, Research Paper
Social Responsibility & Freedom of Speech
In the case of Time Warner versus rap critics, the issue being debating is the allowance of violent, racial, and discriminatory lyrics on rap albums. “These critics called Time Warner irresponsible for distributing violent, degrading, and sexist lyrics and for making money by undermining community values.” After hearing these remarks, Time Warner responded by saying that rap lyrics express ideas, and are protected by the First Amendment. The critics alleged that Time Warner was using these lyrics solely to earn profit, and that they were “putting profit before principle.” In the specific case of “Cop Killer,” a song by Ice-T released in 1992, the lyrics suggested that you should get ready to kill a police officer. This song caused such a large controversy that Warner Bros. Records were forced to re-release the album without that song on it. Another case in Texas was extremely well covered by media because a teen who killed a police officer claimed that the music he was listening to at the time was what promoted him to commit such terrible acts.
One critic said that “?the Body Count album was similar to child pornography or racist hate literature. It was antisocial material that was inevitable in a free society and because it was probably protected by the First Amendment a direct attack on it would be fruitless.” Here it becomes obvious that what people say and sing is protected by free speech, and that it is the responsibility of the company selling these materials to determine what they want to publish and promote. The company must take on it’s own social responsibility.
I feel that the music industry is the same as any other creative field, and that the restraints upon it should be as few as possible. Although peoples opinions, ideas and artworks may offend one person, they are interpretations made by one individual, and must be regarded as such. We cannot assume that Picasso was painting abstract forms in order to discriminate, but we can look at it as artwork, and creativity of one individual. Just as Picasso paints on canvas, a rapper sings his lyrics. To censor lyrics, would be the same as denying the right of Picasso to paint specific objects. This limits creativity, and thus creates more bitterness among society. Although I would not want to subject a child to lyrics like “f*** the police,” I also would not want people telling me what I can and cannot paint on my canvases.
Freedom of speech is a central value to Americans. Here in the United States free speech is given legal force by the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from censoring spoken or printed words. But the First Amendment only protects free speech from the government. It does not say that other entities, such as firms, and corporations, cannot censor free speech.
Because of this, Time Warner and Interscope split and went their own ways. Time Warner wanted to censor singers lyrics because they felt a certain social responsibility, but Interscope believed that artists should have the right to express themselves freely. Although Time Warner no longer had Interscope as one of their assets, they were also freed from the responsibility they held in supporting Interscope, and Interscope’s artists.
Justice Louis Brandeis thought business could be used as a mighty instrument which we are morally obligated to use for the purpose of advancing civilization. I also feel that business should be used as a means of controlling our society. When a business starts to advertise, they have to act rationally, and for the benefit of society. Being a democratic society, we are granted certain rights through our government, and one of those is freedom of speech. These rights cannot be taken away from us, however, a business can control what they allow us to say when we are representing them. So in the cases of the rappers and musicians, although they have free speech, no music recording company has to allow them to sing about things that are violent, racial, or discriminatory. It is solely up to the individual recording companies to make the decisions as to what they will and will not allow on their musicians’ albums, and I feel that these companies need to act in a socially responsible manner. People will always make poor decisions, and later regret them. I think that some are using the excuse that music influenced them, in order to place the blame somewhere else. This tactic is unfair to the musicians who will have to stop selling their albums, and is unfair to the public because it makes people believe that music can influence one individual to kill another. I do not believe that music has that kind of influence on people.
That is why I do not believe that music needs to be censored. I think that people need to make their own decisions, and act responsibly without regards to the music industry. It is sad that people can blame their poor judgment on the expressions of an artist. I doubt that anyone would try to say that they killed an old woman because they had looked at the Mona Lisa, so why should someone be allowed to say that music made them kill? Businesses do control what they allow into the market, and I think that they need to act in a socially responsible manner, but I feel that everyone is responsible for their own actions, and that no matter what companies do about censorship, there will always be people looking for a way out of their own poor judgment. Whether it be someone who killed a cop after listening to rap music, or someone who robbed a house, these people will always exist in our society.