Officer Claims Sheriff's Office Told Him To Play Copyrighted Music To Shut Down Citizens' Recordings
from the future-is-Denis-Leary's-'Asshole'-on-repeat-forever dept
The new hotness for law enforcement is trying to end the careers of police accountability activists. When approached by people filming them, officers from multiple law enforcement agencies have begun playing the zero-accountability hits, hoping that notoriously litigious artists like Taylor Swift and the Beatles will join forces to keep these recordings from being uploaded to social media sites.
The thought process is so simple a cop could understand it. When someone starts recording or livestreaming, crank up some music in hopes the copyright bots will recognize the track and shut the whole thing down. Even if it can’t terminate a livestream, it might terminate a few pesky accounts with enough copyright strikes.
One law enforcement officer straight up admitted to the people filming him that he was playing music in hopes of keeping the video from making it past YouTube’s copyright cops, much to the eventual dismay of his fellow officers. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has learned from this Streisanding, and has since made it official policy to forbid the playing of copyrighted content for the sole purpose of thwarting the recording of officers by members of the public.
Welcome to the flipside. Matthew Gault and Motherboard have uncovered a document written by an officer who deployed the same tactic claiming his employer specifically directed him to engage in this IP-abusing effort.
On February 25, an activist running the YouTube account Accountability Angel attempted to enter the LaSalle County Sheriff’s office in Ottawa, Illinois. James Knoblauch blocked her approach, ignored her questions, took out his phone, turned on Blake Shelton’s “Nobody But You,” and cranked up the volume.
According to an incident report obtained by Motherboard via a Freedom of Information Act request, someone told Knoblauch to turn on the music.
The recording of this incident can be seen here. And the report, written by Knoblauch, can be seen here [PDF]. This confirms previous reporting on the incident by Motherboard, which ran under the headline “It Sure Looks Like This Cop Played Country Music to Avoid Being Filmed.”
In the video, James Knoblauch, who had been chief of police in nearby Oglesby until he retired (after previously being removed from office) last year, approaches the camera. Angel asks why she is not being allowed into the building with her phone.
But instead of answering, Knoblauch silently reaches into his jacket pocket, pulls out his phone, and starts swiping. Moments later, we hear music playing. He boosts the volume, just in time for us to hear the opening strains of country star Blake Shelton’s “Nobody But You” featuring Gwen Stefani
Here’s what the report says [all spelling/grammatical errors in the original]:
Upon arrival, I observed a female, Angel Famer who I’ve had prior dealings with. At this time, I observed Angel holding up a selfie stick with a cell phone attached to it. It appeared that she was video recording from the vestibule area.
I then entered the vestibule area and stood in front of Angel and advised her that cell phones were not allowed in the building and that she would need to take her cell phone out to her vehicle or rent a locker at the jail.
As I was recently advised, I then turned on some music. At this time Angel became belligerent to me about the music. […] I continued to stand in the vestibule area in from of her. Angel continued to say I was denying her right and that I was an oath breaker. Angel continued to be belligerent towards me with comments such as, shut your fucking music off and called me “no balls.”
So, that’s the claim made by James “No Balls” Knoblauch, former Oglesby (Illinois) police chief and current court officer employed by the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office. Did his employer actually tell him to thwart accountability by misusing the intellectual property of others? Knoblauch had better hope so, since it’s right there in black and white on an official report. The Sheriff’s Office has refused to comment on the incident, which suggests it at least implicitly supports his actions. But it will probably take another set of public records requests to uncover the truth.
Until then, we can assume Knoblauch is aware of similar shitty tactics deployed by cops elsewhere in the country. What he doesn’t seem to be aware of is the fact that it hasn’t worked yet. All this shows is Knoblauch is like those other officers: someone who thinks the people should continue to cut paychecks for officers who respond to accountability efforts with open hostility.