Alameda County Sheriff Sgt. David Shelby thought he was being clever as a bystander recorded him arguing with a James Burch of the Anti Police-Terror Project over a banner that was posing a tripping hazard at a gathering protesting the police shooting death of Steven Taylor. When the sergeant notice he was being filmed, he took his cell phone out and used it to start playing Taylor Swift’s song’s “Blank Space” claiming that the recording couldn’t be posted online.
“You can record all you want, I just know it can’t be posted to YouTube,” he is heard saying on the video. He repeats the claim several more times as the protester and the videographer confront him about it.
YouTube has a policy of removing video content that violates the copyrights of others, including musical artists such as Taylor Swift. However, it is often incumbent upon the copyright holder or their agent to file a valid Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaint using YouTube’s DMCA complaint system to force a takedown of the material. Some content containing copyrighted material is automatically handled in a different way if the copyright holder has set a content policy for their material.
YouTube, however, provides content creators ways to appeal such claims. If a video is flagged and blocked for a copyright violation, YouTube’s policy allows content creators to submit a counter notification where they can claim fair use.
If it were to be litigated or processed through YouTube’s copyright protection system, because the principal content of the video was the encounter with the police officer and the music was immaterial to the content, the video almost certainly would qualify as fair use on the basis of its value to the public interest.
The prank on Shelby’s part didn’t go unnoticed by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. According to Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the office, Sgt. Shelby’s actions have been referred to the department’s Internal Affairs division and are under further review.
Contrary to Shelby’s assertions, the video is still available on YouTube and because of his antics has garnered over 500,000 views.