A video posted on YouTube shows Santa Ana police officers waking up a neighborhood during an investigation Monday night as they blasted Disney music from one of their patrol vehicles to stop a YouTuber from recording on scene.
In the video, an officer said they were at a scene near West Civic Center Drive and North Western Avenue for a vehicle theft investigation.
The first song heard playing in the video is “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from the Disney/Pixar film “Toy Story.”
It was almost 11 p.m. when “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” “Un Poco Loco,” and other Disney hits filled the air. At one point, the YouTuber is heard telling officers to “have respect for the neighbors.”
The music drags on, waking up people in their homes, including children and Councilmember Johnathan Hernandez.
“It was eerie, and it was discomforting because you don’t hear Disney music being played that loud near 11 o’clock at night,” Hernandez told Eyewitness News during a Zoom interview Wednesday.
Hernandez is seen in the video speaking with one of the officers.
“Why are you doing this?” Hernandez asked.
“Because they get copyright infringement,” the officer replied.
The YouTuber is heard in the recording saying it’s because “he knows I have a YouTube channel.” That channel is called Santa Ana Audits.
On Wednesday, it had more than 3,500 subscribers and appeared to focus on recording SAPD officers on scene, a right protected by the First Amendment as long as there is no interference with police work.
Eyewitness News reached out to professor of music and copyright at Berklee Online Dr. E. Michael Harrington, who said the incident got into copyright law.
“I’ve been reading about it and seeing it on YouTube,” Harrington said. He was talking about officers playing music without purchasing the rights to it, a tactic to discourage recording.
“I think it’s clearly illegal because it is a public performance,” Harrington said of the officers playing the music loud enough for the public to hear.
In addition, when the videos are shared, the person posting it risks fines or even getting banned from the streaming or social media platform.
“YouTube has bots that go around and they match the song they’re hearing, and then if that’s on YouTube and it wasn’t cleared, then the music, the song recording and the copyright, they get taken down, and then the person [who] posted it, who is trying to be a good citizen to say, ‘Watch what this cop did or cops, they should be prosecuted,’ that person now gets a copyright strike for doing an act that’s far more important than what the cops are doing,” Harrington said.
An SAPD spokesperson told ABC7 Wednesday the incident is under investigation.
Chief of Police David Valentin issued a statement confirming the incident involved one of their officers. The statement from Valentin read, “My expectation is that all police department employees perform their duties with dignity and respect in the community we are hired to serve.”
In the YouTube video, Hernandez tells the officer, “I’m embarrassed that this is how you’re treating my neighbors. There’s children here. Have some respect for my community.”
The officer is heard replying, “I realize I made a mistake sir. I apologize.”
The two shake hands in the video.
“You know what? People make mistakes all the time, but unfortunately, we can’t afford to make these mistakes when we’re public servants,” Hernandez told Eyewitness News.
ABC7 reached out to others who witnessed the incident, but they didn’t feel comfortable going on the record, saying they feared retaliation. People in the neighborhood said this wasn’t the first time they’ve seen this happen.
Harrington said copyright fines can run anywhere from $750 to $150,000.
That’s times two because both the writer and the owner of the recording can take legal action.