SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) unveiled a new bill this week in an effort to create a federal definition of obscenity that would apply to the internet.
Lee’s proposed bill, known as the Interstate Obscenity Definition Act (IODA), can be read in its entirety at the bottom of this post.
The bill would use the Communications Act of 1934 as its starting point, defining obscenity “…transmitted via interstate or foreign communications,” according to a press release from his office.
“Obscenity is not protected speech under the First Amendment and is prohibited from interstate or foreign transmission under U.S. law,” Lee stated. “But obscenity is difficult to define (let alone prosecute) under the current Supreme Court test for obscenity: the ‘Miller Test.'”
In short, the Miller Test dates back to the 1973 court case Miller v. California. That case attempted to use the following measures as a test to determine obscenity:
- Whether the average person applying contemporary community standards would find 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; and
- Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
Lee said the Miller Test leaves a lot unexplained, such as which “community standards” would apply or which state’s applicable laws would apply. The current prohibitions, according to Lee, also diminish Congress’ ability to regulate obscenity.
Lee’s bill would specifically define obscenity as:
- Taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest in nudity, sex, or excretion,
- Depicts, describes, or represents actual or simulated sexual acts with the objective intent to arouse, titillate, or gratify sexual desires of a person, and
- Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Lee said the bill would also strengthen obscenity prohibitions by removing the “intent” requirement that only prohibits the transmission of obscenity for the purposes of abusing, threatening, or harassing a person.