Archive for June, 2011

Canada Customs Case in the News

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

The Ottawa Citizen weighs in on the Canada Customs Case:

Ottawa Citizen
Wed Jun 29 2011
Crimes of imagination

Canada has charged an American and is threatening him with at least a year in jail because he came over the border in 2010 with comics on his laptop, comics the customs officer decided were child pornography. If he’s convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of a year for importing the material. This case and others like it demonstrate the flaws in Canada’s law.

According to the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund, the comics were in the “manga” style that originated in Japan (Astro Boy and Sailor Moon are examples of manga comics. Charles Brownstein of the CBLDF says he believes the comics in this case include images of stick figures in sexual positions).

There’s no point in having a right to free speech if we make exceptions for everything that people find distasteful or offensive. We must make an exception, though, when expression causes real harm – such as pornography that uses children as models for photographs or videos. That’s a horrible crime, and even the possession of such material must be treated as a serious offence.

But Canada’s current law goes beyond pornography that causes harm to children. It also makes some works of the imagination – stories and drawings – illegal if they depict people under the age of 18 in sexual situations. Many classic works of art might meet that definition, and the law does allow for a defence on the grounds of artistic merit. This puts the courts in the bizarre position of determining what is a work of art. Citizens cannot hope to know in advance what the law really forbids, and whether the judge will share their opinion of what is art. Policing the way you express yourself on a piece of paper or on your laptop comes awfully close to policing your thoughts.

Judges are not meant to be arbiters of taste; they are meant to balance rights in a free society. Imaginary people do not have rights.

 

The CBLDF Looks to Canada Customs Case:

Further information and reactions to the Canada Customs case.

CBLDF Forms Coalition to Defend American Comics Reader Facing Criminal Charges In Canada

Friday, June 24th, 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund today announces that it is forming a coalition to support the legal defense of an American citizen who is facing criminal charges in Canada that could result in a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison for comics brought into the country on his laptop. This incident is the most serious in a trend the CBLDF has been tracking involving the search and seizure of the print and electronic comic books carried by travelers crossing borders.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein says, “Although the CBLDF can’t protect comic fans everywhere in every situation, we want to join this effort to protect an American comic fan being prosecuted literally as he stood on the border of our country for behavior the First Amendment protects here, and its analogues in Canadian law should protect there.”

The CBLDF has agreed to assist in the case by contributing funds towards the defense, which has been estimated to cost $150,000 CDN. The CBLDF will also provide access to experts and assistance on legal strategy. The CBLDF’s efforts are joined by the recently re-formed Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund, a Canadian organization that will contribute to the fundraising effort. Please contribute to this endeavor by making a tax deductible contribution at www.cbldf.org.

The facts of the case involve an American citizen, computer programmer, and comic book enthusiast in his mid-twenties who was flying from his home in the United States to Canada to visit a friend. Upon arrival at Canadian Customs a customs officer conducted a search of the American and his personal belongings, including his laptop, iPad, and iPhone. The customs officer discovered manga on the laptop and considered it to be child pornography. The client’s name is being withheld on the request of counsel for reasons relating to legal strategy.

The images at issue are all comics in the manga style. No photographic evidence of criminal behavior is at issue. Nevertheless, a warrant was issued and the laptop was turned over to police. Consequently, the American has been charged with both the possession of child pornography as well as its importation into Canada. As a result, if convicted at trial, the American faces a minimum of one year in prison. This case could have far reaching implications for comic books and manga in North America.

The CBLDF’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to aid the case by raising funds to contribute to the defense and to help the defense with strategy and expert resources.

Brownstein says, “This is an important case that impacts the rights of everyone who reads, publishes, and makes comics and manga in North America. It underscores the dangers facing everyone traveling with comics, and it can establish important precedents regarding travelers rights. It also relates to the increasingly urgent issue of authorities prosecuting art as child pornography. While this case won’t set a US precedent, it can inform whatever precedent is eventually set. This case is also important with respect to artistic merit in the Canadian courts, and a good decision could bring Canadian law closer to US law in that respect. With the help of our supporters, we hope to raise the funds to wage a fight that yields good decisions and to create tools to help prevent these sorts of cases from continuing to spread.”

For more on this case and to make a monetary contribution, please visit www.cbldf.org
About CBLDF
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1986 as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of First Amendment rights for members of the comics community. They have defended dozens of Free Expression cases in courts across the United States, and led important education initiatives promoting comics literacy and free expression. For additional information, donations, and other inquiries call 800-99-CBLDF or visit them online at www.cbldf.org.

About CLLDF
The Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1987 to raise money for the defense of a Calgary, Alberta comic shop whose owners were charged with selling obscene materials. The CLLDF has since been maintained on an ad hoc basis to provide financial relief for Canadian comics retailers, publishers, professionals, or readers whose right to free speech has been infringed by civil authorities. Largely dormant since the early 1990s, the CLLDF is reforming to provide support for this case, and reorganizing to ensure that help will be readily available for future cases involving Canadian citizens or authorities. To help the CLLDF in this mission, please go to clldf.ca

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