Headline RoundupOctober 2nd, 2022

California Gov. Signs Law Limiting Song Lyrics as Criminal Evidence

AllSides Summary

A California bill limiting the use of song lyrics in criminal prosecutions was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday. The bill specifically takes aim at prosecutors entering into evidence rap lyrics performed by artists as proof of wrongdoing. The legislation was unanimously passed by both the California Senate and House of Representatives in August. The new bill requires courts seeking to admit lyrics as evidence to “consider specified factors when balancing the probative value of that evidence against the substantial danger of undue prejudice.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom stated that “artists of all kinds should be able to create without the fear of unfair and prejudicial prosecution. California’s culture and entertainment industry set trends around the world and it’s fitting that our state is taking a nation-leading role to protect creative expression and ensure that artists are not criminalized under biased policies.”

The use of song lyrics as criminal evidence became a much-debated issue after prosecutors in Georgia cited rap lyrics from famous artists Young Thug and Gunna as evidence in an ongoing RICO case against the artists’ record label, which prosecutors allege is actually a criminal syndicate. A similar bill has been drafted at the federal level by New York lawmakers, but has stalled.

Coverage of the bill’s signing was consistent. Framing of the legislation across the spectrum was generally positive, with few voices opposing the bill quoted.

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