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Cop Plays Taylor Swift at Protesters To Keep Their Videos Off YouTube. It Didn’t Work.

Taylor Swift looks at the camera to the side of a red carpet setup

During a recent peaceful demonstration outside the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland, California, a police officer tried to use copyright laws to keep videos of himself from being posted online. Not only did it not work, but the video ended up going viral.

Protesters were gathered outside the court for the pretrial hearing of a former officer named Jason Fletcher, who is charged with murdering Steven Taylor, a Black man, at a Walmart in 2020. The sheriff’s deputy—identified as Sgt. David Shelby—was talking with some organizers, including Anti Police-Terror Project policy director James Burch, when he pulled out his phone and began playing Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.”

“Are we having a dance party now?” Burch asks, understandably confused.

“You can record all you want. I just know it can’t be posted to YouTube,” Shelby says after Burch and his colleagues repeatedly ask why he’s playing the music. After some back and forth, Shelby repeats: “I’m playing my music so that you can’t post on YouTube.”

Shelby seemed really pleased with himself for having such a creative plan for quashing protesters’ First Amendment rights to record the police, but it’s not entirely original. Shelby might have been inspired by a cop in Beverly Hills, CA, who played Sublime’s “Santeria” during an interaction with an activist who was at the police station to obtain bodycam footage from another incident and live-streaming his experience.

That cop thought that playing licensed music would trigger an automatic copyright strike and end the live stream. He, like Shelby, was incorrect.

It’s truly amazing just how much work these police officers will put into covering up their own behavior instead of just not doing things they would be embarrassed or punished for seeing posted online in the first place.

What’s really strange about that point is that Shelby wasn’t acting egregiously when he made the bizarre move to try to stop the video from being shared. He was telling the organizers that they had to move their banner and they were pushing back, questioning him, but the whole thing was totally civil. Burch and the others were even casually sipping on iced coffee during the conversation.

We know this because, again, Shelby’s plan didn’t work and the video remains on YouTube (and below). And the strangeness of his tactic just ended up getting it hundreds of thousands of views online.

But congratulations on reinvigorating the Streisand Effect for whole new generations of musicians!

(via Washington Post, image: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.