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Book Banning in US?

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U.S. bars some books

New rules require government OK before certain foreign works are published here.

By Scott Martelle

Los Angeles Times

In the summer of 1956, Russian poet Boris Pasternak - a favorite of recently deceased Joseph Stalin - delivered his epic Doctor Zhivago manuscript to a Soviet publishing house, hoping for a warm reception and a fast track to readers who had shared Russia's torturous half-century of revolution and war, oppression and terror.

Instead, Pasternak received one of the all-time classic rejection letters: A 10,000-word missive that stopped just short of accusing him of treason. It was left to foreign publishers to give his smuggled manuscript life, offering the West a peek into the soul of the Cold War enemy and winning Pasternak the 1958 Nobel Prize in literature.

These days, Pasternak might not have fared so well.

In an apparent reversal of decades of U.S. practice, recent federal Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations bar American companies from publishing works by dissident writers in countries under sanction unless they first obtain U.S. government approval.

The restriction, condemned by critics as a violation of the First Amendment, means that books and other works banned by some totalitarian regimes cannot be published freely in the United States.

"It strikes me as very odd," said Douglas Kmiec, a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine University and former legal counsel to former Presidents Reagan and Bush. "I think the government has an uphill struggle to justify this constitutionally."

Several groups, led by the PEN American Center and including Arcade Publishing, filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York to overturn the regulations, which cover writers in Iran, Sudan, Cuba, North Korea and, until recently, Iraq.

Violations carry severe reprisals - publishing houses can be fined $1 million and individual violators face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"Historically, the United States has served as a megaphone for dissidents from other countries," said Ed Davis of New York, a lawyer leading the PEN challenge. "Now we're not able to hear from dissidents."

Yet more than dissident voices are affected. The regulations have led publishers to scrap plans for volumes on Cuban architecture and birds, and publishers say the rules threaten the intellectual breadth and independence of academic journals.

Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has joined the suit, arguing that the rules preclude American publishers from helping craft her memoirs of surviving Iran's Islamic revolution and her efforts to defend human rights in Iran.

"It's absolutely against the First Amendment," said Arcade editor Richard Seaver, who hopes to publish a book of Iranian stories.

Officials from the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees OFAC, declined comment, but spokeswoman Molly Millerwise described the sanctions as "a very important part of our overall national security."

"These are countries that pose serious threats to the United States, to our economy and security, and our well-being around the globe," Millerwise said, adding that publishers can still bring dissident writers to American readers as long as they first apply for a license.

The dispute centers on a Treasury Department interpretation this year of regulations rooted in the 1917 "Trading With the Enemy Act," which lets the president bar transactions with people or businesses in nations during times of war or national emergency. A 1988 amendment relaxed the act to effectively give publishers an exemption.

In April, OFAC regulators amended an earlier interpretation to advise academic publishers that they can make minor changes to works already published in sanctioned countries and reissue them. But the regulators said editors cannot provide broader services considered basic to publishing, such as commissioning works, making "substantive" changes to texts, or adding illustrations.

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Thanks to http://www.bugmenot.com

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Well, give them some credit... what if those books contain bombs or razors that lash out at the reader?

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Disorder said:

Would you mind copy-pasting the article? You have to sign up to be able to read it.


Odd, thats Philly's main paper, and thier new stuff is always free. Anyway, I dont have an account and I can see it..

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You think banning books is bad? In most schools, try going to any website that talks about banned books (including government sites). Good luck getting past filters. I was going to do some research on banned books as part of a project for an English class, and none of the computers would let me even Google search on the topic because of a "weighted phrase limit."

"Land of the free" indeed.

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I thought maybe they were just talking about the works of David Icke (whose books are also banned in the US) or the Satanic bible, but this is ridiculous, hell, you can still get Hitler's Mein Kampf, this book can't be that horrible can it?

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WildWeasel said:

You think banning books is bad? In most schools, try going to any website that talks about banned books (including government sites). Good luck getting past filters. I was going to do some research on banned books as part of a project for an English class, and none of the computers would let me even Google search on the topic because of a "weighted phrase limit."

"Land of the free" indeed.


Yeah, the search filters at schools are extremely counter-productive. You can't access anything you need for a unique independant study because they lock it all out. Hell, I bet you can't search for Philip K. Dick because of his last name.

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pilottobombadier said:

Yeah, the search filters at schools are extremely counter-productive. You can't access anything you need for a unique independant study because they lock it all out. Hell, I bet you can't search for Philip K. Dick because of his last name.

Not even Dick van Dyke.

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Heh, but can you search for "Bukkake"?
Nobody who thinks their search filter is worth a damn has no idea what that is.

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WildWeasel said:

You think banning books is bad? In most schools, try going to any website that talks about banned books (including government sites). Good luck getting past filters. I was going to do some research on banned books as part of a project for an English class, and none of the computers would let me even Google search on the topic because of a "weighted phrase limit."

"Land of the free" indeed.

in high school i remember being able to visit the american cummunist and socialist home pages with no problems. i even set the hammer and sickle as the back ground.
I rememeber a teacher was upset by the fact i did that, but i told her i was really a communist and did it as a joke. i guess that worked for her cause i was never hassled about it. at the time i did it because i was bored and because i wanted to.

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