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CBLDF Cheers Free Speech Victory in Brown v. EMA!

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund applauds today’s Supreme Court decision to affirm the First Amendment rights of creators, readers and retailers by denying states the ability to create new restrictions on violent content in Brown v. EMA. In a 7-2 decision, the high court struck down a California law that would have banned the sale and rental of violent video games to minors and would have made violence a new category of unprotected speech.

The CBLDF was active in opposing the law and filed its own amicus brief, arguing that the California law was unconstitutional by citing a history of moral panics, most notably the anti-comics fervor that nearly dismantled the comics industry in the 1950s. The arguments presented in CBLDF’s brief were part of the discussion in oral arguments and cited in the Court’s majority decision.
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Please support the CBLDF’s defense of free speech issues like this by making a donation today!

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

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 here.

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.”

Find out more on the case here. To help support the case, you can make a monetary contribution here.

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 www.clldf.ca.

CBLDF Heads to the ALA Annual Conference with Exclusive Babymouse Print

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is excited to announce its plans for the 2011 American Library Association Annual Conference, taking place this weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana! You’ll find CBLDF at booth 1749 in the Graphic Novel Pavilion throughout the weekend!

As part of our ongoing educational programming and outreach into the Library community, the CBLDF has planned a number of exciting programs throughout the weekend.

On Friday night, during the Exhibits Opening Reception from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., we will be kicking off the conference weekend in the Graphic Novel Pavilion with an incredible Live Art event, co-sponsored by First Second Books and hosted by First Second Editorial Director and Cartoonist Marc Seigel. Artists will include Dave Roman (Astronaut Elementary), Raina Telgemeier (The Babysitters Club), Jim Ottaviani (Feynman), Ben Hatke (Zita the Spacegirl), and Eric Wight (Frankie Pickle). These talented and popular cartoonists will be drawing onstage, and the artwork created will be available for bidding in a silent auction throughout the event, with all proceeds supporting the CBLDF.

Over the course of the weekend, we will be accepting donations at our booth in exchange for several exciting premiums, including a brand new Babymouse print by creators Jennifer and Matthew Holm. On Saturday afternoon, starting at 1:00 p.m., Jennifer L. Holm will be signing these one-of-a-kind prints at our booth, and they will be offered as an incentive to join the CBLDF at our $25 membership level. We will also have a number of other signed prints, signed books, and t-shirts, all available as donation incentives, and benefiting our ongoing First Amendment legal work.

Another exciting CBLDF program will be ongoing testimonial interviews throughout the conference. We invite all participants who have encountered challenges to Free Speech to tell their story and have it documented in our video archives. We also invite participants to discuss their involvement with Graphic Novels and Comics, as this singular art form has risen in popularity over the past several years.

These testimonials will be used as part of an educational video series, and the participation of librarians is key to making this project informative and genuine. With actual testimonials from working librarians, who are fighting for free expression in towns and cities across the country, we can create a resource that will show the good work being done in our nation’s libraries, and present a living document of First Amendment advocacy for years to come.

The CBLDF is incredibly proud to be involved with this year’s American Library Association Annual Conference. Librarians have always been on the front lines in the fight for Free Speech, and we look forward to continuing that important fight together!

Find CBLDF at at booth 1749 in the Graphic Novel Pavilion during the ALA Annual Conference, taking place this weekend at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana!

CBLDF, Booksellers, Artists, ACLU Seek to Bar Utah Law Restricting Speech on Internet

Yesterday, a coalition including CBLDF, booksellers, media companies, artists, and the ACLU of Utah asked the federal district court in Salt Lake City to permanently bar enforcement of a Utah statute that restricts constitutionally-protected speech on the Internet. Although passed in 2005, the statute has not been in effect because Utah consented to a temporary injunction barring its enforcement.

Utah’s law seeks to regulate all Internet speech that some might consider “harmful to minors,” including works of visual art, photography, graphic novels, and information about sexual health and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.

The CBLDF and TFAW Announce Third Annual SDCC Autograph Card / CBLDF Auction Event

For the past two years, Things From Another World (TFAW) and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) have teamed up with comics professionals, such as Jim Lee, Charlie Adlard, Philip Tan and more, to help raise more than $60,000 for the annual CBLDF auction at San Diego Comic-Con. Now, TFAW and CBLDF are proud to announce their Third Annual SDCC Autograph Card/CBLDF Auction event!

As in years past, TFAW is asking artists to create original sketches to donate to the CBLDF auction at San Diego Comic-Con. However, this year, Marvel and DC Comics have generously agreed to allow artists to use their proprietary characters in these CBLDF sketches!

40 Years On, One Man’s Vulgarity Is Still Another’s Lyric

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on Cohen v. California — a decision that still shapes how the First Amendment is interpreted and protected today.

The First Amendment Center took a moment to remember the case, which centered on one man’s First Amendment right to protest the Vietnam War by wearing a jacket bearing profane language. In 1968, Paul Robert Cohen was arrested in California for disturbing the peace by offensive conduct. Cohen’s conviction was ultimately overturned by a majority decision in the Supreme Court.

CBLDF Joins the Superheroes at HeroesCon!

Today finds your plucky CBLDF crew headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, for Heroes Convention 2011! For all three days — June 3-5 — you’ll find CBLDF at booth 130/132 with a cornucopia of signed premiums and amazing artists!

Executive Director Charles Brownstein and Development Manager Alex Cox will be on hand with the East Coast premiere of CBLDF’s new “I Read Banned Comics” t-shirt and the CBLDF-exclusive Frank Quitely print and postcard sets (signed, of course!).

You can also expect to find amazing artists hanging out in the CBLDF booth, making art for your donations. So far, we have Becky Cloonan (Demo, American Virgin), Brian Stelfreeze (Domino, Wednesday Comics, Gun Candy), Rebekah Isaacs (Angel & Faith, DV8, Hack/Slash), and Dean Trippe (Project: Rooftop) on deck to sketch. We’re still lining folks up, so be sure to watch this space or run by CBLDF booth 130/132 to get the latest schedule!

Don’t miss CBLDF, at booth 130/132 this weekend at HeroesCon, June 3-5, 2011, at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina!

Jason “J.Gonzo” Gonzalez Has Some Serious Love for CBLDF at Phoenix Comicon

Memorial Day has come and gone, and with it, the eleventh iteration of the Phoenix Comicon. Jason Gonzalez, the creator of the lucha libre magnum opus La Mano del Destino, was on hand with his trusty CBLDF donation jar. Every fan who donated got a gorgeous sketch from Gonzalez, who sent us some pics to share.

Anime North 2011 Panel Discusses Recents Attacks on Manga at Canadian Border

If you’re in Toronto this weekend, a fan of manga and anime, and looking for some like-minded folks, Canada’s fan-run Anime North kicks off today.

CBLDF may not be there in person, but we’ll be there in spirit on Saturday, when Paul Stockton moderates a panel discussing the recent attacks against manga and comics at the Canadian border. Stockton is the co-founder of Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund, which does what we do in Canada: CLLDF assists retailers, distributors, publishers and creators who run afoul of Canada’s obscenity laws.

Stockton’s panel, tentatively titled Manga Under Attack By The Law, takes place on Saturday, May 28, at 2:00 p.m. You can get more details on site at the convention or from the Anime North website.