Obscenity Law


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© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Obscenity Law : Selected full-text books and articles

Deciding Communication Law: Key Cases in Context By 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 By Donald E. Lively Praeger Publishers, 1991
Librarian's tip: "Obscenity" begins on p. 125
Advertising and Public Relations Law By Roy L. Moore; Ronald T. Farrar; Erik L. Collins Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. 16 "Obscenity and Indecency"
Offense to Others By 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 By 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 By Roy L. Moore Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 11 "Indecency, Obscenity, and Pornography"
Pornography and Censorship By David Copp; Susan Wendell Prometheus Books, 1983
Librarian's tip: Includes discussion of obscenity law in multiple chapters
Government Commission Communication By Christine M. Miller; Bruce C. McKinney Praeger Publishers, 1993
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "The 1970 Commission on Obscenity and Pornography"
Discouraging "Objectionable" Music Content: Litigation, Legislation, Economic Pressure, and More Speech By DiLeonardo, Tracey; Dee, Juliet Communications and the Law, Vol. 25, No. 1, April 2003
The First and the Fifth: With Some Excursions into Others By O. John Rogge Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1960
Librarian's tip: Chap. VII "Sedition and Obscenity"
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