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Statement on Obscene Material


Effective: Fall 1996

Based on statement from the General Counsel


Although there may be difficult line-drawing in determining what is or is not obscene, students, faculty and staff should know that Va. Code Section 18.2-372 defines "obscene" as that which:

"Considered as a whole, has as its dominant theme or purpose . . . a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, excretory functions or products thereof or sadomasochistic abuse, and which goes substantially beyond customary limits of candor in description or representation of such matters and which, taken as a whole, does not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

The distribution, production, publication or sale of obscene items is illegal in Virginia (Va. Code Section 18.2-374). A first offense is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor which carries a sentence of up to twelve months in jail and/or a fine of not more than $2,500. Any subsequent obscenity conviction is a Class 6 felony which carries a sentence of between one and five years in prison, or up to twelve months in jail and/or a fine of $2,500.

Further, a student, faculty or staff member distributing obscene material through a web page or other means could be subject to criminal prosecution in other states to the extent that any individual in those states accesses the web page or other delivery mechanism. Such action may violate federal law as well (18 U.S.C. Section 1465) which criminalizes the transportation of obscene materials in interstate commerce. Conviction under the federal law can result in a prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.

In addition, placing obscene material on a University of Virginia server violates University policies, including but not limited to the computer usage policy, the employee standards of conduct, and the student standards of conduct. Such violations could result in disciplinary penalties.

Revisions: