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Friday, 30 January 2009

Could New UK Laws Threaten Comic Collectors?

(with thanks to Leah Moore and John Reppion who mentioned The Bookseller article on this matter their blog).

New laws designed to tackle extreme and child pornography could make owning mainstream comics like Batman or Judge Dredd illegal, campaigners claim.

The Bookseller notes an article in the Daily Telegraph citing concerns raised on the web site comicshopvoice.co.uk protesting against two pieces of legislation and urging comics fans to lobby their MPs on the matter. The first, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, has just come into force, but concerns were raised about the new laws as far back as May last year, by Mark Lawson in The Guardian and later, by artist David Hockney on the BBC's Newsnight.

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act makes possessing "extreme pornography" - defined as any "extreme image" produced "solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal" - illegal.

The second is the Coroners and Justice Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament, which will introduce a similar law banning the possession of any image involving sexual activity and children.

While many have welcomed the government's latest attempts to legislate on the appalling illegal trade in child pornography, comicshopvoice.co.uk claim that if the new rules are interpreted harshly, their hobby could be criminalised.

In a statement, the website says of the rules outlawing sexual violence: "Isn't that how Batman, Punisher, Judge Dredd get anything done? A kick in the balls or a*** would constitute this, and a kick in the balls is a well trodden part of humour."

It added that the new law on images of children would make owning some comic books, and "particularly some forms of Manga", illegal.

The comicshopvoice web site suggests that the law could affect titles such as Lost Girls, Wanted,
Batman: The Killing Joke, Watchmen, Punisher, Manga (pick a title -- elsewhere, anime fans have described the act as "criminalising" their genre) and Cerebus.

The site continues: "Because this is a minefield for the law it then falls on the Police to enforce it, and it is their judgment that could lead to a prosecution.

"We could get to a point where the police could legitimately visit your home or workplace, and sanctioned by an un-elected magistrate or judge go through your collection and if they find any comic book that they feel will cause sexual arousal or displays extreme violence then they could arrest you."

Comic book fans are being urged to lobby their MPs, the group adding: "What is frightening about this law is that it gives [the Government] carte blanche to invade our lives, to shut down our comic shops and ultimately it could lead to censorship of books and films as well."

"The ingenuity of the human mind allows both the creation of art and the misuse of images," Mark Lawson said of the proposals last year. "The twisted mind will always find loopholes - and the government has correctly identified one - but, if closing a loophole threatens other legitimate forms of expression, then it is wrong."

You can write to your MP via WriteToThem.com

• What do you think? Discuss this issue on the downthetubes forum
• For a complete look at the new law, visit the official site

• For further comments see:
Coroners and Justice Bill: the most toxic law ever?
www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/19/evil_cartoon_badness
Mark Lawson commented on these proposals in The Guardian way back in May 2008
"Professor Sapient" outlines the issues in considerable detail here, also noting censorship elsewhere - more food for thought

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