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Just published!

Freedom of Speech
in the
United States

ninth edition

Thomas L. Tedford
University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Dale A. Herbeck
Northeastern University

This award-winning textbook explores the evolution of our present-day free speech rights through major laws and Supreme Court decisions. Guiding readers to an understanding of complex concepts with clear explanations, brief summaries of major court cases, and numerous study aids, it shows how historical challenges to freedom of speech arise anew with the emergence of new technologies, political issues, and social concerns. 

Thoroughly updated, the ninth edition integrates recent laws, regulations, and court cases, showing how historical issues—such as sedition, defamation, prior restraint, free press/fair trial, and copyright are reflected in contemporary concerns such as inflammatory rhetoric, hate speech, access to government information and the media, cameras in the courtroom, students’ off-campus speech rights, and net neutrality.


  • Historical perspective and conceptual structure show the rich diversity of events and cases that have shaped current law and debate, even in the internet age.

  • Clear, colorful, substantive explanations illuminate historical and contemporary cases, engaging student readers and inviting further exploration.

  • Landmark case boxes summarize key facts and significance of major Supreme Court decisions.

  • Excerpts from major cases, throughout the text, allow students to engage with the decisions that form First Amendment law.

  • Clear organization and abundant internal summaries guide student reading of free speech history, perspectives, and laws.

  • Photographs, illustrations, and diagrams highlight significant cases and bring history alive.


  • Thorough update reflects recent events, current controversies, new legislation, and significant new Supreme Court decisions.

  • Streamlined chapter on obscenity (Chapter 6) increases focus on current contexts.

  • Updated design and photos enhance student appeal and highlight current issues. 

For more detailed information, please see the preface and table of contents. (Links are on the left.)



from the back cover

"This textbook provides a clear, succinct overview of where we have come from and where we are going regarding the First Amendment. The authors highlight the most important cases that pertain to the areas of focus outlined in the textbook, making this material approachable and understandable for both law students and undergraduates."
Elizabeth Meyers-Bass
Colorado State University

"The book is very well put together. I am very happy with the new material and the rewriting of old material for clarity and organization."
Casey Ryan Kelly
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

"The authors do a very good job of explaining the Anglo-American background to the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They also provide a nice capsule history of the ways communicators and speech itself were constrained both before and after the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Especially laudable, here, is the attention the authors give to the free speech struggles of abolitionists, anti-war protestors and women’s rights advocates."
Steve Macek
North Central College

"The book is an excellent resource. Nothing else on the market is similar to it."
Pat Arneson
Duquesne University

"This edition is as current as a textbook can be. Its ripped-from-the-headlines examples will not just explain concepts in a helpful way, it will keep students connected and interested. Students will be able to see how these issues aren’t just abstract, academic, and theoretical questions, but real, practical, on-the-ground problems for us to contend with."
M. Elizabeth Thorpe
State University of New York Brockport

"I really can’t imagine not using this text. It is a very challenging text but accessible and user friendly. It serves me (and of course the students) eminently well." 
Adrienne Hacker Daniels
Illinois College

additional comments

"I think this is an excellent book and I love it. I find it accessible for students and think it is fair to ask them to read and engage with it. First Amendment jurisprudence is a difficult subject and finding books that break it down in an accessible way is not easy. This one does that well."
Stephanie Martin
Boise State University

"By focusing on landmark cases, students gain a clear understanding of what the law is and how law has evolved through history. Students can appreciate the justification for a right of free speech, while simultaneously exploring the practical challenges of applying the law to diverse real-world situations."
Karen Whedbee
Northern Illinois University

"Its strengths include an ability to map complex ideas in terms that are accessible to newcomers to the topic and those with limited understanding of law and its development. I have found nothing comparable with such a strong balance of depth and approachability."
Shannon Stevens
California State University, Stanislaus

"I really appreciate the amount of attention given to actual quotes from decisions.  I tend to focus on those during lectures, asking students to consider not just what was said, but what the justice might have meant and how it has shaped our understanding of our right to Free Speech.  That so many of the SCOTUS decisions have been so eloquently written also helps me highlight the importance of language and rhetorical style for the communication process."
Irene Grau
CSU Los Angeles

"Loved it. Good work!"
Sidne Kasle
Rock Valley College

on the revisions

"I am pleased with the revisions."
Ed Brewer
Appalachian State University

"I especially appreciate the extensively revised Chapter 6 – it is much more direct and simpler to comprehend than in the previous editions. The Internet cases are especially challenging for students to understand and the updated writing helps with this."
Emily Berg Paup
College of St. Benedict

"New section on off-campus expression in the chapter on schools is great (B.L. v. Mahanoy)! The students love that case. This one is a big deal to them given their own use of Tik Tok."
Casey Ryan Kelly
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

on the instructor’s manual

"Another aspect of this textbook I find very helpful is the instructor’s manual. The manual has helped with quizzes, exercises and course layout in the past. I look forward to the 9th edition."
Beth Meyers-Bass
Colorado State University

