We stumbled upon ABC News' headline, "Could Rapper Go To Prison For Cutting Rap Album?" to discover Californian artist Brandon Duncan, better known as Tiny Doo, is facing life in prison for his recently released album. Yes, you read that correctly. What's the premise? Well in 2000, a law was passed by California voters that "allows for the prosecution of gang members if they benefit from crimes committed by other gang members." The prosecutor is arguing that Duncan's affiliation with local gang members contributed to the sale of his albums. However, there is no evidence that Duncan plotted the gang's shootings, nothing in his lyrics suggests that he participated in the gang's crimes nor do his lyrics rouse violent acts—moreover Duncan doesn't have criminal record.
The First Amendment protects our right to assemble and petition the government but it doesn't specify our right to association. There was an instance, NAACP v. Alabama, where the Supreme Court established "the freedom of association is an essential part of the Freedom of Speech because, in many cases, people can engage in effective speech only when they join with others."
The case excited many. "By that reasoning, Martin Scorsese could be charged for benefiting from the acts of Mafia members. They committed crimes, and Goodfellas re-enacted some of those (real life) crimes, which lead to him profiting from their illegal actions," said one Redditor while others are hoping this case travels all the way to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, this is—hopefully for Duncan—an illegitimate warning for Californian artists, "home of rappers N.W.A, Snoop Dogg, & Brotha Lynch Hung"—that your albums could be held against you in a court of law.
As an independent artist, what do you think about this case? Let us know in the comments.