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Library of Congress: Keeping up with the Joneses. Mutual Film Corporation.

Mutual Film v. Ohio

By February 23, 1915

The Supreme Court rules in its first film censorship case, Mutual Film v. Ohio, that the film censorship statutes of Pennsylvania and Ohio are constitutional because movies are a “business pure and simple” capable of “evil” as well as good:

It cannot be put out of view that the exhibition of moving pictures is a business pure and simple, originated and conducted for profit, like other spectacles, not to be regarded, nor intended to be regarded by the Ohio constitution, we think, as part of the press of the country or as organs of public opinion. They are mere representations of events, of ideas and sentiments published and known, vivid, useful and entertaining no doubt, but, as we have said, capable of evil, having power for it, the greater because of their attractiveness and manner of exhibition. It was this capability and power, and it may be in experience of them, that induced the State of Ohio, in addition to prescribing penalties for immoral exhibitions, as it does in its Criminal Code, to require censorship before exhibition, as it does by the act under review. We cannot regard this as beyond the power of government.

This precedent will stand for 37 years.


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