In an act that sounds like the twist in an episode of Black Mirror, a police officer in California tried playing the song Blank Space by Taylor Swift as a protester recorded a video of him. However, the tactic—which would have likely triggered a copyright-takedown measure on video sharing platforms like YouTube—failed to work spectacularly.
The method is something that U.S. officers have tried before to prevent videos that show them in a bad light from being shared online. They’ve previously used songs like Sublime’s Santeria and The Beatles’ Yesterday—and it seemed to have worked.
“It seems they think playing copyrighted and licensed music will keep the word from getting out. And turns out… they are right! I sent this video to multiple news agencies who covered the story. Most said they can’t share it… why??? Because it’s playing Beatles music,” wrote Instagram user @mrcheckpoint_.
In the video, which was posted by the Anti Police-Terror Project, you’ll hear the officer admit that he played the Taylor Swift song because he “just knows” that the video “can’t be posted on YouTube”. And according to an Alameda County sheriff’s office spokesperson, although the office does not “condone” his behaviour, there’s no policy barring what the officer did in the video.
Even though the method seemed to have worked to keep previous recorded videos away from media, this particular recording managed to stay on social media. The video currently has more than 850,000 views on Twitter, as well as more than 600,000 views on YouTube.
The video was taken at the courthouse for the pretrial hearing of Jason Fletcher. Fletcher, a police officer, was charged with voluntary manslaughter for killing Steven Taylor inside a Walmart.
Usually, YouTube reserves the right to restrict videos posted on their platform if a video has a copyright claim. Twitter is less strict on the type of videos seen on its platform in my experience, but it will still act upon a copyright claim. But good on them to be cool about it this time around.