Another police officer tries to use copyrighted music to prevent an activist from filming it on February 25, 2021. (Screenshot: Angel / YouTube)
Law enforcement in Illinois appears to be copying Beverly Hills’ “copyright piracy” cops, this time with country music.
In several cases over the past two months, an activist has caught Beverly Hills police playing copyrighted music such as Sublime’s “Santeria.” and the “Yesterday” by the Beatles out loud on their phones in an apparent attempt to activate copyright filters and prevent the video from being streamed live on Instagram.
Now, it looks like the trend is catching on elsewhere.
On Feb. 25, an activist running a YouTube account called Accountability Angel entered the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office in Ottawa, Illinois, or at least tried to.
The activist, who has been asked to refer only to his first name, Angel, was there to leave the complaint forms, alleging misconduct by several officials.
In the video, we can see Angel being told at the front desk that he is not allowed to enter the building with a camera. Angel had previously been in the sheriff’s office and had filmed that visit, so he asked what had changed.
Then, in something that looks like it was ripped straight from the Beverly Hills PD playbook, a man with a Court Security badge came out to play music.
In the video, James Knoblauch, who had been chief of police in nearby Oglesby until he retired (after being removed from office) last year, approaches the camera. Angel asks why he is not allowed to enter the building with his phone.
But instead of answering, Knoblauch silently puts himself in his jacket pocket, pulls out his phone, and begins to slide. Moments later, we hear music playing. Turn up the volume, just in time for us to hear the first varieties of the movie “Nobody But You” by country star Blake Shelton with Gwen Stefani:
I don’t have to leave this city to see the world / because it’s something I have to do
Angel continues to ask questions, but Knoblauch says nothing, instead of picking up the phone for the speaker to dominate the conversation.
Finally, Angel realizes what’s going on and accuses Knoblauch of trying to use music to provoke a copyright filter so he can’t post his video on YouTube.
“Oh guys, you know what they do, they’re trying to get me off YouTube for the copyright issue,” Angel says. Then talk to Knoblauch, “What are you doing, Jim?” she asks. “Are you trying to stop my journalism?”
Knoblauch does not answer his question directly. Finally, Knoblauch talks to her, offering to take Angel’s forms, but the interaction goes nowhere, with the activist audibly frustrated, saying she wants to be allowed inside to hand in her complaint forms.
Meanwhile, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, a country ode to lovers, present themselves in full. Knoblauch then performs “Like You Never Have It” on the Florida Georgia Line. Angel keeps asking to be let into the office. Knoblauch just stands there, silently staring into space as his heart plays:
I’ll make you call your friends / Say you’ve never been / Skin to skin with a man like this …
Aside from the taste for music, there are some details that differentiate the Illinois County Sheriff’s Office from the case with the Beverly Hills PD: the fact that Angel didn’t broadcast live and uses YouTube.
In the case of the Beverly Hills PD, activist Sennett Devermont aired live on Instagram. This meant that if song officers were reproducing the music detection algorithm, the live stream could be silenced or terminated directly, meaning the images could simply be lost. Similarly, if Instagram’s algorithm detects music in a posted video, the post runs the risk of being deleted directly by Instagram.
YouTube, however, can be a little more forgiving. First, because Angel doesn’t broadcast live, but posts his videos after the fact, he might have a chance to edit parts that contain music (though that would mean silencing or completely cutting off all interaction with Knoblauch). Also, when the YouTube platform detects copyrighted music in a video, it doesn’t always delete the video, even though this has happened. Often, you simply place ads on the content and share the revenue with the copyright holders of the song.
That is, if this is another attempt to block a video, the strategy doesn’t work in the small town of Illinois better than in Beverly Hills. Devermont’s videos are still up to date and so are Angel’s.
Results aside, this is the first time a video like this has appeared somewhere outside of California, suggesting that Beverly Hills PD isn’t the only law enforcement agency that may be starting to experiment with “piracy” of rights filters. author to reduce the First Amendment the rights of civilians to openly film the police.
The Lasalle County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to VICE News ’requests for clarification as to whether playing music while questioned on video was an official policy.