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Freedom of Speech
in the
United States

seventh 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 cases. 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 seventh edition integrates recent laws and court cases, showing how historical issues—such as prior restraint, sedition, defamation, and obscenity—shape Internet-age concerns such as hate speech, privacy, access, reporters’ shield laws, file sharing and copyright, and student speech rights on and off campus.


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

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

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

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

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


  • Updating throughout reflects recent legislation and Supreme Court decisions, as well as current issues. (For more details, please see the preface (“Plan of the Book”) and the detailed table of contents.

  • Broadcast and Internet issues and cases are now incorporated in the conceptual structure, replacing separate chapters on those media and showing more clearly how historical precedents are applied to current issues and new technologies. (See, especially, Chapters 3, 6, 9, and 13).

  • Defamation and privacy are now covered in separate chapters (Chapters 4 and 5), integrating current issues such as libel tourism, defamation in cyberspace, e-mail privacy, and funeral picketing.

  • Access chapter, new to this edition (Chapter 14), explores issues related to government control of information and private control of media.

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

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



Freedom of Speech in the United States is the best treatment of the First Amendment of any text on the market, spot on for introducing students to the philosophical concepts of the topic.”
Rita Kirk
Southern Methodist University

“It is an excellent text, and has served my purposes well.”
Ben Attias
California State University, Northridge

“The authors have written a near-perfect textbook for the way I teach freedom of expression. The primary strengths include its clear and systematic structure, excellent writing, and exhaustiveness of the material, especially cases. I believe there is no better text about freedom of expression for my students.”
Michel Dupagne
University of Miami

“The book is very comprehensive; it uses landmark court case boxes; and it is scholarly and accessible at the same time. It is a solid core text. The authors keep it current through new editions.”
Lillian Beeson
University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg

"I really like this text and have the greatest respect for the authors and editors. Thanks for providing this wonderful resource."
David Vest
Colorado State University

“The book provides both breadth and depth for the coverage of the major issues facing those examining freedom of speech in this country today.  The level of analysis of issues is superb.”
Mary Elizabeth Bezanson
University of Minnesota, Morris

"I am an enthusiastic fan of the text. I have always found it to be well written and comprehensive and to provide rich historical background/context. The revisions make the book stronger and more up-to-date."
Dan Kozlowski
Saint Louis University

“All in all, a great text!”
David Dewberry
Rider University

“Love the book!”
Molly Mayhead
Western Oregon University

Comprehensive and Accessible

“Clearly explained and appropriate to student level.”
Richard Ice
St. John’s University

“It’s an excellent basic text. It’s thorough and provides background on major cases and issues.”
Charlyne Berens
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

“Clearly organized . . . . The headings are clearly marked, allowing students to recognize key subject matter. I teach students to look for the internal previews, summaries, and case summaries.”
Karen Whedbee
Northern Illinois University

"It covered the important areas well [and] provided excellent background history and application examples."
Timothy Rothberg
Houston Baptist University

“[Major strengths include] ease of use, highlighted cases, good usage of excerpts from the cases.”
David Gould, Esq.
Queens College

“Clear presentations of sometimes complex legal materials.”
Edward Kimbrell
Middle Tennessee State University

“The book is well-organized and easy to read. It is essential to an understanding of Americans' rights and restrictions under various court decisions. It is especially helpful to students studying legal rights under the court decisions that apply to freedom of speech.”
Ron Miskoff
Rutgers University

Landmark Case Boxes

“I particularly like the case boxes that highlight people and provide the summaries of the benchmark cases. My classes spend a great deal of time studying those boxes!”
Rita Kirk
Southern Methodist University

“[Major strengths include] Landmark Case sections, online links to Court opinions.”
Jeffrey Hedrick
Jacksonville State University


“The authors do an excellent job of keeping the book current.”
Richard Ice
St. John’s University

“The authors spend considerable time updating the text for each new edition. The seventh edition is no exception. All the legal updates will maintain the high quality of the new edition.”
Michel Dupagne

"I am very, very glad to see the new section on defamation in cyberspace. I think the notion has developed in recent years that because blogging and other online commentary have exploded so wildly that libel must not be a concern there - when in fact the opposite is true.”
Robert Kerr
University of Oklahoma

"I particularly like that the Internet chapter has been integrated into relevant discussions throughout the text."
Dan Kozlowski
Saint Louis University

“I found Freedom of Speech in the United States valuable as a student and after reading though the newest edition, I find it extremely worthwhile as a professor. I found previous editions to be great, and the 7th is even greater. I’m excited to use it.”
David Dewberry
Rider University


Freedom of Speech is an exceptional book for this course. It meets my requirements and makes the important concepts of freedom of speech accessible to the students.”
Kassian Kovalcheck
Vanderbilt University

“The book is clear and concise, and offers excellent summaries of key legal texts.”
Cate Palczewski
University of Northern Iowa

“It contains a historical perspective, just enough legal philosophy, and excellent coverage of pertinent topics.”
Michael McGregor
Indiana University

“What I found particularly helpful was the emphasis on case law. The historical background was solid as well.”
Carl Hyden
Morgan State University

“Clearly written. Excellent case summaries. Up-to-date.”
Howard Kleiman
Miami University

“This book presents a great deal of information in an easily understood format. It reads like a very good history text.”
Sam Terilli
University of Miami

“I’ve been very pleased with this text.”
Deborah A. Wieczorkowski Wanamaker
University of Pittsburgh

“I enjoy using the text.”
Terence Morrow
Gustavus Adolphus College

“It provides broad coverage of issues and contains valuable historical context.”
James Van Dyke
Marian College

“Gives good summaries and cases in which 1st Amendment rights are denied during war.”
Peter Kirstein
St. Xavier University

“Thorough, well organized.”
Les Hyder
Eastern Illinois University

“It is comprehensive, historical, and detailed.”
Lee McGaan
Monmouth College

“I enjoy the breadth and depth of the textbook. Some of my students even went to sections of the textbook not taught for use in other classes or projects.”
Amy Pason
University of Minnesota

“Concise chronology—with pullouts and appropriate quotations from opinions.”
Shannon McCraw
Southeastern Oklahoma State University

“It is the most comprehensive and best-written text available.”
Roger Conaway
University of Texas, Tyler

“The landmark case boxes, glossary and exercises are also extremely helpful for students.”
Sandra Borden
Western Michigan University

“Good case summaries and chapter summaries.”
Paul Fischer, Middle Tennessee State University

“The Updates are essential.”
Yvonne Thrash, University of Texas–Tyler


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 professor in the Communication Studies Department at Northeastern University, where he teaches courses in communication law, cyberlaw, 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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