City takes down police brutality video

Check out the takedown I ran across the other day: “bad cop/ good cop absent”.

officer standing at pulled-over pickup truck

According to the description: it’s a police officer pulling over a pickup truck, talking to the driver and passenger, and pulling his mace on the passenger.  Tags include aggression corrupt police beatup innocent. Whoever uploaded this video was aiming to expose a police officer abusing his power with violence.

And what happened? The video is down now, due to “a copyright claim by City of Blackwell, Oklahoma”. Guess the city thought this video was pretty embarrassing, too.

Now, the city may well hold the copyright to this video, since it was evidently recorded by the police. But if anything qualifies for fair-use protection, it’s a citizen showing their neighbors what their government is up to—the core of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. Even if the city had the law behind it, it wouldn’t change the motive of this takedown: censorship.

UPDATE: (thanks to Alex Leavitt) It gets even better. According to this story, the video in question was obtained by the driver’s family through open-records laws, because police video in Oklahoma is required to be available to the public. In addition to probably overreaching their copyright power and breaching the First Amendment, it seems safe to say that the city official that authorized this takedown is failing to accomplish the public-policy aims the Oklahoma legislature expressed in that law.

3 Responses to “City takes down police brutality video”

  1. Oliver Says:

    The video has been posted to LiveLeaks:

  2. Chloe Says:

    Copyright law says that government produced document do not have a copyright and are in the public domain.

  3. Greg Price Says:

    Chloe: Yes, there’s an exception in copyright law that says what the US government produces is not copyrighted—but only the federal government. There’s a state law to the same effect for the California government, but I’m not aware of any such law for Oklahoma—in most states, works of the state and local governments are copyrighted just like any ordinary corporation.

    So this video probably really is under copyright to the city of Blackwell. But this posting of it was clearly a case of fair use and therefore lawful—and like with many of the takedowns we’re interested in, the city either failed to consider fair use, or illegally proceeded with their takedown notice anyway.

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