Cop tries, fails to invoke the power of Taylor Swift to keep himself off YouTube

·3 min read
Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift

The future, as we’ve noted many times before, is a phenomenally strange place to live. Case in point: New video evidence circulating online today of a police officer trying—and failing—to avoid public scrutiny by hiding behind the awe-inspiring power of Taylor Swift.

This is per Variety, reporting on a video posted to YouTube by the Anti Police-Terror Project, which, per its own descriptions is “a Black-led, multi-racial, intergenerational coalition that seeks to build a replicable and sustainable model to eradicate police terror in communities of color.” The video in question, filmed during a Black Lives Matter protest in California on Tuesday, shows a disagreement between APTP policy director James Burch and an Alameda County Sheriff’s Department deputy whose uniform identifies him as “D. Shelby,” over the placement of a protest banner. When Shelby notices that he’s being filmed, though, he immediately falls back on the power of the long arm of the law—which then directs the long hand of the law to pull out the long phone of the law, so that he can start blasting “Blank Spaces” by Taylor Swift in the background of the conversation.

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When the protestors start pointing out that this is, from almost any conceivable point of view, a tremendously silly thing for a law officer involved in a conflict to do, the deputy goes ahead and says the quiet part loud: He’s playing the song so that members of the APTP can’t upload video of their interactions to YouTube—apparently counting on the Google-owned company’s robust copyright protection algorithms to recognize the song (off of 2014's 1989), flag it, and block any attempts to upload the video.

Now, the fact that this video has now been viewed, more than 200,000 times, on YouTube, reveals the general folly of this plan. (Variety quotes a YouTube help page that clarifies that a video like this, if flagged, would fall into the territory of a Copyright ID claim, rather than an outright strike or takedown; creators can then determine whether videos that have been so ID’d will be blocked, tracked, or monetized.) The more worrying aspect, of course, is that the attempt was made at all. That, despite the fact that “Oh, play Taylor Swift and they can’t upload you” has the same poorly-thought-out received wisdom vibe as a reversed take on “If you ask a cop if they’re a cop, they have to tell you.” Vice News reported a few months back on another California cop deploying 311's “Santeria” for apparently similar reasons, so at least the musical taste for this kind of IP-screwery defies both generations and genres—but it doesn’t make it any less scary that police are clearly passing around “clever tips” for how to make it harder to document and publicize their actions.

For what it’s worth, Swift released a new song, “Renegade,” last night; the track is available on YouTube, music streaming services, and, presumably, body cam footage everywhere.