Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Head Speaks at Japan's Comic Market

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
Speech focuses on Matheson's manga pornography arrest, worldwide censorship

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund director Charles Brownstein traveled to Tokyo's Comic Market 84 last weekend as part of the Manga Freedom Speaking Tour. Brownstein discussed the current issues facing manga consumers and creators' freedom of expression. A full transcription of the speech can be found on the CBLDF website.

Ryan Matheson Case

In his speech, Brownstein focuses on cases of obscenity laws used to charge individuals for reading manga containing certain content, such as American citizen Ryan Matheson. Matheson was charged in 2011 with possessing and importing child pornography by Canadian Customs, after his bag and laptop were searched while crossing the Canadian border. The customs officer characterized manga found on his computer as child pornography.

According to Brownstein, Matheson was abused during his incarceration, not informed of the charges against him, denied access to legal counsel and the American embassy, not provided food or a blanket, and threatened with rape. Ryan's laptop contained the image "The 48 Positions: Moe Style" which depicts sexual positions by super-deformed characters and a dōjinshi depicting adult acts between non-human characters.

Those charges were dropped last year, but Matheson accumulated US$75,000 in legal fees for his defense. The CBLDF donated over US$40,000 to help with his legal fees and is raising funds to cover the remaining US$24,000 left.

Cases Worldwide

Other cases against individuals for possession of anime and manga depicting sexual acts involving minors have occurred worldwide in recent years. The United Kingdom, The Philippines, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand have all passed bills outlawing virtual 'child pornography.' Japan is considering a similar law as part of legislation to close a loophole outlawing possession of real child pornography.

In the past ten years, several cases prosecuting individuals of possessing 'virtual child pornography' have resulted in jail time. In the United States, Iowa resident Christopher Handley received six months in prison for possessing 'obscene' manga and Missouri citizen Christjan Bee plead guilty to obscenity charges for possession of "incest comics."

New Zealand has arrested and charged at least three individuals for pornographic manga and anime content. Individuals in Australia and France have also been sentenced. Charges were also brought against Swedish translator Simon Lundström but eventually dropped.

On July 11, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department made the first arrest involving "CG Child Pornography" in Japan. Three Core Magazine employees of the pornographic manga publication Comic Megastore were arrested last month for insufficient censoring.

Thanks to Gilles Poitras for the news tip

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