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The First Amendment Encyclopedia

Presented by the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies

Case Categories: Commercial Speech

Commercial speech is a form of protected communication under the First Amendment, but it does not receive as much free speech protection as forms of noncommercial speech, such as political speech.

One important test developed by the Court to determine protection for commercial speech is the Central Hudson test. With this test, courts determine how far the regulation of commercial speech can go before it runs afoul of the First Amendment.

If the speech is fraudulent or illegal, the government can freely regulate it without First Amendment constraints. If it is not, then the court must ask whether the asserted governmental interest is substantial. If both questions are answered yes, the court must determine whether the regulation directly advances the governmental interest asserted and whether it is more extensive than is necessary to serve that interest. If the regulation is narrowly tailored to secure the interest, then the regulation of the commercial speech will be upheld.

Following are several Supreme Court cases in which commercial speech under the First Amendment was at issue.

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