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Freedom of Speech
in the
United States

eighth edition

Thomas L. Tedford
University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Dale A. Herbeck
Northeastern University

This award-winning textbook explores the evolution of our present-day free speech rights through major legislation and Supreme Court decisions. Guiding readers to an understanding of complex concepts with clear explanations, brief abstracts of major court cases, and numerous study aids, it shows how historical challenges to freedom of speech arise anew with the emergence of new technologies, political issues, and social concerns.

Thoroughly updated, the eighth edition integrates recent laws, regulations, and court cases, showing how historical issues—such as sedition, prior restraint, defamation, and obscenity—shape contemporary concerns such as access to government information, Net neutrality, Internet Service Providers’ liability, streaming video and copyright, privacy and defamation in social media, reporters’ privilege, student speech rights on and off campus, and national boundaries in the Internet age.


  • Historical perspective shows the rich diversity of events and cases that shape current law and debate.

  • Conceptual structure shows how historical laws and cases shape current policy, even in the Internet Age.

  • Clear, colorful,substantive explanations illuminate historical and contemporary cases, engaging student readers and inviting further exploration.

  • Landmark case boxes summarize key facts and significance of major Supreme Court decisions.

  • Excerpts from major cases, throughout the text, allow students to engage with the decisions that form First Amendment law.

  • Clear organization and abundant internal summaries guide student reading in a superb introduction to free speech history, perspectives, and laws.

  • Photographs, illustrations, and diagrams highlight significant cases and bring history alive.


  • Recent legislation and Supreme Court decisions, including important rulings on threatening speech, the right not to speak, privileged communication, streaming video, and abortion clinic protests, are incorporated.

  • Current controversies are reflected and updated, exploring the implications of historical laws and precedents in the Internet age.

  • Enhanced and updated graphics and photos aid student comprehension and highlight current issues.

For more detailed information, please see the preface and detailed table of contents.(Links are on the left.)



From the back cover

“This is an exceptional book. It masterfully introduces students to the philosophical roots of the First Amendment, while also helping them to understand the practical realities of First Amendment law in the twenty-first century. It is accessible, smart, and comprehensive.”
Stephanie A. Martin, Southern Methodist University

“I'm impressed with the constant improvement on a great text. I'd call it the most authoritative and up-to-date textbook on the First Amendment available today.”
David R. Dewberry, Rider University

“The book is excellent. The writing level clearly conveys ideas without shortchanging the ruling of the court.”
Pat Arneson, Duquesne University

“The quality of research and thoroughness of coverage is impressive. One of the major strengths of the book is that it maintains its currency and accuracy in a rapidly evolving legal environment.”
Karen Whedbee, Northern Illinois University

“It is completely up to date, and its analysis of case law is very simple and clear. The eighth edition provides a very in-depth, comprehensive analysis of case law.”
Juliet L. Dee, University of Delaware

“It is by far the best book on the topic. It makes history come alive.”
Tony Palmeri, University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh

Additional comments

“The book does a good job covering philosophy, history and case and case law.... it covers all of the relevant cases, and the ‘Landmark Cases’ provide a brief explanation of the most important, controlling cases. Explanations are clear and concise as are the historical contexts in which the cases occur.”
Larry L. Burriss, Middle Tennessee State University

“This book is the best on the market at taking complex materials from philosophical and judicial sources and synthesizing them into a historical narrative.”
Ryan McGeough, University of Northern Iowa

“It provides a basic foundation for students without a background in history or poli sci.”
Paula Tompkins, St. Cloud State University

“A recent discussion had the software engineers in class asking key questions. Tedford & Herbeck’s succinct coverage of e-mail privacy and its impact upon these other concerns was at the center of the discussion.”
Grant Cos, Rochester Institute of Technology

“It is thorough and easy to read.”
Charlyne Berens, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

“[Major strengths are] general organization; updated cases and examples.”
David Trebing, Kent State University

“Excellent survey of major cases.”
Matt Dunn, Colorado State University

“I think it is—by far—the best survey book about First Amendment jurisprudence on the market today, and probably the best one ever written.”
Stephanie A. Martin, Southern Methodist University

“It is a superb text and it is a consummate pleasure for me to teach the course with this text.”
Adrienne E. Hacker Daniels, Illinois College

“It is well written and engaging.”
Jason Reineke, Middle Tennessee State University

“It is by far the best comprehensive text on free speech.”
Roger Soenksen, James Madison University

