Can you get in trouble for writing a controversial song?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by dead of night, Apr 18, 2016.

  1. dead of night

    dead of night Member

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    Hi, in this day and age of terrorism and school shootings, I realize we must be careful about what we say, post on the internet, and what we appear to believe.

    However, are we allowed to write songs about anything? Can we be investigated for what we write, and arrested for saying certain things?

    I would like to write from the first person pov about controversial elements, and I admit it is to shock and gain attention.

    Is it maybe a better idea to avoid such instinctive urges?
     
  2. daacrusher2001

    daacrusher2001 Silver Supporting Member

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    The 60's was full of controversial songs that were popular with many young people but not the establishment.

    And what about all the (C)Rap. A lot of those guys got a lot of attention and fame with some pretty controversial lyrics.

    Are we allowed? Last time I checked this is still America.

    Depending on what you write and where it's performed you might get some attention, both good and bad.

    What did you have in mind?
     
  3. dead of night

    dead of night Member

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    Thank you for your polite response. What did I have in mind? The most horrible thing you can imagine. I believe I understand the mind of a mass shooter.

    To the mass shooter, people are not real, but "things" he has no empathy for. I would like to capture this from the first person point of view.

    I believe that mass shooters are reprehensible cowards and deserve swift and terrible justice. However, I would like to write piece of literature that conveys their psychology in the most frightening art possible.

    I'd also like to capture the thinking of a punk terrorist who bombs innocent people. They also have a viewpoint. Can I voice their thoughts? Would people understand? Would people understand that I can write a song like this, but also hate the punk terrorist who removes the legs of harmless bystanders who would never harm or think harm to anybody?

    Alfred Hitchcock did a movie about a psycho with a mother complex. That did not make Hitchcock evil, did it?
     
  4. dead of night

    dead of night Member

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    I already have a bad feeling about this. To any who may misunderstand, I hate terrorists. But I'd also like to exploit the shock potential of these subjects. I like dark subject matter. I think others do too, and still others appreciate the freedom of artistic expression.
     
  5. mojocaster.com

    mojocaster.com Member

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    Well, I was once docked points on this site for writing a song about The truth and facts of Christopher Columbus' life... You figure it out.
     
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  6. Papanate

    Papanate Gold Supporting Member

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    You don't need to be careful about what you say - it's about common sense - much akin to not yelling 'Fire' in
    a Crowded theater.

    You can write about anything. The only time you'll be noticed - is if/when your songs get popular.
    Or if it goes viral on YouTube. If you are talking about your 'serial killer' idea - I would strongly recommend
    you not pursue a first person point of view - first for your own mental health - and second if you despise
    them write about the victims instead - that would be more empathetic.

    When I was a kid there was a creepy song about death - DOA by Bloodrock. That song was Freaky to say the least.


    And then along your lines is the BoomTown Rats 'I don't like Mondays' - which is what a whacko
    had said as her reason for killing kids at a Elementary School. That happened at a school about
    1/2 a mile from my house. I didn't apprecieate Bob Geldof glorifying such a horrific event. And
    neither did most of San Diego. I won't post the YouTube because I find it reprehensible to
    publicize psychotic killers.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2016
  7. dead of night

    dead of night Member

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    Thank you all for letting me weigh my thoughts and garner some critical advice. The wisdom at this forum is meaningful and well taken.
     
  8. sahhas

    sahhas Member

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    There used to be this thing called "freedom of speech"....
     
  9. Average Joe

    Average Joe Member

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    You can write about anything in a song, but you can't do so and expect to not get strong reactions. And there might be particulars of the song that will land you in the hot seat.

    Say you write a first person narrative about wanting to carry out a school shooting. I very much doubt that would be illegal. Depending on how you do it a lot of people will think it in bad taste though, and will tell you in no uncertain terms. Be sure you are all right w being subjected to an outright **** storm before you release anything. If you do the narration in the voice of an identifiable irl killer, someone may sue you for defamation, libel, emotional damages etc. And if your song contains (or could be taken to contain) appeals to breaking the law you may get sued for that.
     
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  10. mute

    mute Member

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    You probably should think hard about the fact that while some will get it others will take it literally and that you actually mean it
    and some crazed nut(s) might at worst be inspired to do terrible things (in the unlikely event that your song becomes a hit).

