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For the algorithm in computer science, see Miller–Rabin primality test.

The Miller test (also called the Three Prong Obscenity Test) is the United States Supreme Court's test for determining whether speech or expression can be labeled obscene, in which case it is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be prohibited.[1]

History and details[edit]

The Miller test was developed in the 1973 case Miller v. California.[2] It has three parts:

The work is considered obscene only if all three conditions are satisfied.

The first two prongs of the Miller test are held to the standards of the community, and the last prong is held to what is reasonable to a person of the United States as a whole. The national reasonable person standard of the third prong acts as a check on the community standard of the first two prongs, allowing protection for works that in a certain community might be considered obscene but on a national level might have redeeming value.

For legal scholars, several issues are important. One is that the test allows for community standards rather than a national standard. What offends the average person in Manhattan, Kansas, may differ from what offends the average person in Manhattan, New York.[5] The relevant community, however, is not defined.

Another important issue is that Miller Test asks for an interpretation of what the "average" person finds offensive, rather than what the more sensitive persons in the community are offended by, as obscenity was defined by the previous test, the Hicklin test, stemming from the English precedent.

In practice, pornography showing genitalia and sexual acts is not ipso facto obscene according to the Miller test. For instance, in 2000 a jury in Provo, Utah, took only a few minutes to clear Larry Peterman, owner of a Movie Buffs video store, in Utah County, Utah, a region which had often boasted of being one of the most conservative areas in the United States. Researchers had shown that guests at the local Marriott Hotel were disproportionately large consumers of pay-per-view pornographic material, accessing far more material than the store was distributing.[6]


Less strict standard may lead to greater censorship[edit]

Because it allows for community standards and demands "serious" value, Justice Douglas worried in his dissent that this test would make it easier to suppress speech and expression. Miller replaced a previous test asking whether the speech or expression was "utterly without redeeming social value".[7] As used, however, the test generally makes it difficult to outlaw any form of expression. Many works decried as pornographic have been successfully argued to have some artistic or literary value, most publicly in the context of the National Endowment for the Arts in the 1990s.[8]

Problem of definition[edit]

Critics of obscenity law argue that defining what is obscene is paradoxical, arbitrary, and subjective. They state that lack of definition of obscenity in the statutes, coupled with the existence of hypothetical entities and standards as ultimate arbiters within the Miller test (hypothetical "reasonable persons" and "contemporary community standards") proves that federal obscenity laws are in fact not defined, do not satisfy the vagueness doctrine, and thus are unenforceable and legally dubious.[9]

Problem of jurisdiction in the internet age[edit]

The advent of the Internet has made the "community standards" part of the test even more difficult to judge; as material published on a web server in one place can be read by a person residing anywhere else, there is a question as to which jurisdiction should apply. In United States of America v. Extreme Associates, a pornography distributor from North Hollywood, California, was judged to be held accountable to the community standards applying in western Pennsylvania, where the Third Circuit made its ruling, because the materials were available via Internet in that area. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled in United States v. Kilbride that a "national community standard" should be used for the internet, but this has yet to be upheld at the national level.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Three Prong Obscenity Test", Professionalism in Computing (Virginia Tech), retrieved June 28, 2010 
  2. ^ Text of the decision and dissents, from findlaw.com
  3. ^ The syllabus of the case mentions only sexual conduct, but excretory functions are explicitly mentioned on page 25 of the majority opinion.
  4. ^ This is also known as the (S)LAPS test- [Serious] Literary, Artistic, Political, Scientific.
  5. ^ Godwin, Mike (October 2001). "Standards Issue – The Supreme Court, "community standards," and the Internet". Reason Foundation. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  6. ^ Egan, Timothy; Gary Ruskin (24 October 2000). "Wall Street Meets Pornography". 
  7. ^ Roth v. United States, 1957.
  8. ^ "Public Funding of Controversial Art". The First Amendment Center. February 1996. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  9. ^ "There is no Such Thing as Obscenity". The Ethical Spectacle. February 1996. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller_test — Please support Wikipedia.
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167 news items

North Country Now
Mon, 05 Oct 2015 08:56:15 -0700

Miller's test was overseen by Gray, Master John Danis, and Master Thomas Morrison. It consisted of patterns demonstration, self defense applications, freestyle sparring and board breaking. The Independent Taekwondo Association is headed by Grandmaster ...


Mon, 14 Sep 2015 05:11:15 -0700

(You can take Miller's test here.) That test revealed equally mixed performance in a group of 2,500 respondents polled in 2008. For instance, 86 percent knew that light travels faster than sound. But only 37 percent agreed with the (true) claim that ...
KSMU Radio
Fri, 25 Sep 2015 10:25:28 -0700

Although, things like the “Miller test” and “compelling interest test” give us guidance in understanding obscenity and First Amendment rights. “When government passes a law that may limit freedom of speech then government has to justify the law by ...


Tue, 28 Oct 2014 20:02:47 -0700

Republican Luke Messer seeks re-election to the United States House of Representatives in District 6. The 45-year-old Messer is challenged by Democrat Susan Hall Heitzman and Libertarian Eric Miller for one of 435 seats in Washington, D.C. The annual ...


Mon, 10 Nov 2014 12:15:36 -0800

2014 Moto3 runner-up Jack Miller was left wide-eyed and amazed after his MotoGP debut on LCR Honda's Open class racer. The Australian put in a mammoth day of testing work at Valencia, lapping the Ricardo Tormo circuit 71 times in just a five hour ...


Sun, 16 Feb 2014 10:45:00 -0800

I was a physics major in college. Physics is very hard — too hard for me it turned out, and I haven't cracked a physics book since the day I got my degree. One reason it's so hard is that much of it is abstract. You're learning about how the world ...


Sun, 02 Aug 2015 17:11:15 -0700

Now should Miller test positive, he would merely reenter the NFL drug program in Stage 1. No suspension until a second positive test. "It's not time to start the confetti and the balloons and all that," Miller said. "I still have a long way to go. We ...
Tue, 21 Apr 2015 09:30:00 -0700

While a significant percentage of cancer cases have no known cause at all, a number of environmental and behavior factors have been linked to cancer, including tobacco, obesity, asbestos, sunlight, and radiation. What percentage of cancer deaths could ...

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