A Beverly Hills police officer was seen on camera playing music on his phone during a live-streamed interaction with a citizen and, according to Vice, some are speculating he was attempting to trigger Instagram’s copyright protection algorithm so the video would get booted from the platform.
Last Friday, L.A. activist Sennett Devermont was filming himself during a visit to the Beverly Hills Police Department to request body camera footage of an incident in which he believed he had been unfairly ticketed, when Sergeant Billy Fair began playing Sublime’s 1997 love/revenge ballad, “Santeria.”
Devermont subsequently shared the video with his 30,000 Instagram followers, stating in the accompanying text, “I believe Sergeant Fair aka BILLY FAIR is using copyrighted music to keep me from being able to play these videos on social media. Then tells me in the second video he couldn’t hear be earlier in the day and also couldn’t hear me then, all while playing music.”
While Fair does seem a bit put out in the video after he notices he’s being live-streamed and asks Devermont how many people are watching, to which Devermont replies, “Enough.” Devermont then says, “Sir, you’re putting on music as I’m trying to talk to you. Can you turn that off? It’s a little ridiculous. ”
Looking into his cell phone as the tune continues, Fair responds, “I’m just trying to see how many people are watching this. Since you couldn’t answer my simple question, I’m trying to find out myself.”
“It’s not on there, right?” Devermont challenges.
“Well, it’s not,” Fair says. “Apparently, you turned it off.”
“No it’s still there,” Devermont informs the sergeant, adding, “but I’ve got ways of getting rid of things like this.”
That segment ends with Fair offering, “Well, let me go get you the answers to your question.” The video then moves to the street, where Fair is still playing the Sublime song while Devermont demands answers and Fair says he can’t hear him.
That scene concludes with Devermont noting that Fair isn’t wearing a body cam and saying, “No good, champ!” while walking away. Devermont then suggests that Fair read the comments on his video to learn “what people are saying.”
“I read the comments,” Fair replies. “They talk about how fake you are.” He then holds his phone toward Devermont, saying, “Listen to the music.”
According to Vice, Fair’s ad hoc deejay performance “seems to be an intentional (if misguided) tactic to use social media companies’ copyright protection policies to prevent himself from being filmed. Instagram in particular has been increasingly strict on posting copyrighted material. Any video that contains music, even if it’s playing in the background, is potentially subject to removal by Instagram.”
Devermont—who shared a private video with Vice that reportedly shows another cop drowning him out with the Beatles’ “In My Life”—believes that Fair and other officers are counting on Instagram’s copyright-seeking algorithm to automatically detect and delete troublesome videos, or that the copyright owners will complain and have the footage removed later. But for such a plan to work—and it didn’t—it would require the masterminds to have a solid understanding of Instagram’s rules, and even Instagram can barely manage that.
An Instagram representative tells Vice that “our restrictions take the following into consideration: how much of the total video contains recorded music, the total number of songs in the video, and the length of individual song(s) included in the video.”
In a statement to Vice, the BHPD said that “the playing of music while accepting a complaint or answering questions is not a procedure that has been recommended by Beverly Hills Police command staff,” adding that the video of Fair is “currently under review.”
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