New Video Shows Beverly Hills Cops Playing Beatles to Trigger Instagram Copyright Filter

In at least three cases, Beverly Hills Cops have started playing music seemingly to prevent themselves from being filmed by an activist.
February 12, 2021, 2:34am
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Image: M

Turns out that Beverly Hills PD isn’t just into Sublime—they also like the Beatles.

In a new video that LA area activist Sennett Devermont says was taken on January 16th, we can see Devermont trying to ask Sergeant Billy Fair—now best known for blasting Sublime at BHPD HQ—a question. But suddenly, he is interrupted by the mournful voice of Paul McCartney:

Yesterday… all my troubles seemed so far away…

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It’s the unmistakable opening of The Beatles’ classic “Yesterday,” coming from the cell phone of Officer Julian Reyes, who is standing nearby. Fair points at Reyes’ phone, as if to draw Devermont’s attention to it, and walks away.

Devermont, who is holding a “Media/Press” identification badge, then walks up to Reyes, who is still playing music, and tries to ask him a question. But the officer doesn’t answer—he simply stares straight ahead and holds his cell phone pointed towards Devermont, as the Beatles’ “Yesterday” moves into the second verse.

As VICE News reported Tuesday, police in Beverly Hills have repeatedly played copyrighted music while being filmed, seemingly in an attempt to trigger Instagram's algorithmic copyright filters, which could result in videos of police interactions with the public being taken down. Repeated infractions can result in the suspension of live streamers' accounts.

This video is the third that VICE News has seen from Beverly Hills and involves a second police officer, suggesting this is a tactic that is being employed by various officers on the force and was not just an isolated incident. The video also may also shed some light on why BHPD is so adamant about preventing themselves from being filmed. 

After getting the silent treatment from the officer playing the music, Devermont walks back over to Fair, who immediately starts complaining. 

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“There’s too much pressure when you’re here,” he says. 

Fair expresses his worry that something he says will be taken out of context, and repeated on the news. He then changes the subject, and this time a bit more cheerfully, asks how many people are watching Devermont’s feed.

Devermont turns his phone around, and allows Fair to have a look at the live stream.

“364?” he says, after Devermont shows him the number of people watching on the screen. “That’s kinda weak”, he says, looking at Devermont. “I’ve seen bigger crowds for you… you’ve done better.”

Less than a month later, the same Fair would blast Sublime at Devermont.

This strategy isn’t entirely surprising. Nick Simmons and Adam Holland, researchers at Lumen Database, which studies copyright takedowns on social media, noted last year that music in videos filmed at Black Lives Matter protests had repeatedly resulted in them being removed from social media sites on copyright grounds. They theorized that, while these removals seemed incidental, that copyright could be weaponized by police. 

"Law enforcement, or indeed anyone of any ideological persuasion who was seeking to prevent videos of a particular event from being shared online, need only make sure that copyrighted audio is present with sufficiently recognizable clarity and volume in the background of a protest or other event," they wrote. "A chilling prospect indeed."

Now, we're seeing it actually happen.