A video uploaded by Oakland activist group Anti Police-Terror Project today shows Sergeant D. Shelby of the Alameda County Sheriff playing a Taylor Swift song during a conversation with protesters. That might sound innocent enough. But in the video, Shelby said his intention was to get the video taken down from YouTube for featuring Swift’s copyrighted material. That’s despite the fact that the public has a right to record police officers doing their jobs. Now, he’s being investigated for his actions.
The interaction took place on the steps of the Oakland courthouse on Tuesday during a pre-trial hearing for Jason Fletcher, the former police officer accused of shooting Steven Taylor in a Walmart in 2020. In the video, Shelby can be seen telling protesters from the Anti Police-Terror Project to move their banners. When APTP policy director James Burch questioned his reasoning, Shelby took out his cell phone and hit play on “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift.
Incredulous, Burch asked him if this he was starting a dance party. “I’m playing my music so you can’t post it on YouTube,” Shelby said.
He was referring to YouTube’s automated copyright ID system, which detects unauthorized use of protected material and removes infringing content. So far, Anti Police-Terror Project’s video remains on the platform. Earlier this year, Vice reported that Beverly Hills police attempted a similar maneuver: an officer played Sublime when an L.A. activist filmed him while attempting to get answers about a ticket.