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Indiana Explicit Materials Law Struck Down

An Indiana state law that required vendors of “explicit material” to register with the state and pay a $250 fee has been crushed in a resounding victory for free speech rights in the Hoosier State.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker axed the law as overbroad, holding that it applied to lawful, nonobscene, nonpornographic materials being sold to adults.

A romance novel sold at a drugstore, a magazine offering sex advice in a grocery store checkout line, an R-rated DVD sold by a video rental shop, a collection of old Playboy magazines sold by a widow at a garage sale … would appear to necessitate registration under the statute.

Not only were sellers required to register before they could sell books, based entirely upon their content (which evokes shades of nazi Germany), but they were required to pay a $250 tax in order to do so.

It is ‘well established that the First Amendment protects against the imposition of charges, such as a [licensing fee or] tax[], for the enjoyment of free speech rights…&

The court noted that the government can collect fees to defray the cost of legitimate regulations, but “the government may not impose a financial burden on the exercise of speech by virtue of its content.”

The court held that the $250 fee was “clearly content-based” and did not buy any of the State’s arguments that the fee was necessary. “In our judgment, the imposition of such an exorbitant fee is itself a punitive measure collected as a condition to the pursuit of activities whose enjoyment is guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

What I find incredible is that a licensed attorney, let alone the attorney general of a state, would make an argument that in order to sell books, an American should have to register with the government and pay a “sin tax” on those books. Bravo to Judge Barker.

See Big Hat Books v. Adams.

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