Alliance Joins Brief Defending Netflix in Support of First Amendment Rights

On June 7th, the Alliance joined a brief in Netflix v. Babin, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, dealing with the criminal prosecution of Netflix by the Tyler County District Attorney (“DA”) over a French film called ‘Cuties’. The film, which earned the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020, explores the story of an 11-year-old Muslim Senegalese immigrant girl in France, and the impact that a highly sexualized and social-media-driven culture has on her and society’s youth. Though there is no child nudity in the film, the DA originally tried to prosecute Netflix under a portion of the Texas penal code for promotion of child pornography, which was later declared unconstitutional. The DA withdrew that indictment and then issued four new indictments under another section of the code for production, direction, or performance that includes sexual conduct by a child.

Netflix sued the DA in federal court seeking an injunction against the state prosecution. The federal district court in Texas agreed with Netflix, finding that the charges were brought in bad faith. The DA has now appealed to the Fifth Circuit. The amicus brief, drafted by Hayes and Boone and joined by a broad coalition of groups in defense of the First Amendment, argues that the criminal provisions should not apply, and that this prosecution is a threat to free speech. To allow the criminal prosecution of Netflix over this film would chill First Amendment rights of creators and publishers to produce works of art and journalism on important, sensitive, and even controversial topics.  Read the full brief here.

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