    Some great songs are written in the first persona, Don't take me alive by Steely Dan comes to mind and also Sympathy for the Devil by the Stones -
    some people where convinced they where devil woreshippers because of that one - the title alone was enough.

    If you have some deep artistic desire to do it do it and then evaluate if you want to put it out -
    if you want to speculate just to gain attention you will at least get a free membership in the club of mediocre second guessing artists.
    ( always thought that writing about current events and such is a cheap shoot ).
     
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  11. msnes335

    msnes335 Supporting Member

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    Isn't Jeremy by Pearl Jam about the same thing? Sing it like Eddie Vedder, where no one can understand what you're saying, and you'll be on a stadium tour in no time.
     
  12. hobbyplayer

    hobbyplayer Member

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    Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    You have the right to say what you want without fear of the government censoring you.

    That doesn't mean you have the right to be free from criticism/boycott from the private sector.
     
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  13. Bessejenner

    Bessejenner Member

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    Read Crime and Punishment. It's the best book ever written, in my opinion, and is about the psychology of a murderer. If what you're putting out is done well, then it could be great. If it's done completely for shock, then it will probably be less interesting.
     
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  14. Multicellular

    Multicellular Supporting Member

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    Pretty much impossible in the U.S. The same rules would apply to movies, etc and obviously those are getting produced and marketed. I've written several songs from the point of view of killers and others with anti-social PD. For better or worse, I know way too much about really troubled people, I worked for years in Child Protective Services.
     
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  15. Washburnmemphis

    Washburnmemphis Member

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    Also "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster The People. Song sounds a lot happier than its subject matter.
     
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  16. great-case.com

    great-case.com a.k.a. "Mitch"

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    "Can we be investigated for what we write?" Not really, but that doesn't slow then down a bit.

    The DHS is investigating everyone at all times, listening and trying to connect everyone with everything, if possible. SocialNotworking is the source of lawsuits and employment disputes. In divorce court, your soon to be ex can show everyone your browser log...

    You want to write a horror story or a spy novel? You've been looked at and passed over already. You're no threat, carry on.
     
  17. ZeyerGTR

    ZeyerGTR Member

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    Of course you're "allowed" to. Nobody can tell you not to write a song, or even record or sell that song (the libel angle notwithstanding). There are millions of songs about all kinds of horrible things in the world. I'd be more concerned about writing a horrible song than writing a great song about a horrible topic. ;-) Look at other media - it's nonstop, chock full of death, murder, destruction and violence.

    Let's say you write a song that's shocking to a lot of people. You might lose a gig if you p*ss off the wrong person. You might lose fans. Who knows. You might also gain fans or gain gigs... Is saying what you want to say worth it? That's a question only you can answer for yourself.

    Absolutely. In fact, it's probably already been done a thousand times (Slayer's "Dead Skin Mask" comes to mind).

    Depends how good your song is.
     
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  18. slybird

    slybird Member

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    Are you in the USA? It isn't illegal yet, but that does not mean law and people will not put you through all sorts of hassle.

    People are getting hassled for what they post on social media all the time. Some are having a very hard time finding work because of things the have written, photographed, or said on video. It only takes one person to notice and then get offended for them to tweet. After that it can become like a snowball rolling down a mountain.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...emetery-says-finally-Google-without-fear.html

    http://www.usnews.com/news/articles...t-supreme-court-in-widely-watched-threat-case


    http://globalnews.ca/news/2537520/m...making-online-threats-against-a-local-school/

    In short, do what you want, but make sure what you have to say is worth any potential problems that may ensue.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2016
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  19. Phletch

    Phletch Member

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    Bingo. The whole idea of "freedom of speech" is the protection of what may be perceived as "unpopular" speech. Popular speech by definition needs no protection. You are free to say what you want, and other people are free to approve of or object to it.
    That is really the only "problem" you may encounter. Ignorant and uneducated people often automatically conflate an author (or speaker) writing/speaking/singing in the 1st person POV with the character in the piece. When you use the word "I" those people will automatically assume that's "you." We learned about this in English literature classes; I'm not sure that's even taught anymore.
     
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