Melon Farmers Original Version

Dangerous Anime in the US

Japanese anime open to prosecution

1st December

Dangerous Anime...

US obscenity case about possession of comic books

Look through your comic book collection. Do you have Alan Moore's Lost Girls ? Any of S. Clay Wilson's Underground Comix ? Even Neil Gaiman's Sandman series? If the prosecution of manga collector Christopher Handley sticks, all of that and more could be considered obscene, Gaiman told MTV.

I wrote a story about a serial killer who kidnaps and rapes children, and then murders them, Gaiman said, referring to a storyline in The Doll's House . We did that as a comic, not for the purposes of titillation or anything like that, but if you bought that comic, you could be arrested for it? That's just deeply wrong. Nobody was hurt. The only thing that was hurt were ideas.

Gaiman's currently supporting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's fight to defend Handley, who was arrested in Iowa for possession of obscene material based on his private collection, which included lolicon and yaoi manga. Lolicon focuses on the Lolita complex, where yaoi features male homosexual romance for a primarily female audience.

There is explicit sex in yaoi comics, Handley's lawyer Eric Chase told MTV. And the men are drawn in a very androgynous style, which has the effect of making them look really young. There's a real taboo in Japan about showing pubic hair, so they're all drawn without it, which also makes them look young. So what concerned the authorities were the depictions of children in explicit sexual situations that they believed to be obscene. But there are no actual children. It was all very crude images from a comic book.

Despite the argument that there was no actual children portrayed in the manga, Handley faces felony obsenity charges, including the receipt and possession of obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children. The case is going to trial on December 2. The jury will determine whether the manga is obscene or if it has artistic value. If found guilty of the charges against him, Handley faces a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.


31st January

Update: Cartoon Persecutors...

US trial of Dangerous Cartoons starts 2nd February

Iowa man, Christopher Handley, faces a possible 20 year prison sentence when he goes to trial this week over his possession of supposedly obscene manga. Handley had received a package of manga that he’d ordered from Japan in May 2006. The Postal Inspector intercepted the package and deemed its contents to be objectionable.

Without knowing that his package had been searched, Handley was followed home by the police. He was then arrested and the authorities confiscated seven home computers, over 1,200 volumes of manga, hundreds of DVDs, VHS tapes, and laserdiscs. He’s been charged with violation of the Protection Act, which prohibits the possession of sexually obscene material, including material that depicts sexual acts with minors.

This story has also sent shivers down the spines of comic book publishers like Dark Horse, who is one of the top distributors of licensed manga in the United States. They may now be more hesitant to bring other foreign comics to North America for fear of being charged with illegal distribution themselves. Dark Horse’s manga editor, Carl Horn, recently discussed his views, emphasizing that if Christopher Handley loses this case, then we as a people will no longer hold the right to make decisions on quality for ourselves; someone else will make them for us.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an organization founded on protecting those in need against censorship, has signed on to provide Handley with legal support. Famed writer Neil Gaiman has also spoken out publicly in defense of Handley, as well as anyone else whose First Amendment rights are in danger.

The CBLDF recently offered prints signed by Time and Mad magazine artist, Peter Kuper in order to raise funds for the case, which begins February 2.


23rd May

Update: Dangerous Outcome...

Victim of the US Dangerous Drawing Act pleads guilty
Anime girl of indeterminent age

How the fuck are we expected
to know how old she is?

Anime collector Christopher Handley was busted in May of 2006, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intercepted a package addressed to Handley coming into the United States from Japan. The package contained several anime items, which the feds say contained visual representations of the sexual abuse of children, specifically Japanese manga drawings of minor females being sexually abused by adult males and animals.

ICE used the material as the basis to obtain a search warrant of Handley's residence, and there, postal inspectors found and seized what a Justice Department press release termed additional obscene drawings of the sexual abuse of children, some of which were contained in a type of homo-erotic anime known as yaoi.

Based on evidence seized, Handley was indicted by a federal grand jury in May, 2007, under Sec. 1466A on the U.S. Criminal Code, Obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children.

The law, whose genesis is in the PROTECT Act, was enacted in the wake of Free Speech Coalition's win in the U.S. Supreme Court against certain sections of the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) which had criminalized images that appeared to be, or that were advertised, promoted, presented, described, or distributed in such a manner that conveys the impression, of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Congress' anger at this ruling led directly to Sec. 1466A, which makes a criminal out of any person who knowingly produces, distributes, receives, or possesses with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, that depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, as well as any person who knowingly possesses such a depiction, even though no actual minors are involved.

Part of the problem faced by the defense was that the anime style of drawing made it difficult to argue that much of the material in question didn't actually depict minors.

There is explicit sex in yaoi comics, acknowledged Eric Chase, of the United Defense Group, which was handling Handley's defense. And the men are drawn in a very androgynous style, which has the effect of making them look really young. There's a real taboo in Japan about showing pubic hair, so they're all drawn without it, which also makes them look young. So what concerned the authorities were the depictions of children in explicit sexual situations that they believed to be obscene. But there are no actual children. It was all very crude images from a comic book.

Failing to prove that the depictions were of adults, and lacking sufficient funds for a proper defense Handley decided to plead guilty to possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and mailing obscene material. He also agreed to forfeit all of his seized property to the government.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein said. Because the set of facts specific to this case were so unique, we hope that its importance as precedent will be minimal. However, we must also continue to be prepared for the possibility that other cases could arise in the future as a result.

Adult retailers who carry manga may now want to examine their stock more carefully in light of Handley's prosecution, since mere possession of similar material is considered to be a felony.


13th October

Update: Cartoon Reality...

Alaskan prosecutor proposes a dangerous cartoons law

Alaskans may be headed down a free speech slippery slope as the state legislature considers strengthening state child pornography laws to include cartoons, drawings and animation. In other words, for the content to be considered contraband no actual human being would need to be involved.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, the idea is supported by the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and others in the state legislature.

The fight needs to happen, said Aaron Sperbeck, the crimes-against-children prosecutor in the Anchorage District Attorney's Office who is behind the idea. [Cartoon images] are almost as graphic and disturbing as real children. We need to get the conversation going.

Alaskan House Judiciary chair Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, supports adding cartoons and computer-generated images to the list of photos and videos of child sexual abuse currently criminalized under state law: I'm awestruck that it even exists, he said, adding the prosecutor has got a good idea and I'm going to support him.


14th February

Update: Cartoon Justice...

US man jailed for 6 months for possessing Japanese anime

A US comic book collector has been sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to importing and possessing Japanese manga books supposedly depicting illustrations of child sex and bestiality [presumably referring to the usual many tentacled monsters].

Christopher Handley was sentenced in Iowa almost a year after pleading guilty to charges of possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children. Without a plea deal with federal authorities, he faced a maximum 15-year sentence.

The man was charged under the 2003 Protect Act, which outlaws cartoons, drawings, sculptures or paintings depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, and which lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Handley was the nation's first to be convicted under that law for possessing cartoon art, without any evidence that he also collected or viewed genuine child pornography.

Comic fans were outraged, saying jailing someone over manga does not protect children from sexual abuse. I'd say the anime community's reaction to this, since day one, has been almost exclusively one of support for Handley and disgust with the U.S. courts and legal system, Christopher MacDonald, editor of Anime News Network, said in an e-mail.

Congress passed the Protect Act after the Supreme Court struck down a broader law prohibiting any visual depictions of minors engaged in sexual activity, including computer-generated imagery and other fakes. The high court ruled that the ban was too broad, and could cover legitimate speech, including Hollywood productions.

In response, the Protect Act narrows the prohibition to cover only depictions that the defendant's community would consider obscene.


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