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Sheriffs Who Raided Afroman Sue Him For Making A Music Video From Security Camera Footage

Sheriffs Who Raided Afroman Sue Him For Making A Music Video From Security Camera Footage

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(Hypebot) — Afroman did what many artists do best and put his real-life experiences to music, but not all the stars of “Will You Help Me Repair My Door” were happy with the results.

by Tim Cushing of Tech Dirt

When the Adams County (OH) sheriff’s office raided rap artist Afroman’s home, he didn’t just sit back and assume everyone involved operated in good faith. The raid was captured on Afroman’s security cameras, which the artist soon converted into a viral video/rap song entitled “Will You Help Me Repair My Door.”

The footage – which the deputies tried to prevent from being recorded by cutting power to Afroman’s house and unplugging any cameras they could find – showed the deputies doing all sorts of ridiculous drug warrior stuff. Like cautiously approaching a lemon cake in a glass container on the counter top. And rifling through CD cases looking for evidence of drug trafficking and – according to the warrant – kidnapping. And taking any cash they could find, of which $400 went missing when Afroman was allowed to collect this so-called evidence.

What wasn’t found during the raid was anything pointing to the criminal acts that supposedly justified the intrusion. All deputies found were a couple of joints and some loose cash. An investigation into the missing $400 by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations came to the conclusion this was a mistake by the deputies, who stated they had simply miscounted the take.

But that’s not the stupidest part of this debacle. The deputies who did all the dumb stuff caught on Afroman’s cameras — dumb stuff authorized by a piece of paper signed by a judge — are now claiming they’re the real victims here, not the person who house was raided and whose property was seized.

Seven members of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office who raided Joseph Foreman’s home last year are now suing him claiming, among other things, that he invaded their privacy.

Four deputies, two sergeants and a detective are claiming Foreman (a.k.a. “Afroman”) took footage of their faces obtained during the raid and used it in music videos and social media posts without their consent, a misdemeanor violation under Ohio Revised Code.

They’re also suing on civil grounds, saying Foreman’s use of their faces (i.e. personas) in the videos and social media posts resulted in their “emotional distress, embarrassment, ridicule, loss of reputation and humiliation.”

LOL. Fuck these guys. There’s no case here. The lawsuit [PDF] makes plenty of claims that might have sounded credible if these officers (1) were not public servants, (2) not performing their public duties, (3) not captured by someone else’s recording equipment, and (4) not doing a bunch of stuff that made them look ridiculous.

Fortunately, by filing this lawsuit we now have the names of some of the deputies who participated in the raid, which should only add to their emotional distress, embarrassment, ridicule, loss of reputation, and humiliation. They are Shawn Cooley, Justin Cooley, Michael Estep, Shawn Grooms, Brian Newland, and Lisa Phillips, and Randolph Walters, Jr.

These idiots, who love power but hate the accountability that very occasionally comes with it, are hoping a judge will force Afroman to take down his publication of his own security camera footage, prevent him from ever doing it again, and give them some of Afroman’s money because he had the audacity to wrest the narrative from their control. These aren’t public servants. These are children playing dress up — daft punks who seem to believe their actions should be eternally free of consequences.

They’re trying to bring a “right of publicity” claim against Afroman — an oft-abused offshoot of copyright law that supposedly allows people to control how their faces, bodies, images, etc. are used to prevent commercial exploitation without their consent.

It’s highly unlikely public servants recorded performing their public duties can prevent use of these recordings in any way that might conceivably result in monetary gain for the person doing the recording. That much seems obvious. This also seems to foreclose this action: it’s unlikely these seven officers (deputies Happy, Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Doc) will be able to claim that their faces/bodies as captured by Afroman’s security cameras have any intrinsic value capable of being exploited in violation of this law. To wit:

(A) “Persona” means an individual’s name, voice, signature, photograph, image, likeness, or distinctive appearance, if any of these aspects have commercial value.

Perhaps if Afroman utilized their “personas” to perform a faux endorsement of his candidacy for sheriff, they might have a point. But copyright law is on Afroman’s side: the footage used in the viral videos was captured by his cameras. And no officer was “exploited” individually for commercial gain. The entire raid, which happened to include these particularly childish law enforcement officers, became the basis for a music video.

Back to the lawsuit. Enjoy this paragraph, in which the seven deputies manage to misspell “plaintiffs’” in the opening sentence:

As a result of Defendants’ actions, Plaintiffs have been subjected to ridicule, even in the further performance of their official duties, by members of the public who have seen some of Defendants’ above-described postings. In some instances, it has made it more difficult and even more dangerous for Plaintiffs to carry out their official duties because of comments made and attitudes expressed toward them by members of the public.

Yeah, that’s a real shame. Too bad about those “official duties.” And Afroman’s video and Instagram posts utilizing his own security camera footage are nothing more than criticism of government employees — the kind of thing given the utmost in First Amendment protections. That he’s making money doing it is beside the point. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of someone else’s kitchen.

And, as for the worries about further reputational damage, the best way to stop this form of bleeding would be to take your lumps on social media, rather than call attention to your own deep insecurities with a vindictive lawsuit that ensures your names will be seen by far more than Afroman’s social media followers.

The deputies also claim they’ve been subjected to death threats. While that’s unfortunate, it’s neither here nor there. Receiving death threats is not a component of the state’s right of publicity law. And the deputies offer no evidence Afroman is encouraging his fans to engage in this sort of behavior. Indeed, if they had any evidence this was happening, they likely would have arrested Afroman for terroristic threats (or whatever applicable, abusable law is on hand).

This is a stupid, vindictive lawsuit that has zero chance of surviving a motion to dismiss. Maybe the deputies know this. They apparently had to shop around quite a bit to find an attorney to represent them, settling for someone who doesn’t seem to have much experience in IP law or personal injury litigation cases that don’t involve either car accidents or elderly abuse.

This case is going to get into unexplored areas of law that require expert guidance — not because the law needs to be better settled, but because it will take particularly deft maneuvering to keep the judge from spending most of their time expressing their displeasure and incredulity that a member of the bar would even bring this shit into their courtroom. Hopefully the deputies’ attorney has advised them the humiliation and ridicule is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.

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