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Roth v. United States (1957)

Definition - What does Roth v. United States (1957) mean?

The case of Roth v. United States was a precedent-setting case that took place in 1957. The issue of what constituted obscene literature was disputed by a bookseller who was being charged for mailing obscene literature in the form of a book.

At the time, the definition of obscene literature was very broad and any line within a novel that was considered obscene could make the entire novel banned. The bookseller argued that such an instance did not constitute obscenity and that the definition of the day was too broad. The result was that the court found that the definition was indeed too broad, although it still found that particular case to be in favor of the United States.

Justipedia explains Roth v. United States (1957)

Even though Roth technically lost the case, it was still considered to be a winning case for First Amendment rights in that it allowed books that were previously banned to be reconsidered, such as works by D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce.

The new definition of obscene language maintained that the broad context of the piece of literature has to be related to an obscene subject before a book can be considered likewise inappropriate.

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