Right to free speech: Difference between protections for political vs. commercial speech
By: Marina Eggen
Let’s start by defining both political speech and commercial speech. Political speech is an expression which comments on government action rather than the private conduct of an individual. It is an expressive activity that forms the foundation of our democracy. Commercial speech is speech done on behalf of a company or individual for the intent of making a profit. Political speech receives the highest level of protection und the First Amendment. As long as you are not looking to profit from your speech, art, etc. and it is on a political topic, it is protected under the First Amendment. As far as commercial speech goes, until recently commercial speech was not protected under the First Amendment, but now it has qualified for some protection. Some parts of commercial speech are protected under the First Amendment, but not all. For example the informational function of advertising is not protected. Over all political speech is far more protected than commercial speech is due to the First Amendment.
This article from cnn.com by Bill Mears gives a great example of how some commercial speech is protected. Some states wanted to pass a law to block “date mining” companies from marketing information about doctors’ prescriptions. This would ban any use or publication of the information for “marketing purposes” of brand-name medicine. The Supreme Court over turned this law due to the restrictions violating commercial speech protections.