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Law: Online Sources

This guide references Internet sources of information. A few subscription databases are included but most are freely accessible on the Internet.

Comstock Act of 1873 & Related Law

Comstock Act of 1873, 17 Stat. 598

  • Prohibits publication, distribution, or possession of information, medication, or devices for contraception or "unlawful abortion;" such cannot be transported by US Postal Service or across state lines

United States v. Bennett, 24 F. Cas. 1093 (1879)

  • Appeal of D. M. Bennett to overturn conviction for attempting to mail a book deemed obscene; court denied Bennett's appeal.

People of the State of New York v. William Sanger, 168 A.D. 835 (1915)

People v. Margaret H. Sanger, 222 N.Y. 192 (1918)

  • Sanger appealed conviction on the grounds the law is unconstitutional because it prohibits physicians from prescribing contraceptives in medically necessary instances; court affirmed lower court's conviction because Sanger is not a physician and physicians are already excepted.

Tariff Act of 1930, 19 USCS sec. 1305

  •  "All persons are prohibited from importing into the United States from any foreign country ... any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, drawing, or other representation, figure, or image on or of paper or other material, or any cast, instrument, or other article which is obscene or immoral, or any drug or medicine or any article whatever for causing unlawful abortion..."

United States v. One Package, 13 F. Supp. 334 (1936)

  • Tariff Act of 1930 "was not designed to prevent the importation, sale, or carriage by mail of things which could intelligently be employed by conscientious and competent physicians for the purpose of saving life or promoting the well being of their patients." (Lexis Nexis)

18 USCS sec. 1461 - Mailing obscene or crime-inciting matter

Roth v. United States, 354 US 476 (1957)

  • "The Court concluded that obscenity was not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press. The court determined that the test of whether the materials were obscene was whether, to the average person applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appealed to prurient interest, and that the lower courts had applied the proper standard. Because the material was obscene, 18 USCS sec. 1461 was a proper exercise of the postal power delegated to Congress to punish use of the mail for obscene material." (Lexis Nexis)

Online Sources for Primary & Secondary Legal Authority