As we noted late last year, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been tracking trends in both the United States and abroad that show customs authorities searching and in some cases seizing computers and other electronic devices that had adult comics material stored on them. Today the CBLDF released an advisory prepared by their legal counsel, Robert Corn-Revere, titled “Legal Hazards of Crossing International Borders with Comic Book Art.”
“Most people do not know that their constitutional rights are not guaranteed, even from U.S. Customs agents, when they cross international borders,” Corn-Revere said. “Their books, papers, laptop computers, and even cell phones are subject to routine search and possible seizure by the government, even without any suspicion of criminal activity. This is important to know in an age when many people carry with them a great deal of highly personal information in electronic form.”
The document offers an overview on Immigrations and Customs Enforcement policies and how border searches lack traditional legal protection. It also offers suggestions on avoiding intrusive searches. The CBLDF Advisory is available as a Word document and a PDF file.
Another day, another huge announcement from DC Comics, via Vertigo’s Graphic Content blog: After a over a decade in quasi-legal limbo, DC will release Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Flex Mentallo in a deluxe hardcover format in Fall 2011.
Long one of the most eagerly sought-after “uncollectible” books in comics, this four-issue 1996 spinoff from Morrison’s storied Doom Patrol run featured, in the person of its titular hero, a parody of the famous Charles Atlas bodybuilding ad “The Insult That Made a Man Out of Mac” — and thus attracted the legal ire of the Charles Atlas company. Though the courts found in favor of DC, the Charles Atlas company’s trademark-infringement/dilution lawsuit apparently spooked the publisher bad enough that their plans to collect the four-issue miniseries, scrapped when DC received Atlas’ original cease-and-desist notice, remained mothballed even despite the rise to superstardom of its creators on books like New X-Men, All-Star Superman, and Batman and Robin…until now. As such it’s the most high-profile example yet of DC’s post-Paul Levitz willingness to (re)publish books previously considered verboten, a la Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez’s long-suppressed school-shooting Hellblazer story “Shoot,” which helped launch the “Vertigo Resurrected” initiative. It just goes to show you: There’s no resisting the Power of Muscle Mystery!
If you’re planning on traveling abroad this holiday season, you may want to be wary of what comics you’re bringing on your computer, phone or other device. During a call with his fellow Comic Book Legal Defense Fund board members yesterday, writer Neil Gaiman tweeted about a trend the CBLDF has been watching: “On @CBLDF Board of Directors call. Just learning about Customs officers confiscating computers because they didn’t like the comics on them.”
According to Executive Director Charles Brownstein, both the CBLDF and the American Civil Liberties Union have been tracking the trend.
“The CBLDF legal team has been tracking trends in customs here in the U.S. and abroad that show authorities searching, and,in some cases, seizing the computers, portable devices, storage devices, and other items of travelers who have adult comics material stored on those devices,” Brownstein told Comic Book Resources. “The ACLU is tracking similar customs abuses from a privacy point of view. There’s a recent incident about which we’re not at liberty to discuss specifics involving this trend, where we were asked to provide information and letters of support. Because this is a pending matter, I’m not at liberty to discuss further specifics at this time.”
He added that in response, the CBLDF is working on a “best practices” document for comic fans going through customs. “This document will cover what they need to know to help mitigate their risks in this area,” Brownstein said. “We plan to issue this document in the first quarter of 2011.”