First Amendment Says Manga Used As Cause For Digital Device Searches
This weekend, comic creators and fans gathered in Seattle for the 15th Emerald City Comic Con (or ECCC). The notable event on the comic calendar featured a talk by Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an American non-profil that aims to protect the First Amendment rights of comics creators, publishers, and retailers covering legal expenses. Along with addressing concerns about banning books in libraries, he raised a remarkable problem for manga.
According to comic/geek media site Bleeding Cool, Brownstein mentioned that the CBLDF is currently working on a message to the US congress in regards to people having to give up their passwords on electronics devices such as phones and laptops for searchs.
The site reports
He gave an example that if you had manga on your laptop, the Feds use manga as a code word for “porn”, giving them the right to search your laptop. Brownstein mentioned this was becoming unconstitutional for traveling Americans, and that they are constantly fighting against that.
Noteworthy in CBLDF’s history with manga, in 2012 the organization was at New York Comic Con to raise funds and awareness of a case in which an American citizen faced criminal charges in Canada for manga brought into the country on his laptop. For those who could not make it to this important talk, full audio and lengthy article CBLDF’s Defending Manga panel was posted online.
As his laptop booted, a custom official noticed a manga/anime drawing of a provocatively posed girl appeared on the screen. “The agents saw my wallpaper and their eyes lit up when they saw an art book page, of a girl in summer.” Ryan was quick to add, “She wasn’t nude or anything.”
Still, the agent said, in a serious tone, “You should really not bring this stuff into this country.”
Ryan nodded, still unconcerned. “Two hours later, I was put into detention.” The customs officials kept asking Ryan about the images on his computer. “The customs agents really had no idea what they were looking at or what to do.”
Of particular concern was an image entitled “The 48 Positions: Moe Style.” The image was a parody image of “The 48 Sumo Positions,” done as “The 48 Sex Positions.” The Moe style of animation features a style of cute characters and was brought to prominence in series like Sailor Moon. The image Ryan had featured tiny super-deformed images of characters doing the act — these images did not even have genitalia. Brownstein interjected that “It’s clear to us what this was. But, the inspectors believed the characters to be four-year-olds.” Still, he stressed that this was not a photograph with real people in it, “No children were hurt in the creation of this drawing.”
The aims of the CBLDF are described:
CBLDF provides legal and educational resources to protect the freedom to read comics. The organization is a partner in Banned Books Week, the Kids’ Right to Read Project, Free Comic Book Day, and other national institutions that support intellectual freedom and literacy. CBLDF’s work extends from courtrooms to classrooms to conventions, and CBLDF defends the freedom to read by providing letters of support in book challenges, challenging unconstitutional legislation, and delivering lectures and programs about current and historical censorship to audiences all over the world.