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Twenty more states were considering such legislation in 2001–2002. (MPAA) issues ratings for motion pictures exhibited and distributed commercially to the public in the United States; the ratings are issued through the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA).

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The classification of "obscene" and thus illegal for production and distribution has been judged on printed text-only stories starting with "Dunlop v. Some states have passed laws mandating censorship in schools, universities, and libraries even if they are not receiving government aid that would require censorship in these institutions. These films show explicit, non-simulated, penetrative sex that was presented as part of a reasonable plot with respectable production values.

These include Arizona, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Some state authorities issued injunctions against such films to protect "local community standards"; in New York, the print of Deep Throat was seized mid-run, and the film's exhibitors were found guilty of promoting obscenity.

For visual works of art the main obscenity law in England and Wales was, until the 1960s, the Vagrancy Act 1838 which was successfully used in prosecutions against D. Lawrence for an exhibition of his paintings at the Warren Gallery, London, in 1929, Parts of the Act were repealed shortly after the Paraskos trial and it has rarely been used since in relation to visual art.

The Obscene Publications act is notoriously vague, defining obscenity as material likely to "deprave and corrupt".

An attempt to prosecute the University of Central England in 1997 over a copy of a library book by Robert Mapplethorpe was abandoned amidst derision from academics and the media.

During the 1960s and 1970s most Western countries legalised hardcore pornography.

The conviction in 1727 of Edmund Curll for the publication of Venus in the Cloister or the Nun in her Smock under the common law offence of disturbing the peace appears to be the first conviction for obscenity in the United Kingdom, and set a legal precedent for other convictions.

These common law ideas of obscenity formed the original basis of obscenity law in other common law countries, such as the United States.

The word can be used to indicate a strong moral repugnance, in expressions such as "obscene profits" or "the obscenity of war". is unusual in that there is no uniform national standard.

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