George Carlin has died at 71. Carlin represents one of the few entertainers to have a significant impact on the law with his showdown over profanity in his monologues. His famous stand up routine on “”Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television” is linked below. The Supreme Court case on his “filthy words” is linked below as well.
Carlin’s fight over the right to use the seven words led to the famous 5-4 decision before the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that while not obscene the language was indecent and upheld the FCC action against Carlin. Click here for the opinion. The decision allowed the government to place limitations on the time and place of certain language — “channeling” some language to protect audiences of children etc.
Justice Stevens wrote:
It is appropriate, in conclusion, to emphasize the narrowness of our holding. This case does not involve a two-way radio conversation between a cab driver and a dispatcher, or a telecast of an Elizabethan comedy. We have not decided that an occasional expletive in either setting would justify any sanction or, indeed, that this broadcast would justify a criminal prosecution. The Commission’s decision rested entirely on a nuisance rationale under which context is all-important. The concept requires consideration of a host of variables. The time of day was emphasized by the Commission. The content of the program in which the language is used will also affect the composition of the audience,[note 29] and differences between radio, television, and perhaps closed-circuit transmissions, may also be relevant. As Mr. Justice Sutherland wrote, a “nuisance may be merely a right thing in the wrong place,–like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard.” Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 388. We simply hold that when the Commission finds that a pig has entered the parlor, the exercise  of its regulatory power does not depend on proof that the pig is obscene.
For the full story, click here.
For the video of the seven words that you cannot use on television, click here. [WARNING BAD LANGUAGE]