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Last week we reported that the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was raising money to aid the defense of an American man who faces criminal child pornography charges in Canada because of manga found on his laptop by Canadian customs. This week, the Supreme Court struck down a California law regulating video games in a case in which the CBLDF had filed a friend-of-the-court brief. Today, a federal district court barred enforcement of an Alaska statute that would have made it a criminal offense to post material online that is “harmful to minors”; the CBLDF was one of the plaintiffs in that case. That’s a big week!
I asked Executive Director Charles Brownstein for a followup on the Canada case, and the news about the Alaska case broke while we were exchanging e-mails. Here is his answer in full, including an update on fund-raising for the manga case.
It’s been a momentous week for the CBLDF. Last Friday we announced our decision to build a coalition to aid an American traveler facing prison time in Canada and registering as a sex offender for traveling with comics on his laptop. On Monday we received news that the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down a California law that would have made violence a new category of unprotected speech by banning the sale and display of violent video games, and that Justice Scalia cited our amicus brief as part of his majority decision. And just today news arrived that we successfully helped knock out an Alaska law that would have placed severe restrictions on internet speech.
As a week of news, it’s a tremendous capsule illustrating what the CBLDF is all about. We protect the First Amendment rights of the comics art form. Sometimes that means coming out against bad laws that almost everyone agrees are bad laws, and sometimes that means fighting for important free speech principles by protecting unpopular speech. Protecting free expression is messy work. Often protecting the principles of free expression means defending material that makes one personally uncomfortable. That discomfort is a small price to pay for maintaining a culture of free expression.
In terms of fundraising for the Canada Customs case, we’ve seen a good start, but there’s still a long ways to go. In the first week we raised slightly over $5,000 in donations, which is divided between pure cash donations and donations in exchange for premiums. It’s a long way from the $150,000 the case is expected to cost, but it’s a start, and one we’re grateful for. This summer we hope to work with communities within the American comics, manga, and digital comics communities to create new fundraisers and awareness raising opportunities surrounding this case. I’d encourage anyone who wants to be part of helping us raise funds and awareness to get in touch with me or our Development Manager Alex Cox by sending a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve been very pleased to see so many responses to our work this week. We’re grateful to our friends at Bonfire for putting together a terrific ad campaign to help us build awareness. We’re very glad that the media has responded to our announcements, and has spread the word about our important work. And we’re glad that people are discussing these important issues.
Getting to court in Canada is going to be a long march, and there are other fights we’re maintaining alongside it. But we hope that we can continue to collaborate with the community in spreading awareness, and that they’ll help us raise the funds we need to fight our important casework.