Pop Goes The News – Montreal Police were busted on April 16 for posting stolen video content on YouTube.
The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) compiled video clips from an April 11th riot in Old Montreal in hopes members of the public would help detectives identify those responsible for causing property damage.
One of the two videos posted on YouTube by the SPVM contained roughly 10 seconds of footage watermarked with the name of an Instagram account infamous for repurposing content it finds online. The copyright to the clip in question is, in fact, owned by John R. Kennedy Media (JRKM), parent company of this website.
The video footage was originally shared April 11th on Twitter, where it has since been viewed more than 445,000 times. It was also licensed to CTV News, where it was used online and on air by CTV News Montreal, CTV’s Your Morning, CTV National News and on the CTV News Network. Other media outlets, including LaPresse, posted the clip online with proper attribution.
Instead of taking the clip from the JRKM Twitter account, the SPVM took the clips watermarked by the Instagram account containing stolen content.
When the SPVM was notified that it was using a wrongly-attributed video clip, media relations officer Caroline Chèvrefils promised to bring it to the immediate attention of a supervisor.
Angélique Beaudet responded via email: “The videos that we shared were found on the Instagram account of MTLFLEXTV. The SPVM didn’t modify these videos and we will not remove them.” In a follow-up telephone conversation, the SPVM’s Mélanie Dupont promised the video would be removed and replaced with the original clip, without the unauthorized watermark, within an hour.
Dupont argued that the SPVM’s use of videos taken from social media falls under “fair use” – but Canada’s copyright rules require proper attribution. JRKM did not dispute the police service’s right to use the footage – only that it should not use a clip watermarked with the name of someone who has no right to it.
Despite Dupont’s promise, the video was not removed by the SPVM. This forced JRKM to file a Copyright Takedown Request with YouTube and, hours later, the video was removed from the platform.
Dupont did not address why the police service downloaded content from an Instagram account known for violating copyrights. The account, which is set to “private” but appears to have 125,000 followers, has used at least 15 different users names on the account since 2015 and maintains at least one back-up account.
Acting on a complaint from JRKM, Instagram removed the videos from the account.