So, what I want to know is this: Suppose there is an article online that somebody wrote, which is 'obscene' by the criteria outlined e.g. in http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/l_to_o/obscene_publications/

Let's say it is a written article (words only) for the sake of simplicity, posted on a website. If somebody goes on that site and reads the article, have they 'published' the article?

[The relevant bit of legislation pertaining to 'publishes' is the following (emphasis mine):

(3)For the purposes of this Act a person publishes an article who—

(a)distributes, circulates, sells, lets on hire, gives, or lends it, or who offers it for sale or for letting on hire; or

(b)in the case of an article containing or embodying matter to be looked at or a record, shows, plays or projects it [F1, or, where the matter is data stored electronically, transmits that data.]: . . . F2

1 Answer 1


The reader is not the publisher: the poster is.

  • Hmm. What about R vs Waddon? (summary here out-law.com/page-8683). Your answer seems intuitively correct from what most people understand of the term 'publishing'. but r vs waddon sets the precedent that an article can be published more than once eg when it is uploaded or downloaded online. the latter happens when the Reader reads the article. Could an argument be made that it is the Reader who has committed the offense in this instance (and the Author when he put the story up on the website) ?
    – user629913
    Aug 24, 2016 at 16:13
  • @user629913 Regina vs Graham Waddon doesn't determine that downloading was an act of publishing for the downloader, but that as it was downloaded in UK, the publishing was done in the US (uploaded and make public) and in the UK (where you may download it).
    – roetnig
    Feb 20, 2017 at 15:35

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