"The instructor’s manual has become increasingly useful to me.  The course projects and bibliographies in the instructor’s manual are an excellent resource.  I’ve always valued them highly."
Karen Whedbee
Northern Illinois University

from the previous edition

“I'm impressed with the constant improvement on a great text. I'd call it the most authoritative and up-to-date textbook on the First Amendment available today.”
David R. Dewberry
Rider University

"It is completely up to date, and its analysis of case law is very simple and clear. The eighth edition provides a very in-depth, comprehensive analysis of case law.”
Juliet L. Dee
University of Delaware

“It is by far the best book on the topic. It makes history come alive.”
Tony Palmeri
University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh

“The book does a good job covering philosophy, history and case and case law.... it covers all of the relevant cases, and the ‘Landmark Cases’ provide a brief explanation of the most important, controlling cases. Explanations are clear and concise as are the historical contexts in which the cases occur.”
Larry L. Burriss
Middle Tennessee State University

“This book is the best on the market at taking complex materials from philosophical and judicial sources and synthesizing them into a historical narrative.”
Ryan McGeough, University of Northern Iowa

“It provides a basic foundation for students without a background in history or poli sci.”
Paula Tompkins
St. Cloud State University

“A recent discussion had the software engineers in class asking key questions. Tedford & Herbeck’s succinct coverage of e-mail privacy and its impact upon these other concerns was at the center of the discussion.”
Grant Cos
Rochester Institute of Technology

“It is thorough and easy to read.”
Charlyne Berens
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

“[Major strengths are] general organization; updated cases and examples.”
David Trebing
Kent State University

“Excellent survey of major cases.”
Matt Dunn
Colorado State University

“I think it is—by far—the best survey book about First Amendment jurisprudence on the market today, and probably the best one ever written.”
Stephanie A. Martin, Southern Methodist University

“It is a superb text and it is a consummate pleasure for me to teach the course with this text.”
Adrienne E. Hacker Daniels
Illinois College

“It is well written and engaging.”
Jason Reineke, Middle Tennessee State University

“It is by far the best comprehensive text on free speech.”
Roger Soenksen, James Madison University

“The incorporation of the recent developments is crucial. Some of the recent developments – such as net neutrality – are of great interest to the students and foster discussions that help make the historical underpinnings of free speech relevant to the twenty-first century.”
Rebecca Gardner
California State University Sacramento

“I love the book’s ability to highlight the major cases, and I’m happy that the eighth edition features these cases as well.”
Jennifer Keohane
George Mason University

“Students find the key cases boxes in the text incredibly useful.”
Ryan McGeough
University of Northern Iowa

“[The graphics] are very helpful, especially the text boxes.”
Paula Tompkins
St. Cloud State University

“The headings are clearly marked, allowing students to recognize the difference between details and big ideas. I teach students to look for internal previews, summaries, and case summaries. The diagrams are also very helpful to my students.”
Karen Whedbee
Northern Illinois University


Upon publication of the first edition of Freedom of Speech in the United States in 1985, the Speech Communication Association (now the National Communication Association) presented the author with the H.A. Wichelns Memorial Award for "outstanding scholarship in communication and law."

Following the publication of the fourth edition, the Text and Academic Authors association presented Freedom of Speech in the United Stateswith the William Holmes McGuffey Longevity Award, as a textbook "whose excellence has been demonstrated over time."

In 2006, the National Communication Association presented the authors of Freedom of Speech in the United States with the Franklyn S. Haiman Award for "outstanding published research on freedom of expression."


Thomas L. Tedford taught the course in freedom of speech at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, for more than two decades prior to his retirement. He received his B.A. from Ouachita College. His M.A. and Ph.D. are from Louisiana State University.

He was active in the Commission on Freedom of Expression of the National Communication Association from its inception in the early 1960s, serving as the chair of the commission, editor of its newsletter, and editor of its Free Speech Yearbook. He was coeditor with John J. Makay and David L. Jamison of Perspectives on Freedom of Speech: Selected Essays from the Journals of the Speech Communication Association(Southern Illinois University Press, 1987), and the author of Public Speaking in a Free Society (McGraw-Hill, 1991). His writing on freedom of speech has also appeared in the Speech Teacher, the Free Speech Yearbook, the English Journal, and the American Library Association's Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom.

Dale A. Herbeck taught courses in communication law and freedom of expression at Northeastern University. He received his B.A. from Augustana College. His M.A. and Ph.D. are from the University of Iowa. 

His scholarship - which includes numerous book chapters, articles, and papers presented before scholarly societies—has been recognized with the Franklyn S. Haiman Award of the National Communication Association, the Distinguished Service Award of the American Forensic Association, the James Madison Award from the Southern States Communication Association, the Robert M. O'Neill Award from the Commission on Freedom of Expression, and the Past President's Award of the Eastern Communication Association. He also received the Donald H. Ecroyd Award for Outstanding Teaching in Higher Education from the National Communication Association. He has served as president of the American Forensic Association, president of the American Communication Association, chair of the Commission on Freedom of Expression of the National Communication Association, and editor of both Argumentation and Advocacy and the Free Speech Yearbook.



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