringement did not validly abrogate states’ sovereign immunity from suit. As a result, copyright owners suffering infringement by state entities cannot seek the remedies provided by the Copyright Act.


NB: Title condensed from "Officer Claims Sheriff's Office Told Him To Play Copyrighted Music To Shut Down Citizens' Recordings"

I'm curious: is there a fair use argument for videos recording police activity in which the officer plays copyrighted music? I understand the intent is to trigger auto takedowns via something like ContentID, but beyond that would you be in the right, legally speaking, for uploading?

Even if there were, it's you vs. the algorithm. You'd have to make your case and have someone manually overturn the judgement.

They’re just banking on the fact that a human will never review for fair use. You would absolutely be in the right, but YouTube doesn’t care and won’t reinstate your video.

Yes, there's already case law about DMCA takedowns and fair use for background music.

I suspect that if it ever went to court, somebody would be getting the judicial stank eye.

I wish the copyright police would sue these police for an unlicensed public performance. Police got a lot more $$ than some teenage dowloading - sort of 'Law of unintended consequences = ON' and lots of witnesses = slam dunk that many judges would love to slam.

Unfortunately, the way the legal system works in practice, no one interested in using the legal system the way copyright enforcers are would antagonize the police this way.

Yes, there is a need to return to the origins of copyright, to allow creators to profit from their work. If not profitable, a renewal fee every ~~5 years after an initial 25 year copyright, would allow works that do not earn enough to justify the renewal fee = public domain. If the work earned a lot, the creator would be incented to renew a few time, say for 5 renewals. I do not like the current bought and paid for renewal fee, AKA Disney law = 105 years - and counting...

I've no idea about legal standing here but if someone, in this case a police officer, is doing this to cover up criminal behaviour wouldn't that count as attempting to pervert the course of justice or is that just a UK thing?

This wouldn't prevent the recording from being used as evidence. It just helps limit the spread on social media due to the resulting DMCA takedowns.

You see police use this tactic a lot in "First Amendment Auditor" videos. It makes it very difficult for the auditor to monetize the video.

Seems like if you get a copy of the song yourself, stripping it out of a video ought to be an easyish technical problem, no? Maybe even solved already?

Edit: A-ha, YouTube already offers this: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2902117?hl=en

Mute song only (beta)

This option mutes just the claimed song. Other audio, like dialog or sound effects, won’t be muted.

Somewhat related where states were found to be immune if they infringe copyrights unless Congress finds an issue and rewrites the laws to allow private lawsuits against the states.


We have all this deepfake AI technology. It could probably be trained to filter out background music. Seems like a good research project.

At that point the audio is unauthentic, and the point of having a public video is diminished (if not eliminated) - we’re undoubtedly Rapidly approaching this problem. As deep fakes improve, no one is going to trust video.

The point of a public video is to get clicks and influence public opinion, and neither of these are harmed by altering the audio. In court, you can play the original.

That level of audio separation is a really, really difficult problem. Here's hoping, though!

Something like Nvidia RTX Voice would work great.

Why is this an issue when you can record the video, and just mute the audio on youtube or replace with youtube supplied music?

Its an extra step in the process that could get people caught up.

And by muting the audio you could lose any captured voices, incriminating or intimidating statements, etc.

Because then you can't hear what the officers are saying.

True. If the recorder is truly interested in conveying the video, they could redub narration. Maybe someone should provide a service to remove music and boost voices in a video?

So, does it actually work?

I mean given the article links to a YouTube video of the incident, clearly it didn't work at all in that case.

There needs to be a widely available ai video audio preprocessing tool that strips out music.

Oh yes, pick the right band and litigation is practically guaranteed !!

There should be an exception to copyright for police recordings...

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