As manga and anime become more powerful forces in pop culture, there is an increase in criminal prosecutions against the people who read, make, and sell it! Since 2000, several cases have been brought where individuals have gone to prison for the manga they possess. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund helps people when the authorities attack!
The First Amendment: The First Amendment guarantees that no one can be jailed for the content they read, make, share or sell. Exceptions to the First Amendment are when something is obscene, or when speech creates immediate harm, such as “fighting words” or “child pornography.” In recent years, law enforcement in the US has targeted & prosecuted manga readers.
How Arrests Happen: Arrests happen at the point of last transaction, meaning when you receive a package, download an image or sell a good. In recent years, arrests about manga have occurred when individuals received an order from Japan, when their downloads were flagged in the course of a broad investigation, or when they sold an item to an undercover police officer.
What Are The Charges: Manga is typically prosecuted under provisions of either under local obscenity law, local child pornography laws, local harmful to minors laws, or the Protect Act. To be obscene work must be proved in court to be patently offensive, possess no serious literary, artistic or scientific value, and appeal to the prurient interest (arouse the reader). To be harmful to minors it must meet the above test, but as to minors. The Protect Act and child pornography laws say that if work depicts minors engaged in sexual behavior, and is obscene, it is the same as child pornography.
Manga & Child Pornography: By definition, manga cannot be child pornography. Child pornography is photographic evidence of a crime where a real person is being subjected to real harm. Drawings are not photographs, and no real people are harmed in their creation. Prosecuting individuals for possessing art is a dangerous infringement on our rights.
Traveling With Manga: There are increasing cases of individuals being stopped at borders for carrying manga that customs officials believe is child pornography or obscene. At borders, any of your property can be searched, including computers and digital devices of any kind. Learn more about your rights at borders at www.cbldf.org, where we have prepared special advisory publications to assist in these situations.
Why We Fight: Manga is misunderstood. Commonly, law enforcement sees manga as a code word for porn, and sees the art style of many manga as depicting children. One reader aided by CBLDF spent two years under the false accusation of importing child pornography for drawings of chibis! It is important to fight all cases prosecuting manga to prove that it is art and is protected by the First Amendment.
Fear Is Not The Answer: It does no good to stop reading the manga you love for fear of prosecution. Likewise, turning on other manga fans because they are prosecuted for material that you dislike does more harm than good for all fans of manga. We must raise the consciousness of our community that manga is free speech, and we have a constitutional right to read it in all its forms. As a community, we must raise the consciousness of the rest of the world that manga is art that speaks to a wide range of important human concerns. A united front emphasizing the power of manga as art is the only way to raise the consciousness of police and prosecutors enough to stop attacking manga in the first place.
Why Support The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: The CBLDF provides financial aid, legal counsel, and legal expertise to individuals being prosecuted for manga. We also give educational seminars to libraries and lawyers about manga to raise their consciousness about its value as art. Please share this information with your fellow fans, and please make a donation to the CBLDF. We can only afford to do this work with the support of fans like you. Please help!