On the new edition

 “Keeping up with the ever-growing body of media law, and the ever-changing legal climate, the authors have done an excellent job in maintaining a relevant and useful text.”
Larry L. Burriss, Middle Tennessee State University

“The incorporation of the recent developments is crucial. Some of the recent developments – such as net neutrality – are of great interest to the students and foster discussions that help make the historical underpinnings of free speech relevant to the twenty-first century.”
Rebecca Gardner, California State University Sacramento

“I was glad to see more information about court rulings in terms of off-campus speech, and in particular the growing problem of social media and Internet speech, and whether schools have any jurisdiction there. I was especially glad to see all of the new material about WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden.”
Stephanie A. Martin, Southern Methodist University

“The revisions are good and the authors have brought some current examples that students will relate to.”
Edward C. Brewer, Appalachian State University

“I appreciate the inclusion of the Wikileaks material.”
Adrienne E. Hacker Daniels, Illinois College


“I love the book’s ability to highlight the major cases, and I’m happy that the eighth edition features these cases as well.”
Jennifer Keohane, George Mason University

“The landmark case boxes are excellent. The illustrations keep students’ attention.”
Pat Arneson, Duquesne University

“Students find the key cases boxes in the text incredibly useful.”
Ryan McGeough, University of Northern Iowa

“[The graphics] are very helpful, especially the text boxes.”
Paula Tompkins, St. Cloud State University

“I still love the landmark case boxes.”
David R. Dewberry, Rider University

“The organization style and chapter recaps are very helpful to students. And I often reference the key cases sections and charts.”
Rebecca Gardner, California State University Sacramento

“The headings are clearly marked, allowing students to recognize the difference between details and big ideas. I teach students to look for internal previews, summaries, and case summaries. The diagrams are also very helpful to my students.”
Karen Whedbee, Northern Illinois University

Resources for instructors

“Good instructor’s manual. Good test questions!”
Tony Palmeri, University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh

“The instructor’s manual is solid. The course projects and bibliographies in the instructor’s manual are an excellent resource.”
Karen Whedbee, Northern Illinois University


Upon publication of the first edition of Freedom of Speech in the United States in 1985, the Speech Communication Association (now the National Communication Association) presented the author with the H. A. Wichelns Memorial Award for "outstanding scholarship in communication and law."

Following the publication of the fourth edition, the Text and Academic Authors association presented Freedom of Speech in the United States with the William Holmes McGuffey Longevity Award, as a textbook "whose excellence has been demonstrated over time."

In 2006, the National Communication Association presented the authors of Freedom of Speech in the United States with the Franklyn S. Haiman Award for "outstanding published research on freedom of expression."


Thomas L. Tedford taught the course in freedom of speech at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, for more than two decades prior to his retirement. He received his B.A. from Ouachita College. His M.A. and Ph.D. are from Louisiana State University.

He was active in the Commission on Freedom of Expression of the National Communication Association since its inception in the early 1960s, having served as the chair of the commission, editor of its newsletter, and editor of its Free Speech Yearbook. Tedford is coeditor with John J. Makay and David L. Jamison of Perspectives on Freedom of Speech: Selected Essays from the Journals of the Speech Communication Association (Southern Illinois University Press, 1987), and the author of Public Speaking in a Free Society (McGraw-Hill, 1991). His writing on freedom of speech has also appeared in the Speech Teacher, the Free Speech Yearbook, the English Journal, and the American Library Association's Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom.

Dale A. Herbeck is a professor of communication and the chair of the Communication Studies Department at Northeastern University, where he teaches courses in communication law and freedom of expression. He received his B.A. from Augustana College. His M.A. and Ph.D. are from the University of Iowa.

His scholarship—which includes numerous book chapters, articles, and papers presented before scholarly societies—has been recognized with the Franklyn S. Haiman Award of the National Communication Association, the Distinguished Service Award of the American Forensic Association, the James Madison Award from the Southern States Communication Association, the Robert M. O'Neill Award from the Commission on Freedom of Expression, and the Past President's Award of the Eastern Communication Association. Herbeck also received the Donald H. Ecroyd Award for Outstanding Teaching in Higher Education from the National Communication Asssociation. He has served as president of the American Forensic Association, president of the American Communication Association, chair of the Commission on Freedom of Expression of the National Communication Association, and editor of both Argumentation and Advocacy and the Free Speech Yearbook.



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