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Many law students have heard of “Movie Day at the Court” and Justice Potter Stewart’s famous line made during the first big wave of pornography of the 1960s: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it . . . .” Even more popular is Woody Harrelson’s depiction of Hustler publisher/editor Larry Flynt in The People vs. Larry Flynt. But in recent years, the battle over the regulation of pornography has received less attention. The government’s treatment and enforcement of federal obscenity law has waxed and waned over the years since Roth v. United States, when the United States Supreme Court constructed its first legal definition of obscenity. Prosecutorial discretion and the directives of the administration in power are the major contributing factors. While the Clinton administration was rather lax in its treatment of obscenity, the end of the Bush era was marked by some major cases that could lay the groundwork for future obscenity prosecutions under the Obama administration.
Don’t miss The 2008 Federal Obscenity Conviction of Paul Little and What It Reveals About Obscenity Law and Prosecutions in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law’s Spring 2009 edition (Vol. 11, No. 3). The Abstract for the Article by Professors Richards and Calvert follows:
This Article provides an inside perspective on the 2008 obscenity trial and conviction of veteran adult movie producer Paul Little, who is known in the adult industry as Max Hardcore. Little was sentenced by a federal judge to nearly four years in prison after a twelve-person jury in Tampa, Florida found him guilty of multiple counts of selling and distributing obscene content via the U.S. Mail and Internet.
The Article centers around comments and remarks drawn from four exclusive interviews conducted in person by the authors with: (1) Jeffrey Douglas, the California-based attorney who represented and defended Paul Little in United States v. Little; (2) H. Louis Sirkin, the Ohio-based attorney who represented and defended the corporate entities controlled by Paul Little in United States v. Little; (3) Mark Kernes, Senior Editor of Adult Video News, a leading adult entertainment industry trade publication, and the journalist who covered the trial of Paul Little; and (4) Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine and head of the LFP, Inc. adult entertainment empire. Each interview was conducted subsequent to Paul Little’s June 2008 conviction by the jury in Tampa but prior to his sentencing in October 2008. The Article contextualizes the case within the framework of the Bush administration’s efforts to target adult content for obscenity prosecutions.
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