IdOMusic® Discussion: Is Dropping an Album a Crime?

Nov 21 2014 Be the first to comment!
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The beauty in being an artist is that there are no restrictions to what you create—barring contracts. From subject matter to cover art, you are free to develop whatever your creativity desires. Even our First Amendment alludes to the freedom of speech however according to Wikipedia there are some exceptions "including the Miller test for obscenity, child pornography laws, speech that incites imminent lawless action, [...slander] and regulation of commercial speech such as advertising." With a 20+ year history of profanity and raw obscenities in hip-hop culture, as an artist you rarely have to consider your content being an exception to your political right of free expression—until now.


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 incitable 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.

Read 17334 times Last modified on Nov 20 2014

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