Art and Freedom of Speech

University of Illinois Press, 2009

U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-38

4 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2020

Date Written: September 1, 2009


This book analyzes the broad range of Supreme Court cases that concern the protection of art and free speech under the First Amendment. Finding that debates about free expression (whether in speech or art) swirl around sex and cultural blasphemy, the work tracks and interprets the Court's decisions on film, nude dancing, music, painting, and other visual expressions.

The book draws on settings as diverse as homosexuality in the Boy Scouts, gay and lesbian parade floats, 2 Live Crew's alleged copyright infringement, National Endowment for the Arts grants and diversity, dangerous art, and screenings of the film Carnal Knowledge. In considering the transformative meaning of art, the importance of community judgments, and the definition of speech in Court rulings, the book focuses on the fundamental questions underlying the discussion of art as protected free speech: What are the boundaries of art? What are the limits on the government's role as supporter and "patron" of the arts? And what role, if any, may core social values of decency, respect, and equality play in limiting the production or distribution of art?

Art and Freedom of Speech explores these questions and concludes with the argument that, for legal purposes, art should be absolutely free under the First Amendment - in fact, even more free than other forms of speech.

Keywords: Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Free Speech, Aesthetic Speech, Art, Freedom of Speech

Suggested Citation

Bezanson, Randall P., Art and Freedom of Speech (September 1, 2009). University of Illinois Press, 2009 , U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-38, Available at SSRN:

Randall P. Bezanson (Contact Author)

University of Iowa College of Law ( email )

Boyd Law Building
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
319-335-9171 (Phone)
319-335-9098 (Fax)

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics