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1. FCC: "Shut Celebs' Dirty Mouths!"
Highest Court Supreme Court of the United States
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
United States of America
Defendants ABC, Inc.
CBS Television
Fox Television
NBC Television
Television Station(s)
Other Bono
Cher
Socialite(s)
Short Description In 2004, Bono got up on stage at the Golden Globe Awards and said, "This is really, really, fucking brilliant." That fleeting use of the f-bomb led to the FCC rewriting its policy and finding the single use of the word could lead to sanctions for offensive broadcasting. Previously, there had been an unofficial policy granting immunity for single uses. Prior to that decision, in 2002, Cher was at the Billboard Awards and said, "I've also had critics for the last 40 years saying that I was on my way out every year. Right. So fuck 'em." At the same award show a year later, Paris Hilton said, regarding the TV reality show that brought her mainstream fame, "Why do they even call it 'The Simple Life?' Have you ever tried to get cow shit out of a Prada purse? It's not so fucking simple." FOX broadcasting took the FCC up to the Supreme Court, arguing that the FCC was unable to radically change its policy regarding these fleeting uses; however, the Supreme Court found that the FCC was allowed to make the changes under its governing legislation. The FCC could demonstrate a rational reason for changing its interpretation of law. The FCC was allowed to be concerned that tolerating fleeting uses could lead to more frequent use of obscenities. The Court sidestepped the fear that smaller stations would be unable to afford equipment to allow for real-time screening, noting "their down-home local guests probably employ vulgarity less than big-city folks; and small-town stations generally cannot afford or cannot attract foul-mouthed glitteratae from Hollywood. " The Court also permitted case-by-case determinations of obscenity, referencing the hooplah associated with the broadcast of "Saving Private Ryan" on ABC. - JMC


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2. Janet's Breast Costs CBS
Highest Court Supreme Court of the United States
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Defendants CBS Television
Television Corporation(s)
Other Jackson, Janet
Timberlake, Justin
Short Description When Janet Jackson's breast was exposed while dancing with Justin Timberlake during the Superbowl Half-Time show on live television, the Federal Communications Commission fined CBS, the station that aired the incident. CBS tried to argue the enforcement was an "arbitrary and capricious" departure from prior precedent, which allowed for leeway in such situations, but the U.S. Supreme Court, after numerous lower courts' holdings, held for the F.C.C. Honestly, CBS, it's not like you really thought boobs were supposed to be on live primetime TV. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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3. Girls Gone Wild, Then to Court
Highest Court E.D. Louisiana
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Film Director(s)
Film Producer(s)
Snoop Dogg
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff was a participant in a "Girls Gone Wild" video hosted by Snoop Dogg, then appeared on the cover of the release. She subsequently sued for violation of her rights to privacy and publicity, seeking economic damages. The court said a lot of things over a lot of opinions. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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4. Cop Killer: "2pac Made Me Do It!"
Highest Court S.D. Texas
Year Ended 1997
Plaintiffs Estate of Police Officer(s)
Defendants Atlantic Records
East-West Records
Estate of Artist(s)
Individual(s)
Interscope Records
Music Retailer(s)
Time Warner, Inc.
Wal-Mart
Other Shakur, Tupac
Short Description Estate of 2pac was sued by the family of a deceased a police officer after the officer was killed during a traffic stop, citing 2Pac's lyrics referencing shooting police officers, which the shooter listened to at the time. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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5. They Fought the Law, and They Won!
Highest Court Supreme Court of Washington
Year Ended 1994
Plaintiffs A&M Records
Alice in Chains
Artist(s)
Atlantic Records
Bertelsman Music Group (BMG)
Capitol-EMI Music
Criminal Nation
Elektra Records
EMI Records
Estrus Records
Geffen Records
GRP Records
Heart
Island Records
MCA Records
Music Distributor(s)
Nirvana
Pearl Jam
Polygram Records
Priority Records
Queensryche
Record Label(s)
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Schuur, Diane
Seven Year Bitch
Sir Mix-A-Lot
Sire Records
Sony Music
Soundgarden
Sub Pop Records
Tower Records
Warner Bros. Records
Defendants County Entity and/or Official(s)
State Entity and/or Official(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Soundgarden, as well as numerous other musicians and record labels, sought to declare a state obscenity statute regarding "erotic sound recordings" constitutionally void on its face, since it interfered with the artists' ability to freely express themselves, access their ideas, and manage their business . Ruling in favor of Soundgarden, the Supreme Court of Washington held that the statute was a prior restraint on the artists' protected speech, that the statute was overbroad since it reached constitutionally protected conduct, and that the statute violated due process. Judgment for Soundgarden. - SKR


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6. "The Man" vs. 2 Live Crew (I)
Highest Court Eleventh Circuit
Year Ended 1990
Plaintiffs 2 Live Crew
Luke Records
Defendants County Entity and/or Official(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description A Broward County sheriff found probable cause that 2 Live Crew's third album, Nasty as They Wanna Be, was obscene, and arrested a black retailer for selling the album. The rap group sued the county for restraint and First Amendment protection, but were subsequently arrested for performing the song in a Florida nightclub. The court reversed the lower court's obscenity ruling, finding that the sheriff failed to apply the Supreme Court's obscenity standard in Miller v. California. The court was unwilling to concede that the last prong of the Miller test, which requires determination of whether a work "lacks serious artistic, scientific, literary or political value," was met in this case. - SKR & LSW


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7. "Salacious" Song Still Copyrighted
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 1938
Plaintiffs Davila, Joseph
Defendants Music Distributor(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description In a suit for copyright infringement brought by a composer against a distributor of phonographic records, the Defendant distributor argued that the "salacious" content of the Plaintiff's song, "You made me like it, Daddy (That's why I love it so)," should deny it copyright protection. The court did not agree with Defendant, but nonetheless reduced the damages awarded to Plaintiff at trial. - LSW & SKR


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