California has adopted a “Law on the decriminalization of artistic expression” – Restricts the use of rap lyrics in criminal proceedings

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California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the “Law on the Decriminalization of Artistic Expression.” That’s what it means for rap lyrics in court.
The California Senate and Assembly unanimously approved the measure in August. The move follows a similar move in New York, where the “Rap Lyrics on Trial” bill would prevent prosecutors from using rap lyrics as evidence. This became the subject of additional scrutiny as rappers Young Thug and Gunna were charged in Atlanta for having their rap lyrics used against them.

“Today we celebrate an important victory for music creators in the state of California,” adds Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “Silencing any genre or form of artistic expression is a violation of the rights of all people involved in music. The story created today in California will help pave the way forward in the fight to protect creative freedom across the country.”

Mitch Glazer, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA, adds: “We welcome this key decision of Governor Newsom, which will allow all creators to express themselves and follow their artistic vision without barriers of prejudice! The RIAA actively supports AB 7299, because too often rap and hip-hop artists have suffered from the same exaggerations and images that other genres usually use without consequences. With the passage of the Rap Lyrics Bill in California, voices that may have been suppressed are now fully open to expression.”

In May 2022, the New York State Senate approved a bill restricting the use of song lyrics and other forms of creative expression by the prosecutor’s office. The measure is similar to California’s in that it does not prohibit prosecutors from presenting song lyrics to jurors, but it has not yet been signed by the governor.

This makes California the first state in the country to restrict the right of prosecutors to use rap lyrics in court. Prosecutors must now hold a pre-trial hearing to determine whether the lyrics are relevant to the case before they are used as evidence.

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