Initially presented in the 117th Congress, this bill will be the first to be introduced at the federal level. The RAP Act would make it such that the Federal Rules of Evidence would limit the submission of evidence from an artist’s work that constitutes their creative or artistic expression against that artist in court.
Since 2020, prosecutors in more than 500 criminal cases have used artists’ lyrics as evidence against the accused.
“This legislation is long overdue,” said Congressman Johnson in a written statement. “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. When you allow music and creativity to be silenced, you’re opening the door for other realms of free speech to be curtailed as well. The government should not be able to silence artists simply because they write, draw, sing, or rap about controversial or taboo subjects. The Restoring Artistic Protection Act (RAP Act) would protect artists’ First Amendment rights by limiting the admissibility of their lyrics as evidence in criminal and civil proceedings.”
The First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of expression in this country. Yet, that freedom of expression is stifled when artistic expressions from recording artists are wrongfully used as evidence against the artist.
The RAP Act puts those safeguards in place to ensure that First Amendment protection is a reality for all artists in America.
The case against rapper Young Thug is just one example of prosecutors utilizing song lyrics against artists.