Just the other day, I complained about the fact that New York Federal district court overseeing the Google Books settlement apparently doesn’t plan to webcast the final public hearing that will take place on February 18 in this hugely important case about the future of digital books and copyright. Now I discover that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Florida, Georgia & Alabama) has issued a decision with even more far-reaching applications—allowing prosecutions for online obscenity distribution according to local “community standards” wherever a user might have downloaded the material—without even publishing the landmark decision!
United States v. Little concludes that Internet obscenity distribution prosecutions may rely on the community standard of the place in which the material was distributed — which means the government can try to download the material in the most restrictive community, and prosecute the distributor there.
If left to stand, this decision could essentially amount to a ban on hardcore pornography in the U.S.—with the definition of “obscenity” being left to local puritanical politicians in the country’s most socially traditionalist backwaters, subject only to some general restraint by the courts as to just how far the definition of “obscenity” can be pushed. Volokh continues: Continue reading →