The Pornographic Secondary Effects Doctrine

42 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2008

See all articles by John Fee

John Fee

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Date Written: June 27, 2008


The secondary effects doctrine has made a muddle of First Amendment law. The doctrine formally holds that a speech regulation will be treated as content-neutral if its purpose is to control the secondary effects of speech, even if it facially discriminates according to speech content. It pretends to be a general First Amendment doctrine, but in practice it is all about regulating pornographic expression. This article aims to re-evaluate the secondary effects doctrine in a way that is more transparent. Appreciating the functional basis of the secondary effects doctrine is useful for understanding the doctrine's limitations, as well as for analyzing new types of regulation that may arguably fall within its scope. It also provides important lessons for general First Amendment theory, including how cost-benefit analysis affects the constitutional rules regarding content discrimination, and how the purpose of a regulation affects the level of scrutiny that courts apply.

Keywords: First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Secondary Effects, Pornography

Suggested Citation

Fee, John, The Pornographic Secondary Effects Doctrine (June 27, 2008). Alabama Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

John Fee (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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