Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Oregon Censorship Law, CBLDF & Dark Horse Cheer Free Speech Victory

Sep 21st 2010
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Dark Horse Comics applaud a decision issued by United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit holding that two Oregon statutes that criminalize distributing sex education and other non-obscene materials to minors are unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment. The State of Oregon argued that the statutes applied only to “hardcore pornography,” but the Ninth Circuit found that they applied to much more, including Kentaro Miura's manga “Berserk,” Judy Blume's “Forever,” and Margaret Atwood's “A Handmaid's Tale.” The plaintiffs did not challenge Oregon's existing law making it a crime to contact a minor with the intent of having sexual contact. CBLDF and Dark Horse were among the plaintiff group challenging the statutes.

Mike Richardson, publisher of plaintiff Dark Horse Comics says, "We were extremely happy to see these statutes overturned. Our Constitution's First Amendment was intended to keep the hands of the government off the printing presses of America. Creators everywhere can breath a sigh of relief that these laws, open to interpretation and likely to be abused, have been put down."

“This is an important victory permitting readers − both younger and older − to obtain what they are constitutionally entitled to read,” said Michael Powell of plaintiff Powell's Books. “It is also a victory for booksellers who do not want to ask 13-year-olds for identification or risk going to jail for selling a Judy Blume book.”

“The court did the right thing by rejecting the State's promise that it wouldn't prosecute the plaintiffs under these statutes,” said P.K. Runkles-Pearson, counsel for plaintiffs. “This decision allows educators to provide straightforward health information to minors without worrying that the State will prosecute if it disagrees with them.”

The decision was issued in a lawsuit brought by Powell's Books, Inc.; Annie Bloom's Books; Dark Horse Comics, Inc.; Colette's Good Food + Hungry Minds, LLC; Pauline Springs Books; St. John's Booksellers, LLC; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; Association of American Publishers, Inc.; Freedom to Read Foundation, Inc.; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Candace Morgan, Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette, Inc.; Cascade AIDS Project and the ACLU of Oregon.

Plaintiffs were represented by Michael A. Bamberger of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, New York, general counsel to Media Coalition, and P.K. Runkles-Pearson of Stoel Rives LLP, Portland, Oregon, a cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Oregon.

The full text of the decision can be read at www.cbldf.org

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The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1986 as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit 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.

Since 1986, Dark Horse Comics has proven to be a solid example of how integrity and innovation can help broaden a unique storytelling medium and establish a small, homegrown company as an industry giant. The company is known for the progressive and creator friendly atmosphere it provides for writers and artists. In addition to publishing comics from top talent like Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Neil Gaiman, Gerard Way and comics legend Will Eisner, Dark Horse has developed such successful characters as The Mask, Timecop, and SpyBoy. Additionally, their highly successful line of comics and products based on popular properties includes Star Wars,Indiana Jones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, Conan, Emily the Strange, Tim Burton, Trigun,Serenity and Domo. Today, Dark Horse Comics is the largest independent comic-book publisher in the U.S. and is recognized as one of the world's leading publisher of licensed comics material.

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