USA bill aiming to ban lyrics as criminal evidence reintroduced in Congress

“We must safeguard artists’ freedom to create at all costs and work to eradicate the biases that come with the unconstitutional practice of using lyrics as evidence.”

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Image: Louis Velazquez

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A bill that aims to stop lyrics from being used as criminal evidence has been reintroduced to the United States Congress.

The bill comes with hopes to protect artists from having their own lyrics used against them in court.

The Restoring Artistic Protection Act, AKA the RAP Act, was first introduced in July 2022. It was then reintroduced by two Democratic congressmen, Hank Johnson and Jamaal Bowman, on Wednesday (26 April 2023). The press conference was also live-streamed by the Recording Academy, which advocates for the bill.

“We must safeguard artists’ freedom to create at all costs and work to eradicate the biases that come with the unconstitutional practice of using lyrics as evidence,” said Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, and Rico Love, Chair of the Recording Academy Black Music Collective.

“We are grateful to Congressmen Johnson and Bowman for their unwavering commitment to music people and look forward to working alongside them to advance this issue.”

According to the Recording Academy, there have been over 500 cases since the beginning of the millennium where prosecutors used lyrics as criminal evidence in court against a musician.

Mason JR. and Love continue by citing a 2016 report by the University of California, which found that rap lyrics – mostly written by young Black people – were more likely to be evaluated negatively than in other forms of music.

Congressman Jonson said: “This legislation is long overdue. For too long, artists – particularly young Black artists – have been unfairly targeted by prosecutors who use their lyrics as evidence of guilt, even though there is no evidence that the lyrics are anything more than creative expression.”

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