An drawing of a thing is not the thing itself.

According to a press release issued this morning and widely circulated across the social media, The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) will be joining the fight against Canada’s ridiculous child pornography laws, and against Canada Customs’ search/seizure powers at the Canadian border. More specifically, the CBLDF “ 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.”

I’ve been aware of this case since just before I gave my talk on comics and censorship this past February, and every aspect of it makes my blood boil. That ‘manga’ is targeted as a buzzword that encourages Customs agents to do more thorough searches, that an illustration of a person or act is the same thing as the person or act under Canadian law, that Art has no legal defense in Canada anymore. It’s all awful, and I am very, very glad that the CBLDF has stepped in to provide funding and support for this case, to ensure that at the very least this man is rigourously defended, and with any luck a precedent can be set under Canadian law.

If you are a fan of any manga or anime, if you are a fan of comics, if you have even one comics page, anime clip, or “dirty” picture on your computer, tablet, or phone, this is about you. This is about you being pulled aside, searched, your electronics confiscated to be sent away for weeks and months, all because you’ve got scans of Naruto on your desktop. This isn’t about “child porn” or any variation thereof, this is about legally equating a description of a thing–written or drawn–with the real thing.

As Neil Gaiman recently wrote:

“Freedom to write, freedom to read, freedom to own material that you believe is worth defending means you’re going to have to stand up for stuff you don’t believe is worth defending, even stuff you find actively distasteful, because laws are big blunt instruments that do not differentiate between what you like and what you don’t, because prosecutors are humans and bear grudges and fight for re-election, because one person’s obscenity is another person’s art.

“Because if you don’t stand up for the stuff you don’t like, when they come for the stuff youdo like, you’ve already lost.”

http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/12/why-defend-freedom-of-icky-speech.html

If you can afford anything, I urge you to donate to The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. You can do so at this page, they even take PayPal amongst other avenues of payment: http://cbldf.org/contribute/

A Canadian group called The Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund will also be starting a Fundraising drive over the coming weeks and months, and as soon as their contribution information comes together I’ll be happy to pass it along as well.

So again, and in closing, this is about the government deciding what is or isn’t art, about what you can or can’t read, and very deliberately confusing the thought of a crime with the crime itself. This is something worth taking a stand about. Please do so, and if you can, contribute.

- Chris


7 Comments on “Bravo: CBLDF Enters The Fight Against Canada Customs, Bad Laws”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. Brennan Neil says:

    You must not be American talking about Canada border laws like they’re oppressive or overbearing. There’s no patriot act in Canada, we just don’t like people who want little high gloss pictures of children being raped by tentacle monsters crossing our borders, draw or otherwise. I can’t believe so many people are coming out on the pro side of this. Why do people like cartoons about tiny Japanese children having sex anyway? Not normal if you ask me, not cool either.

    Chris Says: Brennan, I strongly suggest you read Neil Gaiman’s article, which I’ve linked. It should clarify exactly why defending artwork–which is to say illustrations comprised entirely of the imagination and with no basis in reality–is important, regardless of the subject matter. If you read that and you still hold the same position, at least try to take some solace in the fact that there are people defending all art, including art you do approve of, from government censorship.

  2. Halliday says:

    Just donated.

  3. Eva Hopkins says:

    THANK YOU for talking about this case. It’s important that folks realize this could happen to them, & the room for interpretation is wiiiide. Will be sharing this.

  4. Sleep Is For the Weak » Blog Archive » The Canada putting people in jail for reading manga thing says:

  5. Comics A.M. | Revamped Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark performing well | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment says:

    [...] Legal | Toronto comics retailer Chris Butcher comments on the CBLDF’s efforts to help a U.S. man facing criminal charges in Canada for possession and importation of child pornography because of comics that were found on his computer: “If you are a fan of any manga or anime, if you are a fan of comics, if you have even one comics page, anime clip, or ‘dirty’ picture on your computer, tablet, or phone, this is about you. This is about you being pulled aside, searched, your electronics confiscated to be sent away for weeks and months, all because you’ve got scans of Naruto on your desktop. This isn’t about ‘child porn’ or any variation thereof, this is about legally equating a description of a thing–written or drawn–with the real thing.” In related news, the Bonfire Agency has created ads for the CBLDF focused on this issue. [Comics212] [...]

  6. CBLDF » CBLDF Looks to Canada Customs Case says:

    [...] Comics212, a blog from Christopher Butcher, the manager of The Beguiling comic book store in Toronto and co-founder of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, offered a Canadian’s perspective on the case: I’ve been aware of this case since just before I gave my talk on comics and censorship this past February, and every aspect of it makes my blood boil. That ‘manga’ is targeted as a buzzword that encourages Customs agents to do more thorough searches, that an illustration of a person or act is the same thing as the person or act under Canadian law, that Art has no legal defense in Canada anymore. It’s all awful, and I am very, very glad that the CBLDF has stepped in to provide funding and support for this case, to ensure that at the very least this man is rigourously defended, and with any luck a precedent can be set under Canadian law. [...]

  7. Matt says:

    This is all ridiculous. First of all, a drawing of a murder is not the same as a murder. Drawing sex is also not the same as having sex. Nobody is hurt by it, so where is the crime?

    I mean define “art.” Because Brennan Neil (earlier poster) doesn’t like the tentacle monster sex, does that mean it isn’t art? What if I brought a French painting with a naked child in it, would that be considered child porn and I be subject to 20 years on the sex offender registry?!?

    In the end, it is all just lines on a piece of paper or computer screen. If I draw the woman taller with a larger chest-then it magically becomes okay? Hey Im just keeping it real, a lot of Japanese women are short, have a small chest and wear young-looking clothing, if I draw them, I am a sex offender? Probably not.

    To put it frankly, if a person wants to have sex with children BUT decides to have manga instead, isn’t that infinitely preferable?

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