One of Comstock's first actions was to obtain the passage of a strong federal indecency law--which was then used to pursue authors and publishers of novels including works by Balzac and Tolstoy. This law today is largely dead on the books though never repealed, as a result of many leading free speech cases. Senator James Exon of Nebraska, in proposing the Communications Decency Act in 1995, reinvigorated the Comstock law in two ways. His vague Internet indecency language echoed part of the wording of the original Comstock law. Even more outrageously, the CDA extended portions of the Comstock law to information transmitted over the Internet. As a result, some long-disused language banning the distribution of abortion information became federal law again--until the Justice Department stood up in federal court in Brooklyn and announced that the government would not attempt to enforce this provision of the CDA.
The CDA restored to federal law a crime involving the distribution of "indecent" material even though it had literary or artistic value-- and allowed a jury to make the decision based on "contemporary community standards." Effectively, a law of the type under which "Nausicaa" was deemed too dirty to distribute was back on the books for the first time in many decades. Could an online version of Joyce be censored again?--http://www.spectacle.org/398/gertie.html
We can escape history and break out of the infinite series of repeated folly by understanding freedom of speech to mean protecting the next James Joyce-- in print, on the Web, or in a medium undreamed of yet.--http://www.spectacle.org/398/gertie.html