More on porn laws

Since my last post asking about laws regarding selling pornogrpahy to minors, I’ve gotten a few comments I thought I would post here.
Konrad writes:

In general, the main piece of legislation re: porn is the decision in the Miller vs. California test:

Long story short, the main contribution here is the “Miller test,” defining whether or not a given form of speech can be categorized as “obscene,” and therefore not protected under the First Amendment:

“However, the Court acknowledged “the inherent dangers of undertaking to regulate any form of expression,” and said that “State statutes designed to regulate obscene materials must be carefully limited.” The Court, in an attempt to set such limits devised a set of three criteria which must be met in order for a work to be legitimately subject to state regulation:

* the average person, applying contemporary community standards (not national standards, as some prior tests required), must find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
* the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions[1] specifically defined by applicable state law; and
* the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

The third condition is also known as the “SLAPS test”. The work is considered obscene only if all three conditions, which together constitute the Miller test, are satisfied.”

As far as kids buying Playboy (and I guess the proper legal term here is “disseminating pornography to minors,” that’s handled on a state-to-state basis. It’s currently illegal in all 50 states, but the laws are set at the state level, so there’s 50 different pieces of legislation dealing with the same thing. To the best of my knowledge, though, they are all based on the Miller test. (As a matter of fact, all the current “violence as porn” efforts in state legislatures all over the country pretty much just want to extend the scope of the Miller test onto graphic violence, thus defining it as a form of obscenity and circumventing counter-arguments based on First Amendement protections…)

Robbie writes:

There seems to be a bit of information on wikipedia:

It provides a summary of legal proceedings and the rationale that co-ordinated the proceedings, and links to to the cases themselves.

The basis of the first part of the section on anti-pornography laws being that pornography degrades the “grand idea” of free speech as is pertains to protecting other, more credible media institutions. The page quotes that pornography perhaps shouldn’t be protected, as it is a “crass commercial exploitation of sex” – which is pretty ridiculous as an argument, since you could attack any hobby/interest magazine or TV programme with such arguments. Furthermore, it continues to suggest that pronography degrades the moral balance of society, which is perhaps the best argument against pornography, and the one that would most apply to video-game regulation – even though it is merely arguing to keep the status quo, rather than perhaps what may be a very culturally valuable medium in times to come.

grumpy_archmage writes:

Well, here in Arkansas, there is a law prohibiting the salf of “[…], pictures, clothing, or other materials which are immoral, lewd, obscene, indecent, or offensive” with contact of the Prosecuting Attorney being the action taken. (Arkansas Code 2-36-103. Sale of immoral, lewd, etc., items.)

As far as pornography, the Arkansas Law states that its a class B misdemeanor to sell porn or show porn movies to minors or to display the bottom 2/3 of a porn dvd. Oddly enough, the law does not apply if 1) the parent, legal guardian, or aunt/uncle/grandparent gives the clerk permission to sell it to the kid, 2) the said family member actually sells it to them, or 3) the said family member gives permission to show or shows themself a porn movie to the kid. Talk about a crazy law… (Arkansas Codes 5-68-501, 502, and 503 Selling or Loaning Pornography to Minors)

Jythie writes:

It usually falls under umbrella ‘corruption of a minor’ laws. Such laws can be used to prosecute almost anything if you can convince a judge that it is bad enough. Their application is not generally federal.

I’ve actually seen the same law used to take kids away from parents with unpopular religions, nudists, polly folks, kinksters, etc.

As for stores selling porn, they tend to be on thin-ice in many areas as it is, so mostly they just don’t want to attract irate parrent by simply not allowing such sales. Obsentiy laws can be applied anywhere a complainer feels they can cause trouble.

Finally, jabrwock writes:

I usually go to a state’s website and look up “obscenity” & “nudity” in their statutes. It usually returns the applicable laws such as definitions, fines, etc.

For an overall definition as approved by the Supreme Court, see the Miller test. It’s left up to each state to determine what “sexual conduct” actually means, and what penalties to assign.

For example, in Washinton State, I went to, clicked on “search” and typed “obscene” & “nudity” into the search box, and asked it to search in the various sections. It returned all the different laws that apply to obscenity, covering sexual conduct, sexually explicit, etc.

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  1. Jake


    Off topic but I just saw your Dave and Steve’s Video Game Explosion post and I realized that I have 3 episodes taped. I am going to post them on youtube or something in the very near future.