Santa Ana, CA — Last summer, police began a trend in which they would play copyrighted music while being filmed so those videos could not be posted on YouTube due to copyright issues. Fast forward to this spring and this practice has taken on an entirely new and Orwellian presentation with entire neighborhoods being startled out of bed in the middle of the night by cops blasting music over their loud speakers — all in an effort to avoid transparency.
For years, the Free Thought Project has maintained a YouTube channel on which we have posted hundreds of police interactions. On several occasions, we were hit with copyright strikes — not because we posted music or copyrighted material — but because somewhere inside one of the videos, a song was playing on the radio or in the background.
In one example, we received a strike and a dashcam video we had posted, removed, because the cop was listening to a country song on his radio. Once police figured out that rampant censorship by Big Tech could help them avoid becoming "YouTube famous," they began to take advantage of YouTube's algorithm.
When police in Santa Ana showed up to a vehicle theft investigation on Monday Night, local YouTuber, Santa Ana Audits took to practicing his constitutionally protected right to film police in public. But police had no interest in being filmed and they didn't care if they had to wake up an entire neighborhood of sleeping children to get their point across.
The tactics didn't work — at least for now — and video of the officers disturbing the peace is available for the world to see.
In the video posted to the Santa Ana Audits page, police are heard blasting "You've Got a Friend in Me" from the Disney/Pixar film "Toy Story." As time rolls on, they move to "We Don't Talk About Bruno," "Un Poco Loco," and other Disney hits.
The man filming appears to be the only one who cares about respecting the sleeping neighborhood and tells the officers to "have respect for the neighbors." Police showed no such respect.
Santa Ana Councilmember Jonathan Hernandez lives in this neighborhood and was shaken out of bed by the music, telling ABC 7 how the music was "discomforting" playing so loudly at such a late hour.
"It was eerie, and it was discomforting because you don't hear Disney music being played that loud near 11 o'clock at night," Hernandez told ABC 7.
After he woke up, Hernandez went outside to confront the officers for such disrespectful behavior.
"Why are you doing this," Hernandez asked, to which the officer had no problem replying, "because they get copyright infringement."
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The man filming then chimes in, saying it's because "he knows I have a YouTube channel."
"I'm embarrassed that this is how you're treating my neighbors. There's children here. Have some respect for my community," Hernandez said.
The officer then made the admission that they were wrong and actually apologized, "I realize I made a mistake sir. I apologize."
Professor of music and copyright at Berklee Online Dr. E. Michael Harrington, told ABC 7 that this practice is likely illegal.
"I think it's clearly illegal because it is a public performance," Harrington said of the officers blaring the music in the middle of the night, waking up neighbors.
What's more, the officers' attempt to avoid accountability by playing this music opens up the person filming to potential fines and bans. Harrington said copyright fines can run anywhere from $750 to $150,000.
"YouTube has bots that go around and they match the song they're hearing, and then if that's on YouTube and it wasn't cleared, then the music, the song recording and the copyright, they get taken down, and then the person [who] posted it, who is trying to be a good citizen to say, 'Watch what this cop did or cops, they should be prosecuted,' that person now gets a copyright strike for doing an act that's far more important than what the cops are doing," Harrington said, reiterating what we pointed out above.
Police claim there is now an investigation underway and refused to elaborate any further, releasing only the following canned statement.
"My expectation is that all police department employees perform their duties with dignity and respect in the community we are hired to serve," chief David Valentin said.
Below is a video showing that these expectations were not met.