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Inc. v. Rhode Island Liquormart (44 )

Commercial Speech

Commercial speech is advertising or speech proposing a financial transaction and, with limitations, is protected by the First Amendment. Commercial speech serves significant interests of both the producers of goods and services and the consumers. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun wrote, "The free flow of commercial information is indispensable to the proper allocation of resources in a free enterprise system."

Consumers rely on commercial speech for information about the quality and price of goods in order to make economic decisions. Examples of commercial speech are advertisements of products in a newspaper or magazine, television commercials, advertisements in the yellow pages, promotional advertisements by a public utility, and advertising by professionals such as lawyers.

The government can legally regulate commercial speech to prevent publication of false or misleading advertising. Therefore, commercial speech enjoys less freedom than noncommercial expression, such as political speech. The U.S. Supreme Court has suggested that citizens and their pocketbooks may be more vulnerable to false advertising than to false or overblown rhetoric by a politician. Therefore, the First Amendment protects commercial speech only as long as it is truthful and does not advertise illegal or harmful activity.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentInc. v. Rhode Island Liquormart (44 ) - Significance, Justice O'connor's Four Part Test, Justice Stevens's Modified Central Hudson Test