Lyrics legislation is rearing its head again in Louisiana, the site of a prolonged and bitter fight between pro-and anti-labeling forces last year. The difference this year is that the legislation comes in the form of two bills, targeting both retailers and record companies – including diskery executives.
The acts have been introduced by Rep. Ted Haik (D-New Iberia), who also sponsored last year’s labeling bill in the state.
First bill provides for fines of up to $1,000 and prison terms of up to six months for the sale, distribution or exhibition of each recording containing “lyrics harmful to minors.”
Second bill, targeting “producers, manufacturers or distributors,” would prevent those parties from selling recordings with “harmful lyrics” in the state by providing fines of up to $3,000 for each recording sold in violation of the law and by authorizing the prosecution of corporation officers as defendants.
If passed, the laws would go into effect Jan. 1.
Last year’s legislation was similar in tone and penalties. Passed by the legislature, it was vetoed by Gov. Buddy Roemer as being unconstitutional. The Recording Industry Assn. of America, which led the fight against the bill last year, believes this year’s model will have an even tougher chance of passage.
Michael Cover, director of state relations for the RIAA, describes the group as being “more prepared to confront this legislation” this year than last.
Per Cover, the RIAA has hired a lobbying firm in Baton Rouge and has met with various legislators and music groups in the state. “This bill raises the same constitutional problems and it still infringes the same First Amendment rights of artists and the people of Louisiana,” he declares.
While acknowledging that “this was a very expected move by Ted Haik; it was not a surprise,” Cover expresses some contempt for Haik’s actions.
“Ted Haik has broken his word in reintroducing this legislation,” per Cover. “Last year he said that if the industry would live up to its pledge to institute a voluntary labeling plan, he wouldn’t reintroduce the bill.”
Yet Haik has reintroduced the legislation, despite the industry’s implementation of such a plan. The reason, says Cover, is “to gain more name recognition for himself in an election year.”
Haik was not available for comment.
Cover notes that similar lyrics legislation is pending in New York, New Jersey and Texas.