By: John Woods (ROC) & Mark Bult (Western Front News)
Just when you thought it was safe to browse through your local record store again, guess what! Proposed Record Labeling Laws: THEY'RE B A A A C K!
Promoters of record labeling claim they are intended as an innocent consumer guideline for parents. In reality such labels will function as a "hand of death" to those artists unlucky enough to receive one; as major record distributors and store chains are intimidated into "not touching" labeled albums. One labeling promoter, Jeff Ling of the PMRC in fact publicly gave the game away when he admitted, "Do I think (explicit music) should be out; of the stores?" he asked. "Sure I do. And I think labeling will do that."
Here is some info on states with labeling bills proposed in 1991.
A bill introduced to the Texas legislature in March makes it illegal to sell or distribute recordings with "harmful lyrics" to an unmarried minor in that state. Such a sale would be unlawful unless the recordings package was stickered with a label "identical in type, size, wording and color specifications" to the RIAA's voluntary sticker.
A new twist to the Texas bill is the fact that it prohibits retailers to "exhibit' an album with so-called "harmful lyrics," even when stickered.
While the bill, (RHB 1017) defines a violator of the bill as "a producer, manufacturer or distributor of a recording, but not a retailer selling to the consumer," the bill is expected to impact retail stores in the form of raids and seizure of the allegedly objectionable product.
Representative Al Edwards (R) introduced the bill. "We have to do something about these kind of lyrics, it's a disgrace." Edwards told BILLBOARD magazine in March. "I want to focus on the record companies, we expect opposition, but we'll expect to get some mothers to come down and testify, at the upcoming Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Hearings."
The "harmful lyrics' targeted by the Edward bill include those dealing with "the advocation of sexual assault, sado-masochism, bestiality, prostitution, homicide, sexual intercourse, unlawful ritualistic acts, suicide, the illegal use of a controlled substance or the commission of a crime against a person or property because of a person's sex, race, ethnic origin, religion, or national origin.
A Republican New York Senator introduced a bill in January that would prohibit the sale of so-called "controversial" albums to minors and would make such a sale punishable by a misdemeanor civil penalty, a fine of up to $250.
The bill does not adhere to albums currently being stickered as a part of the recording industry's self-imposed labeling system.
While the sale of albums with the industry-wide label will not be considered illegal, the sale to a minor of any album deemed "controversial" that is not stickered by a New York State Sticker, will be punishable by the law. The N.Y. state sticker would read: WARNING: THIS RECORDING MAY CONTAIN OFFENSIVE LYRICS WHICH MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN. PARENTAL GUIDANCE IS ADVISED."
The bill, introduced by Sen.Joseph Holland, forbids the sale of such material to people under the age of 16. The restrictions do not apply to albums purchased by mailorder.
In other related news, we have learned that Louisiana has two labeling bills proposed. One calls for the arrest, fining and imprisonment of retailers who sell or display albums that have been deemed "harmful to minors."
The second bill is aimed at the record companies and distributors. It calls for fines of up to $3000 for sending these "harmful" albums into the State.
Over the next few months we can expect to see similar bills introduced in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada, and Utah.
R.O.C. will be keeping a very close eye on the developments of these laws. We ask our readers in these states to help us by sending local press and other information about them.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The information concerning the Texas & New York bills was taken, with permission from WESTERN FRONT NEWS. We thank Editor/Publisher Mark Bult for allowing us to use it. --JW.