A California lawmaker is claiming that police in Santa Ana are playing loud Disney music from their patrol cars during stops in an effort to ensure any video taken of their interactions will be pulled off of the internet due to copyright infringement.
Santa Ana Councilmember Johnathan Ryan Hernandez told the council on Tuesday that he wants lawmakers to ban the practice after a video went viral showing officers blasting the music on a residential street in the city. The officers were investigating a stolen vehicle late at night during the stop.
Mr Hernandez appears in the video talking with a police officer from the Santa Ana Police Department after another resident asked them to stop playing the music.
According to CNN, Disney songs like "You Have a Friend in Me" from Toy Story and "Bruno" from Encanto can be heard in the background of the video. The footage was uploaded to the Santa Ana Audits YouTube channel, which films interactions with the Santa Ana police.
Platforms like YouTube have automated copyright detection software that flags videos with copyrighted content. This prevents video makers from uploading content using media they do not own, regardless of the context of the video, but it does not automatically delete or prevent the videos from being posted. It simply alerts the user that the video contains copyrighted content.
It appears the police are hoping that either YouTube's copyright detection will block the videos or that Disney will file a claim against the videos for copyright infringement, which would force the video owner to contest the claim or remove the video.
Attempts to have the videos taken down do not appear to be effective, as there are no known instances of police encounter footage being content claimed by Disney.
Police departments across the country have been trying to find ways to avoid being filmed by citizens. The efforts began after nationwide protests broke out following the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Mr Floyd's death – and the deaths of numerous other Black men at the hands of police – fueled the backlash against law enforcment.
Mr Hernandez told CNN that the individual filming the video asked the officers multiple times to stop playing the music, and that an officer on scene told him he was playing the music in hopes that it would not be posted due to copyright infringement.
“My people live here brother, please treat them with respect,” Mr Hernandez says in the video. “There’s kids that need to go to school, there’s people that are working, and you chose to use our taxpayer dollars to disrespect the man with your music. That’s childish.”
The officer eventually says he recognises Mr Hernandez as a city councilmember and apologises.
“This is my district. You’re not going to conduct yourselves like that in front of my neighbors,” Mr Hernandez says, telling the officer to apologise to the person taking the video. “Now get back in your car and do your job properly.”
The officer apologised again.
During the council meeting, Mr Hernandez called the practice "unethical" and one that they "can't condone."
“There is no reasoning to ever behave this way with members of the public, especially if you are an officer with a badge and a gun," he said.