Federal Obscenity Laws Outlined

Federal Obscenity Laws

Federal obscenity laws, which are not being enforced, prohibit distribution of hardcore, obscene pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite or hotel/motel TV and in sexually oriented businesses and other retail shops.

The 93 U.S. Attorneys (each state has at least one) enforce the Federal obscenity laws. FBI Agents, Postal Inspectors and Customs Officers investigate violations of Federal obscenity laws.

      18 U.S.C. 1461 Mailing obscene matter
      18 U.S.C. 1462 Importation or use of a common carrier to transport obscene matter
      18 U.S.C. 1464 Broadcasting obscene language
      18 U.S.C. 1465 Interstate transportation of obscene matter
      18 U.S.C. 1466 Wholesale and retail sale of obscene matter which has been transported in interstate commerce
      18 U.S.C. 1468 Distribution of obscene matter by cable or satellite TV
              47 U.S.C. 223 Making an obscene communication by means of telephone

Sections 1462 and 1465 cited above also prohibit distribution of obscenity on the Internet.


The role of the Federal Government should be, as it has been in the past, to prosecute the major producers and distributors of obscene pornography. However, rather than aggressively enforcing federal obscenity laws against large-scale distributors of obscene pornography, for several years the Department of Justice has targeted primarily small operations that trafficked in the most extreme hardcore pornography and prosecuted very few of them. Thus, illegal, obscene pornography is flooding our nation and the harm is great. Much can be done to turn this tide. 


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