Although George Carlin was arrested on obscenity charges after performing “Seven Dirty Words” at Milwaukee’s Summerfest in 1972, the Library of Congress recently added 25 audio recordings to the registry for their artistic and cultural significance, including Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” and Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” Despite the fact that the Library of Congress has decided to preserve Carlin’s work, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) still prohibits the seven words from being spoken on broadcast television and radio.
While questioning the government’s ability to arrest people for simply speaking words, Carlin was arrested on obscenity charges after performing “Seven Dirty Words” at Milwaukee’s Summerfest in July 1972. Although the charges were later dropped, Carlin was arrested several more times for continuing to perform the routine.
During a road trip with his 15-year-old son, John Douglas, a CBS executive and a member of a pornography watchdog group called Morality in Media, stumbled across WBAI-FM playing Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” on the afternoon of October 30, 1973. Even though listeners were warned that some of Carlin’s language might seem offensive, Douglas listened to the broadcast before filing a complaint with the FCC. Five years later, the Supreme Court’s FCC v. Pacifica Foundation decision determined that the FCC could regulate offensive content on broadcasts between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., during the hours when children would most likely be exposed to profanity.