N.Y. lawmaker seeks to restrict sale of violent, sexy music to minors

Tuesday, April 6, 1999

A New York state assemblyman says he wants restrictions on the sale of violent and sexually graphic music to minors but admits that his bill is unlikely to become law in the Empire State.

Robert D'Andrea, R-Saratoga, recently introduced a bill in the Assembly that would prohibit the sale of recordings with sexually explicit or violent lyrics to minors. Such lyrics would include those that “glamorize suicide, sodomy, rape, incest, bestiality, sado-masochism or adultery.”

D'Andrea's bill would also require recordings containing such lyrics to include warning labels.

Music industry officials denounce such bills as restrictive on the free-speech rights of listeners and musicians.

They also note that the industry's advisory standard — the Recording Industry Association of America's parental advisory program — is a voluntary one. For government to step in, they say, is a direct violation of the First Amendment.

Despite RIAA's content ratings, dozens of state legislatures each year consider imposing additional restrictions on music. Last year, industry and grass-roots lobbying defeated more than a dozen bills.

In February, the entertainment industry defeated a North Dakota bill that would have enabled cities to pass ordinances restricting the sale of material that is considered “harmful to minors.” It also staved off a Georgia bill that would have prohibited the sale of music recordings with parental-advisory labels to minors.

D'Andrea says he's concerned about First Amendment issues but that societal concerns outweigh some speech.

“You really can't say 'fire' in a movie hall,” D'Andrea said. “And I think certain things should be considered, such as language that is really not normal in our society as far as using it in public with youngsters. I think we should control these things.”

D'Andrea says he doesn't expect the Assembly's Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee to act on his bill before the end of the current session. He says the Assembly has never voted on his bill, which he has introduced for the past four years.

But he says he will continue to support the legislation despite the Assembly's inaction. Some of the music produced today, he says, is not appropriate for minors.

“I don't want to curtail anyone's right to free speech, but I don't want to see this stuff out in the general public as a standard of doing business.”