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November 25, 2008
Right to Own, Right to View
In this blog I spend most of my time on the production side of the issues - talking about business models, distribution, artist compensation, and so on. Once in a while it's important to remember that there are also complimentary rights - your right to own materials produced by creators, for private viewing. Making or buying legal copies of creative works is an essential part of the process - all the author rights in the world don't mean jack if nobody can buy what's created. Sometimes we need to remember those rights because they get attacked.
On Monday of this week Neil Gaiman blogged about a particular incident - a case being defended by CBLDF, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
In this case a person, Christopher Handley, is being prosecuted for possession of manga (comics) that are asserted to be obscene. Handley is facing up to 20 years for possession of material that is... um, let's be honest here, it's pretty much exactly like stuff you'd find on my shelves. I don't collect manga, per se, but I do collect Gaiman's works and some of Alan Moore's more disturbing output.
The problem seems to center around images that appear to be young children. It's pretty hard to determine the age of a character in a fiction, unless the author explicitly states it. So the prosecution is based purely on the appearance of an image. Subjective judgement, anyone?
As the parent of two young children, I'm a bit sensitive to the actual use of real children in visually explicit material. I don't think children can consent in any meaningful way, and I don't think they understand the adult implications of explicit or sexual acts. Real people - children and adults - need protection against unscrupulous content producers of any sort who would take advantage of or coerce them.
But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about made-up images of purely fictional people. I think it's important to defend the right to own, and the right to view, legally obtained copies of material against overreaching laws.
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