CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein Discusses The Contested Art & Legal Repercussions of R. v. Matheson

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein talked to Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter about the art at issue in R. v. Matheson, the CBLDF’s legal case that recently concluded with criminal charges against the client being dropped.

Of the art, Brownstein said:

While both of these comics are adult material, I can’t see any reasonable adult viewing those images and convicting them as depictions of child sex abuse. Particularly in the context of the expert testimony we were prepared to deploy.

He also discussed the big picture of these types of prosecutions:

Ultimately, I think these issues are still very much in play both internationally, and here in the United States. And I think that they’re an easy get for prosecutors because individuals tend to be automatically predisposed to assume guilt wherever an allegation of child pornography is made. Even in this case, where the charges against Ryan were dropped, and he’s been cleared of any wrongdoing, you’re still seeing a lot of internet comments suggesting that he must have possessed some form of child pornography. Well, no, he didn’t. If he did, there’s not a reality in which the Crown wouldn’t have proceeded to trial.

Brownstein sees this as a call to action for comics lovers to stand united in the face of censorship. He said:

This is one of those rare moments where Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately,” is the most potent and accurate assessment of our current situation. Even today I saw a lot of discussion that it’s okay for authorities to prosecute the really icky stuff. But when you look at the actual images Ryan was prosecuted for, it’s clear that the authorities have a much lower threshold for what constitutes the really icky stuff than the average person who’s ready to sell their fellow comic book reader, retailer or artist down the river.

If Ryan were convicted for possessing that Moe 48 Positions, what chance does the average indy cartoonist going to TCAF have of carrying stuff into the show without hassle, much less fear of arrest? What hope does a retailer who orders from the adult order form for his store have when that stuff is in his internet cache? We’re a field that thrives on the power of the static image, and while our communities have our own understandings of what’s acceptable and what’s taboo, our understanding may not always square with that of local law enforcement. I’m not saying these things to stir up fear, I’m saying that equivocating about what kind of censorship is acceptable to us, as individuals, creates cracks in our armor that can bring censorship down on our field as a whole.

Read The Comics Reporter for the full interview.