Know Your Rights — Tools For Travelers Crossing International Borders

By Charles Brownstein

Last week, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced that criminal charges had been dropped in R. v. Matheson, a case involving an American manga reader who was wrongly accused of importing child pornography into Canada because of comic book images on his laptop. Ryan was extensively, wrongfully searched and detained by the Canadian government who charged him with a crime before he even entered the country. Read the story in his own words here. The CBLDF provided financial and substantive legal support in his case, and is currently fundraising to help pay off his $45,000 legal debt.

While the good news is that Ryan’s ordeal is now over, the bad news is that this kind of prosecution can happen again. To help travelers crossing borders with comics, the CBLDF is pleased to offer important resources that you should read before you cross a foreign border. These tools aren’t designed to take the place of your lawyer. Nothing in them is intended as legal advice. But they are important overviews of the concerns travelers now face when crossing borders with comic art in printed form and on their digital devices, and must reading for everyone in those situations.

Legal Hazards of Crossing International Borders With Comic Art
— Prepared by Davis Wright Tremaine, this general advisory addresses issues concerning entering the United States with expressive materials, provides an overview of the phenomenon of border searches of expressive materials, describes the basic legal framework governing such searches, and offers some general suggestions for international travelers planning to transport expressive materials.

Pornographic Anime and Manga Under Canadian Law — Prepared by Edelson, Clifford, D’Angelo, in light of the issues faced in R. v. Matheson, this memo addresses the disposition of Canadian law towards anime and manga, outlines the powers of Canada Border Services Agency, and provides a detailed discussion of the definition of child pornography under Canadian law, alongside the related sentencing guidelines and defenses for that offense.

Electronic Devices Privacy Handbook: A Guide To Your Rights
— Prepared and hosted by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, this handbook is focused on privacy issues concerning travelers crossing the Canadian border with electronic devices. This tool addresses your rights at the Canadian border, including a discussion of the Customs Act, an overview of CBSA policies, best practices when crossing the Canadian border, and information on what to do if you’ve been searched.

Defending Privacy At The U.S. Border — Prepared and hosted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this resource provides an overview of privacy issues at the U.S. border, and detailed tips on how to protect your privacy and data, and what to do when interacting with border agents.

Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and creation of more tools like these by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

Charles Brownstein is the Executive Director for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund