Bleep! Censoring Rock and Rap Music

By Betty Houchin Winfield; Sandra Davidson | Go to book overview

The Internet has created an interesting issue regarding obscenity law. A man in Memphis downloaded obscenity from a bulletin board in California advertised as "The Nastiest Place on Earth."16 The operators of the bulletin board system, Robert and Carleen Thomas, were convicted in Memphis, using Memphis "community standards," of violating federal obscenity laws. Both the trial court and the appellate court rejected the argument that the Internet comprised a separate community.17 Of course, music as well as words and pictures can be transmitted over the Internet.

It seems unlikely that the battle over music and its effects on society will ever be resolved. Some element of music will always grate on the interests or tastes of the majonity.

But the rights of the "best" of us are only assured by the rights afforded to the "worst"of us. Our ability to produce anything is only as good as the freedom granted to those who produce unpopular material, which pushes society's tolerance to the limit. As stated, the Miller rules are relatively clear and easy to follow; they actually ban from public consumption very little material. We have yet to fully deal with the problems that can arise from "global" and "mass" communication, but it appears that American courts have consistently allowed rock 'n' roll artists the freedom to express themselves as they choose -- with the shield of the First Amendment to protect them.


NOTES
1
Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 ( 1989).
2
413 U.S. 15 ( 1973).
3
Luke Records, Inc. v. Navarro, 960 F.2d 134, 135 (11th Cir. 1992).
4
Ibid. at 135 (citing United States v. Davis, 384 U.S. 953 ( 1966)).
5
See generally Luke Records, Inc., v. Navarro, 960 F.2d 134.
6
Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 25 ( 1973).
7
Luke Records, 960 F.2d 134, 136.
9
Ibid. at 138, citing with authority Pope v. Illinois, 481 U.S. 497 ( 1987).
12
See New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747, 756 ( 1982). See generally Sable Communications of California v. FCC, 492 U.S. 115 ( 1989); Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. 629 ( 1968); Action for Children's Television v. FCC, 932 F.2d 1504 (D.C. Cir. 1991).
13
American Booksellers v. Webb, 919 F.2d 1493 (11th Cir. 1990).
14
Miller, 413 U.S. 15, 25 (emphasis added).
16
United States v. Thomas, 74 F.3d 701, 705 (6th Cir. 1996).
17
United States v. Thomas, 74 F.3d 701, 710-711.

-77-

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