Photo Credit: Victor Rodvang
New California Bill Restricts Use Of Rap Lyrics As Evidence In Court
California recording artists are celebrating the institution of The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act. Under the act, courts will be restricted in their use of artists’ lyrics as evidence against them in California courts.
According to Variety, bill AB 2799 was unanimously approved by the state’s Senate and Assembly in August. Now, Governor Gavin Newsom had made the act official.
A virtual ceremony was held for the signing of the bill. In attendance were artists Too $hort, Meek Mill, E-50, Tyga, Killer Mike, Ty Dolla $ign, and YG speaking on the importance of the new act.
Also in attendance were Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, and leaders from both the Black Music Action Coalition and Songwriters of North America.
Numerous artists have been indicted due to their lyrics being directly quoted in court and used against them. Most recently, rappers Gunna and Young Thug were indicted in a RICO trial, both of them having lyrics from their songs used against them.
A step in the right direction:
The Black Music Action Coalition said the legislation is a “crucial step in the right direction.”
Songwriters of North America co-founder and entertainment attorney Dina LaPolt said, “For too long, prosecutors in California have used rap lyrics as a convenient way to inject racial bias and confusion into the criminal justice process.”
“This legislation sets up important guardrails that will help courts hold prosecutors accountable and prevent them from criminalizing Black and Brown artistic expression. Thank you, Gov. Newsom, for setting the standard. We hope Congress will pass similar legislation, as this is a nationwide problem.”
Freedom of speech:
“The signing of AB 2799 (The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act) into California law is a huge victory for the artistic and creative community, and a big step in the right direction towards our federal legislation – The RAP Act (Restoring Artistic Protection Act) – preventing the use of lyrics as the sole basis to prosecute cases,” said Black Music Action Coalition co-founder and co-chair Willie “Prophet” Stiggers.
“The Black Music Action Coalition applauds Governor Newsom for his willingness to stand with Artists and defend our First Amendment right to freedom of speech.”
For the first time, the Restoring Artistic Protection or RAP Act, was discussed in the House this summer as various proponents spoke in support of federal legislation that would protect the rights of artists. A panel was held in Washington, DC on “Rap and the Rules of Evidence.” It was moderated by Shirley Halperin, Variety‘s executive editor.
During the panel, participants discussed how the practice of using artists’ lyrics against them in court is a violation of their right to free speech and a fair trial, and one rooted in systemic racism and discrimination.