Prior restraint is any attempt by government to prevent the expression of ideas prior to publication. As interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits prior restraint over the press as an unlawful form of censorship in all but the most extreme circumstances. Constitutionally guaranteed freedom from prior restraint does not protect publishers from censure for publishing libelous, obscene, or otherwise illegal content; it merely protects their right to publish before being punished. This entry looks at pivotal court rulings that have shaped the understanding of prior restraint in the United States.

The rule against prior restraint derives from the English common law principle that liberty of the press is essential to a free state. Most constitutional scholars agree that ...

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