What is the legal definition of obscenity?

The U.S. Supreme Court set up a test for obscenity in its 1973 decision Miller v. California. The Court provided three “basic guidelines”:

  • Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest
  • Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law
  • Whether the work, taken as whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value

These different guidelines are sometimes called the prurient-interest, patently offensive and serious-value prongs of the Miller test.

Category: Freedom of Speech