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FEPP Archives - Issues - Art Censorship

Supreme Court Brief In "COPA" Case
(September 2001) - Four sexuality scholars' organizations, along with the National Coalition Against Censorship, filed a brief with the Supreme Court explaining that there is no body of scientific evidence establishing that minors are harmed by reading or viewing sexual material. Hence, the "Child Online Protection Act," which criminalizes "harmful to minors" expression online, is not justified by any compelling governmental interest. In May 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that using the vague notion of "community standards" as part of the definition of what is "harmful to minors" is not in itself unconstitutional, and sent the case back to the lower courts for further consideration. (See Supreme Court Punts.)

Not In Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and The Innocence Of Youth
(2001, 2nd edition 2007) - From Huckleberry Finn to Harry Potter, Internet filters to the v-chip, censorship is often based on the assumption that children and adolescents must be protected from "indecent" information - whether in art, in literature, or on a Web site. In Not In Front of the Children, FEPP Director Marjorie Heins explores the fascinating history of indecency laws and other censorship aimed at youth. Not in Front of the Children won the 2002 American Library Association's Eli M. Oboler Award for the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom.

Commentary: Our Children's Hearts, Minds, and Libidos:
What's at Stake in the COPA Case

(April 18, 2002) - and the Kama Sutra screen saver were just a few of the sites threatened with censorship as the Supreme Court prepared to rule in Ashcroft vs. ACLU.

CIPA Bites the Dust
(May 31, 2002) - A federal court ruled that requiring Internet filters in public libraries violates the First Amendment. See Ignoring the Irrationality of Internet Filters for commentary on the Supreme Court's reversal of this decision.

Friend of the Court Brief by 33 Media Scholars in St. Louis Video Games Censorship Case
(September 25, 2002) - 33 media scholars, historians, psychologists, and games researchers filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, opposing a law that bars minors from video games containing "graphic violence." The scholars' brief explains that, contrary to popular belief, most efforts to prove adverse effects from media violence have yielded null results, and that "experts on childhood and adolescence have long recognized the importance of violent fantasy play in overcoming anxieties, processing anger, and providing outlets for aggression."

The Next Frontier: "Intellectual Property" and Intellectual Freedom
(October 2002) - FEPP Director Marjorie Heins's Julie M. Boucher Memorial Lecture to the Colorado Association of Libraries, outlining threats to art and culture posed by current copyright law.

Culture on Trial: The Story of 3 Landmark Censorship Cases
(Winter 2002) - The trial that freed James Joyce's Ulysses; the case that broke the Catholic Church stranglehold over American movies; and the McCarthy Era case that ended teachers' loyalty oaths.

The Miracle: Film Censorship and the Entanglement of Church and State
(October 2003) - How the Catholic Church pressured New York State into banning a short Italian film in 1951, leading to a major Supreme Court case and reflecting church-state problems that plague American politics to this day.

Free Expression in Arts Funding: A Public Policy Report
(2003) - A survey of free-expression policies among state and local arts agencies, including ways of anticipating and dealing with attacks on controversial art. Includes background on the arts funding wars of the 1990s, and candid interviews with agency officials.

"The Progress of Science & Useful Arts": Why Copyright Today Threatens Intellectual Freedom
Music swapping -- encryption -- the frozen public domain -- where should we draw the line between rewarding creativity through the copyright system and society’s competing interest in the free flow of ideas? FEPP's policy report, "The Progress of Science and Useful Arts": Why Copyright Today Threatens Intellectual Freedom covers "fair use," copyright term extension, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and much more - without legalese.

Friend of the Court Brief in Supreme Court Internet Filtering Case by Organizations Concerned About the Digital Divide
(February 10, 2003) - FEPP filed a brief on behalf of Partnership For Progress on the Digital Divide, Harlem Live, and other organizations arguing that the "Children's Internet Protection Act," which forces libraries to install Internet filters on all computers, worsens the digital divide and thus relegates many Americans to second-class information citizenship.

The Strange Case of Sarah Jones
(January 24, 2003; updated February 20, 2003) - Where does the federal government get the power to ban a feminist rap poem?


The Free Expression Policy Project began in 2000 as a project of the National Coalition Against Censorship, to provide empirical research and policy development on tough censorship issues and seek free speech-friendly solutions to the concerns that drive censorship campaigns. In 2004-2007, it was part of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Past funders have included the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Open Society Institute, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

All material on this site is covered by a Creative Commons "Attribution - No Derivs - NonCommercial" license. (See You may copy it in its entirely as long as you credit the Free Expression Policy Project and provide a link to the Project's Web site. You may not edit or revise it, or copy portions, without permission (except, of course, for fair use). Please let us know if you reprint!