Text as Obscenity:

The AP reports:

A woman who authorities say ran a Web site that published graphic fictional tales about the torture and sexual abuse of children has been indicted on federal obscenity charges.

"Use of the Internet to distribute obscene stories like these not only violates federal law, but also emboldens sex offenders who would target children," U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said Wednesday in announcing the charges against Karen Fletcher, 54.

Excerpts of her stories were available to all visitors to her Web site, while others paid to read whole stories, prosecutors said....

It sounds like the stories were pure text, with no pictures (or at least no sexually themed pictures). Obscenity prosecutions based on text are very rare, but they are in theory permissible under the "describes" aspect of the famous Miller v. California obscenity test: A work is unprotected if

  1. "the [a] average person, [b] applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, [c] taken as a whole, [d] appeals to the prurient interest," and

  2. "the work depicts or describes, [a] in a patently offensive way [under [b] contemporary community standards, Smith v. United States, 431 U.S. 291 (1977)], [c] sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law," and

  3. "the work, [a] taken as a whole, [b] lacks serious [c] literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

Thanks to reader Michael Bavli for the pointer.