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Supreme Court Sides With College Art Association in Dogfighting-Video Case

Adopting a stand urged by the College Art Association and other free-speech advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a 1999 federal law intended to keep people from selling dogfighting videos or otherwise profiting from depictions of animal cruelty. In an 8-to-1 decision, the court held that the law banning depictions of animal cruelty was overly broad and threatened speech protected under the First Amendment. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. called “startling and dangerous” the federal government’s suggestion that whether speech is protected should be determined by weighing its value against its societal cost. The lone dissenter in the decision, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said that the First Amendment does not protect the sort of violent criminal conduct that goes into making cruelty videos, and the harm caused by such crimes “vastly outweighs any minimal value that the depictions might conceivably be thought to possess.”

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