ATLANTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A new bill introduced by U.S Representative Hank Johnson would protect artists from having their lyrics be used against them during civil and criminal proceedings.
Rep. Johnson anticipates the RAP Act, titled after ‘Restoring Artistic Protection Act’, to target the issue of free speech.
“We need to do more in the state of Georgia to protect the First Amendment rights of artists, to freely express themselves without fear that their content is going to be used against them at some point in the future,” Johnson said.
The bill comes after the events of Gunna and Young Thug’s legal issues. Prosecutors say they face charges for gang-related, drug, and violent activities found from their songs and social media posts.
First Amendment attorney, Sarah Palmer, discusses the debate if the use of lyrics should be considered art or evidence.
“Protection for your ability to write music, to express yourself, to release it, for other people to hear it,” Palmer said. “Those are all really important things that the First Amendment provides a lot of protection for. It’s what happens after that music is out in the public and admits to criminal activity that your words can be used against you or restricted in some way. So people need to be careful about that.”
Music video director, Robinson Carrasco, has been in the industry for several years working under the name “Projekt.” With the trials in georgia, he fears artists like himself and his clients will have their creativity suppressed.
“It’s kind of like censorship,” Carrasco said. “Alot of people who consider themselves artists, who want to make music, who grow up in these rougher areas are used to seeing a lot of violence and whatever goes on in the community. And that’s what they want to make a song about. But now if they get penalized for that, it kind of puts them in a tough spot right now.”
Rep. Johnson works alongside Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York, another cosponsor of the bill.
They have gained support by large media groups from the Recording Academy, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Universal Music Group and many more. Following the support for this legislation, Johnson also hopes officials gain a new attitude for the music and its culture.
“It has always been a mecca of black culture, but it has become a mecca for creative and artistic expression,” Johnson said.