Obscene words and the law

Law and Philosophy 2 (2):139 - 161 (1983)
Abstract
This paper asks whether the criminal law can have any legitimate concern with obscene language. At most, such a concern could be justified by the need to protect auditors from offense, since it is not plausible to think of exposure to dirty words as harmful or inherently immoral. A distinction is drawn between bare utterance and instant offense, on the one hand, and offensive nuisance and harassment, on the other. Only when obscene language is used to harass can it properly be made criminal. Finally, I criticize in some detail judicial reasoning in the case of F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, and conclude that obscene language on the public media is not properly subject to governmental regulation, whether- by criminal law or otherwise. *** DIRECT SUPPORT *** A9102008 00002.
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