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Legal Restriction and Protection of Humor

  • By: Laura E. Little
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Legal rules do not sort neatly into a discrete category officially recognized as “legal regulation of humor.” Indeed, legal restrictions and protections touching humorous expression are as diverse and wide-ranging as humor itself. Nonetheless, one may begin to understand how law and humor intersect by dividing laws into two categories: those that protect humor and those that directly or indirectly restrict its expression.

Legal Protections of Humor
The First Amendment

The most prominent law that protects humor is the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which governs the individual right to freedom of expression in the United States. As interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court as well as other courts in the United States, the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting both verbal and nonverbal expression. Accordingly, ...

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