Censorship (Entertainment Law) Law and Legal Definition

Censorship generally is the deletion of speech or any communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a body authorized to censor.

The term censorship derives from the official duties of the Roman censor who had the duty of conducting census. Now, the term has come to mean the suppression of ideas or images by the government or others with authority.

Censorship is most common in the entertainment industry because the entertainment industry has great influence on people. Public entertainment like theater and film affect the common interest and therefore is subjected to certain governmental regulations. It is lawful to censor obscene entertainment to safeguard children from pornography, and to guard adults from unknowingly or involuntarily viewing indecent materials.

Attempts to regulate or censor may often risk obstructing the free speech rights of playwrights, screenwriters, filmmakers, performers, and distributors.

In the U.S., the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) regulates itself through a voluntary rating system in order to avoid government censorship. The system does not have statutory authority. The MPAA devised a rating system based on the viewer's age. Different ratings given as part of self censorship are: AG rating which represents that the subject matter is suitable for general audiences; PG which stands for parental guidance suggested; PG-13 which advises guidance for children under age 13 because of possible inappropriate material; R which requires that children under age 17, or 18 in some states must be accompanied by an adult to watch such movie; and NC-17 or X which prohibits anyone under age 17, or 18 in some states from entering the theater.