Political Speech

Political speech is the core expressive activity that forms the foundation of our democracy; it receives the highest level of protection under the First Amendment.  This protection includes art used in a political context, which covers everything from protest art to logos commissioned by political campaigns.  It also protects art that contains political aspects but has no clear political message, such as art that lampoons a public figure for the way they dress (which might also be considered parody).

In general, the First Amendment protects art with a political aspect unless it is found to be obscene or defamatory. 

Related Cases

Bullfrog Films v. Wick--A group of filmmakers challenged a treaty which provided tax and other benefits to audio-visual works without a political, religious, or economic message.

Celli v. City of St. Augustine-Celli challenged a law which prohibited the sale of his political poems and images because of a city ordinance restricting the use of city sidewalks. 

Cernuda v. Heavey--A museum director challenged the inclusion of artworks by Cuban artists in the Cuba embargo. 

Claudio v. United States--The artist challenged the removal of his work "Sex, Laws, and Coathangers" from the lobby of a Raleigh federal building. 

Cuban Museum of Arts and Culture, Inc. v. City of Miami--The Cuban Museum decided to auction some works by artists who had not renounced the Castro regime, for which the city denied public funding benefits. The Museum challenged the City's refusal to renew its lease. 

Ecko Complex LLP v. Bloomberg--Ecko Complex challenged the revocation of a city permit for its event. The event was said to "encourage vandalism".

Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corp--Lebron leased ad space at Penn Station to create political billboard displays. Amtrak rejected one of Lebron's displays, and Lebron challenged that decision.  

White v. City of Sparks--The city of Sparks required that artists selling works with "obvious religious, political, philosophical, or ideological" messages obtain vending permits. White challenged this policy. 

These materials are not intended, and should not be used, as legal advice. They necessarily contain generalizations that are not applicable in all jurisdictions or circumstances. Moreover, court decisions may be superseded by subsequent rulings, and may be subject to alternative interpretations. Corrections, clarification, and additions are welcome here.