Obscenity Law

obscenity

obscenity, in law, anything that tends to corrupt public morals by its indecency. The moral concepts that the term connotes vary from time to time and from place to place. In the United States, the word obscenity is a technical legal term. In the 1950s the U.S. Supreme Court began to relax rules prohibiting the possession, sale, and distribution of obscene material, often called pornography, but in 1973 that trend was reversed. The court ruled that material that appealed to prurient interest in sex and that did not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value could be banned as obscene. It ruled that a national definition of obscenity was not necessary and, therefore, that communities could develop local standards within the court's guidelines. The legal determination that material falls within a definition of obscenity is usually made by a jury.

See H. M. Clor, Obscenity and Public Morality (1969, repr. 1985); D. S. Moretti, Obscenity and Pornography (1984).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Deciding Communication Law: Key Cases in Context
Susan Dente Ross.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Obscenity and Indecency: Limiting the Reach of the First Amendment"
Modern Communications Law
Donald E. Lively.
Praeger Publishers, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "Obscenity" begins on p. 125
Pornography and the Justices: The Supreme Court and the Intractable Obscenity Problem
Richard F. Hixson.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1996
Advertising and Public Relations Law
Roy L. Moore; Ronald T. Farrar; Erik L. Collins.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 16 "Obscenity and Indecency"
Offense to Others
Joel Feinberg.
Oxford University Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "The Idea of the Obscene" and Chap. 11 "Obscenity as Pornography"
Interest Groups and Judicial Federalism: Organizational Litigation in State Judiciaries
Donald J. Farole Jr.
Praeger, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Legal Incentives in Obscenity Law," Chap. 6 "Obscenity: The ACLU in State Judiciaries," and Chap. 7 "Obscenity: The Organizational Threshold and Group Litigation"
Mass Communication Law and Ethics
Roy L. Moore.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Indecency, Obscenity, and Pornography"
Pornography and Censorship
David Copp; Susan Wendell.
Prometheus Books, 1983
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of obscenity law in multiple chapters
Government Commission Communication
Christine M. Miller; Bruce C. McKinney.
Praeger Publishers, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The 1970 Commission on Obscenity and Pornography"
Protecting Our Children and the Constitution: An Analysis of the "Virtual" Child Pornography Provisions of the Protect Act of 2003
Kornegay, James Nicholas.
William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 6, April 2006
Discouraging "Objectionable" Music Content: Litigation, Legislation, Economic Pressure, and More Speech
DiLeonardo, Tracey; Dee, Juliet.
Communications and the Law, Vol. 25, No. 1, April 2003
Avoiding Slim Reasoning and Shady Results: A Proposal for Indecency and Obscenity Regulation in Radio and Broadcast Television
Rigney, Jacob T.
Federal Communications Law Journal, Vol. 55, No. 2, March 2003
Suppressed Books: A History of the Conception of Literary Obscenity
Alec Craig.
World Publishing, 1963
The First and the Fifth: With Some Excursions into Others
O. John Rogge.
Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1960
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII "Sedition and Obscenity"
Search for more books and articles on obscenity law