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Can you cite artistic expression when a court uses your lyrics against you?

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2024 | Entertainment Law |

A song is a work of art that expresses the thoughts, emotions and creativity of an artist. It can take days, weeks, months and even years to create a song as artists perfect every lyric and beat. But what should an artist do if their brainchild becomes a piece of evidence against them?

Rap lyrics linked to alleged racketeering

In 2022, an Atlanta-area prosecutor mentioned the rap lyrics of Young Thug and Gunna in relation to the racketeering allegations against them. According to CNN, the prosecutor cited lyrics like “I never killed anybody but I got something to do with that body” and “I’m prepared to take them down”.

Calls to protect artistic expressions

The use of lyrics against their artists led the creative community to call for greater support to protect artistic expressions. Applications of imagination or creativity that arrange words, sounds, movements and other forms fall under artistic expression. Aside from music, other artistic expressions include visual art, literature, film and dance.

A federal effort to protect artists

The Restoring Artistic Protection Act of 2022 is the first bill of its kind on the federal level. It seeks to limit the admissibility of evidence of artistic expressions against artists in court. Proponents of the bill stated that Bob Marley did not shoot the sheriff. And Queen frontman Freddie Mercury didn’t mean it when he told his mama that he just killed a man.

Mixed reactions in Atlanta

Reports from 11Alive showed contrasting responses to calls for limiting the use of lyrics as evidence. In July 2023, the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution to limit the use of rap lyrics in criminal trials. Meanwhile, a Georgia House subcommittee tabled the rap lyrics bill in February 2024.

Ensuring a smooth artistic journey

As there’s still no law that protects artists against their lyrics, it’s advisable to be extra cautious when composing music. If you have concerns about your lyrics, legal advice can help you deal with the complexities of artistic expression. This would help build your music career and ensure a smoother trajectory of your artistic journey.