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Technology

Web challenges traditional obscenity standard

By Jeordan Legon
CNN


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(CNN) -- The Supreme Court has not taken up the question of what is considered obscene since 1973, before the VCR and the Internet revolutionized how people view porn.

In the landmark case Miller v. California, the nation's top court ruled that communities around the country had the right to apply local standards in deciding what is considered obscene. That was back in the day when most pornography was bought at sex stores or viewed in adult theaters, and when community was defined largely by geography.

Today, adult entertainment companies say the Internet, and cable and satellite television, allow buyers to access porn in the privacy of their homes without affecting the community around them or the standards of the people who live there. And the definition of community has been broadened by the global reach of the World Wide Web.

That's the argument the owners of Extreme Associates are expected to make when their case goes to court. The U.S. attorney's office indicted the California company on obscenity charges in August for selling adult films featuring fictional rapes and murders over the Internet.

Legal experts say the high court may ultimately have to decide a difficult question: If something is downloaded directly into a person's home, does the community still have the right to decide what its local members are allowed to see?


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