The ordinance, in its broad sweep, prohibits the distribution of "circulars, handbooks, advertising, or literature of any kind." It manifestly applies to pamphlets, magazines and periodicals. [. . . ] The City Manager testified that "everyone applies to me for a license to distribute literature in this City. [ . . .] "
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We think that the ordinance is invalid on its face. Whatever the motive which induced its adoption, its character is such that it strikes at the very foundation of the freedom of the press by subjecting it to license and censorship. The struggle for the freedom of the press was primarily directed against the power of the licensor. It was against that power that John Milton directed his assault by his "Appeal for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing." And the liberty of the press became initially a right to publish "without a license what formerly could be published only with one." While this freedom from previous restraint upon publication cannot be regarded as exhausting the guaranty of liberty, the prevention of that restraint was a leading purpose in the adoption of the constitutional provision. See Patterson v. Colorado, 205 U. S. 454, 205 U. S. 462; Near v. Minnesota, 283 U. S. 697, 283 U. S. 713-716; Grosjean v. American Press Co.,297 U. S. 233, 297 U. S. 245, 297 U. S. 246. Legislation of the type of the ordinance in question would restore the system of license and censorship in its baldest form.
Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 (1938)