An American citizen is facing criminal charges in Canada that could result in a mandatory minimum prison sentence of one year for comics brought into the country on his laptop. The computer programmer, whose name is being withheld, is a comic book enthusiast in his mid-twenties who was flying from his home in the US 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 declared that it was child pornography.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBDLF) has announced that it is forming a coalition to support the man's legal defense. The CBLDF has agreed to assist in the case by contributing funds towards the defense, which has been estimated to cost $150,000 CAD ($151,000 USD). The CBLDF will also provide access to experts and assistance on legal strategy.
The CBLDF says it has noticed a trend in these types of stories: search and seizure of print and electronic comic books carried by travelers crossing borders. The group does note, however, that this is the most serious incident so far. Its efforts are joined by the recently re-formed Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund, a Canadian organization that will contribute to the fundraising effort.
You can also help out by making a tax deductible contribution. Choose if you want to donate $10, $20, $50, $100, or $500 over at cbldf.myshopify.com/products/canadian-customs-case.
"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," CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein said in a statement. "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."