Arizona House Bill 2660


Summary

Arizona House Bill 2660 would create a civil cause of action against any producer or distributor of “dangerous” material that is found to produce or incite a felony if the person knew or should have known that the “dangerous” material would result in a person committing a felony and it was a cause in committing the felony.
“Dangerous” material is that which is found to produce felony.

Analysis

Courts have repeatedly held that absent an actual incitement to lawless action, those who produce or sell First Amendment-protected material may not be subjected to financial liability for the unlawful or violent acts of third parties, even if they were influenced by specific media. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed a lower court’s decision in American Booksellers Association v. Hudnut, striking down an Indianapolis ordinance that sought to give victims of sex crimes a cause of action against producers and distributors of the material that allegedly caused the crime.

The bill creates a substantial chilling effect on producers and distributors of any material that could be construed to “produce or incite” a felony. The bill could apply to civil engineering textbooks that teachers how to implode a bridge or a video game instructor for flying an airplane. These can be used to learn how to commit a felony if the reader or viewer is inclined.

Imposing third-party liability for injuries on producers or distributors of First Amendment-protected material makes innocent third parties responsible for the acts of criminals. It also diminishes the responsibility of the criminal, since he can claim that something he saw or heard “made me do it.”

Actions on the bill

  • The bill is introduced in January 2008.
  • In March 2008, Media Coalition submits a memo in opposition [2] to the members of the Arizona House of Representatives, explaining the constitutional concerns with the bill.
  • At a hearing in April 2008, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against passing the bill [1].