Vice Squad
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The Withering Away of Obscenity Prosecutions

Obscenity laws in the US have not changed much in the US in the past few decades. Yet prosecutions for adult obscenity offenses have fallen off considerably, to the point that hardcore (but not extreme hardcore) porn of the non-broadcast variety seems to be de facto legal in the US. Tim Wu, writing in Slate, asks what has led to this informal decriminalization. Wu's answer: was a combined product, over decades, of the decisions of hundreds of prosecutors, FCC officials, FBI agents, and police officers—all of whom decided they had better things to do than chase around pornographers the way they chase murderers. Their consensus—that normal pornography just isn't harmful in the sense that, say, drugs are—has driven the current law more so than any official enactment.
Kansas, of course, is continuing to buck the trend.

Professor Wu first received (implicit) mention in Vice Squad with his speculation that WTO rules might lead to marijuana legalization; the first explicit Vice Squad notice came in regard to his co-authored book on the internet.

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