University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
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Projects in Social Sciences

Constitutional Tests for Obscenity: Scrutiny of their Case History and Functionality

Supervising Faculty Mentor:

Dr. James R. Alexander

Political Science

Student:

Douglas Bench (Senior, Political Science & Journalism)

This paper examines the history of the three principal obscenity tests used in American law and assesses the value of each test, including background information on the legal evolution of the concept of obscenity. Through an examination of the case history, the paper reaches the conclusion that the Hicklin test, drawn from English common law and established as the principal standard for obscenity in American law in the late 19th century, is best suited for resolution of contemporary legal issues regarding the protection of free expression values in the vaguely-defined “community” created by the Internet.

Last Reviewed: March 18, 2005