It is a commonplace observation that the law regards, and is right to regard, prior restraints on speech and writing with particular hostility. One fundamental question is whether the differences between prior restraints and penal sanctions imposed subsequent to publication are sufficiently serious to justify the traditional hostility to the former shown in American jurisprudence and reflected, to some extent, in European legal provisions such as the German Basic Law. A related question is whether all forms of prior restraint should be subject to the same degree of suspicion or hostility. This chapter examines issues related to prior restraints as well as the censorship of plays, films, and video, the use of prior restraints to prohibit the disclosure of official secrets and other confidential information, and the role of these restraints in contempt of court and the allocation of permits to hold public meetings. The chapter concludes by discussing whether the law should be equally critical of private censorship.
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