THE CONTINUAL BATTLE FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECHhttp://www.felicity.com.au/
From a US newspaper . . .
Drugs squad fumes as bookshop shields reader
© The Observer
In what has been described as a landmark case for the US book industry, the Tattered Cover bookshop in Denver, Colorado, has spent 18 months resisting the attempts of both police and courts to obtain the identity of a customer who purchased Uncle Fester's opus, Advanced Techniques of Clandestine Drug Laboratories .
Many of the country's most celebrated authors, publishers and booksellers are supporting the shop, which has argued that handing over the information would be a serious attack on free speech.
'There is a right to privacy in this country and that includes the right to read what we like without government interference,' says award-winning novelist Michael Chabon. 'If the police get what they are after in this case, what is to stop them demanding to know all sorts of things - like who has been reading books about any subject the authorities deem to be 'dangerous', such as religious beliefs that don't fit into the so-called mainstream.'
Chabon, who won the Pulitzer last year for his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is one of several leading writers, including David Eggers, Dorothy Allison and the children's book author Daniel Handler, who have giving financial support to the Tattered Cover's legal defence fund, along with the American Booksellers' Foundation.
'People shop in bookstores on the understanding that their choices are confidential,' says Chris Finan, president of the ABF's Foundation for Free Expression. 'There are a lot of books about subjects - mental health, sexual dysfunction - that we do not want our wives or husbands to know we've been reading about. If people know the police can get that kind of information they will not shop for those books.'
The case centres on a raid by drug enforcement
officers at a trailer park near Denver in March last
year. The Uncle Fester book and another called Advanced
Techniques of Clandestine Psychedelic Drug Laboratories
were found inside a trailer owned by a man suspected of
operating a methamphetamine lab. An envelope discovered
in his rubbish bin contained an invoice from the Tattered
CENSORSHIP LEGISLATION FOR NSW
From Electronic Frontiers Australia . . .
Proposed new Internet censorship laws are included in
the NSW Classification (Publications, Films and Computer
Games) Enforcement Amendment Bill 2001, tabled in the NSW
Parliament on 7 November 2001 by the Attorney-General,
Bob Debus. It is expected that both houses of NSW
Parliament will vote on the Bill in the week commencing
26 November 2001 (the Parliament is in recess next week -
week commencing 19 Nov). The Bill is very likely to be
passed, without amendment, certainly unless politicians
become aware of sufficient public concern about the Bill
and decide to re-consider the Bill rather than rush it
MICROSOFT WANTS TO DICTATE LANGUAGE!
According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald Microsoft is not content with controlling most of the world's PCs but is now attempting to police the English language. An author checked the thesaurus in the latest edition of Microsoft Word and discovered it has become politically correct. Mark Goldblatt typed in the word 'bastard' and the thesaurus was stumped. When Mr Goldblatt contacted Microsoft he was informed it was company policy not to suggest words in the dictionary or thesaurus that may be 'offensive'.
The Herald quotes Susan Butler, publisher of the Macquarie Dictionary, as pointing out that it is 'a misunderstanding of the role of the dictionary' to try to delete a word that offends someone. Mr Gates should stick to technology and not set himself up as the arbiter of our language. [26 October 2001]
AMAZON BOOKS CENSORS 'PROFANE' WORDS
The American online bookstore Amazon Books Inc has filtering software in place on its secondhand site zShops to censor certain words in book descriptions it chooses to consider 'profane'. Even if the 'profane' word forms part of another word, out it goes. Thus a book dealer reports he uploaded the book titled, 'The Battle of the Washita' only to have it rejected, even although this is not some sort of adult title.
When the dealer complained to Amazon he was told, 'The reason for the filtering software is to 'provide for a pleasant shopping experience' for Amazon zShops customers.' If he wanted to list such a book he had to substitute something for the offending letters, e.g. perhaps 'Wash*ita' or 'Wash*ta'. They couldn't explain how someone would then find the book if they tried to search on the word 'Washita'!
Presumably the Amazon filter would balk at the word 'fuck' even although as a description of the sex act it occurs in the Oxford English Dictionary. Curiously Amazon displays a profound lack of knowledge of the English language. Do they truly mean to delete anything that is non-religious in nature? For that is what the word 'profane' means! [18 April 2001]
REBEL FILM FESTIVAL IN MELBOURNE
A sketchy radio report in June told of a rebel group is staging an Underground Film Festival in Melbourne featuring five banned movies, including Passolini's Salo. Good for them! They were being threatened with legal action but it is about time we all rebelled against the censorship of adults by other adults. We can thank the Conservative government and especially Senator Richard Alston for the alarming increase in censorship of late. I have not heard the outcome of this rebellion.
WIND DONE GONE FROM EBAY
A legal row has erupted in the USA over a new book, The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall, which is said to tell the Gone With the Wind story from the slaves' viewpoint. The Estate of the late Margaret Mitchell has gone to court to have the book stopped in its tracks, claiming 'piracy'. Whether the book is such is yet to be determined. But the stop order has resulted in one interesting side issue. When Advance Reading Copies of the offending book appeared on eBay the lawyers went back into court and, as a result, eBay, acting on a court order, pulled the items off sale. One had reportedly reached $US485.
Commented The Washington Post: 'A century and a half ago, southern states banned a novel exposing truths about black slavery. Last week a federal district judge in Atlanta banned another novel exposing truths about black slavery. Uncle Tom's Cabin had to be suppressed, it was said, to protect slaveowners' property rights.' Makes you wonder, doesn't? From this distance it seems to be an infringement of the sellers' rights but I guess now this issue will also be debated. It would not be surprising to see the new novel published on the Net, our great liberator. [27 April 2001]
AMERICAN HOST BOWS TO MALAYSIAN PRESSURE?
The US free hosting service, Tripod (the one that brings up those annoying banners when you access its pages; but I guess they have to eat) engaged in a massacre of its sites recently. Hundreds of sites were unceremoniously dumped - removed from the Net - by Tripod's parent, Lycos. Various reasons were put forward, among them the use of copyright material by webmasters. Nobody can argue with this - stolen material is commonplace from one end of the web to the other (if the web has any ends!). Others were fan sites which, for some reason that escapes me, seems to bother some commercial enterprises. You would think they'd be glad to have fans freely promoting their shows (e.g. Buffy and the X-Files). I understand the creators of Xena are quite happy to let the fans do what they will. Good on them!
But Salon, the online magazine, opines that there was another group of great concern - sites opposing the Malaysian government. These have been set up, chiefly, I assume, by expatriates, to counter that repressive regime's own propaganda. The Government-controlled media in that country toes the official line and, as we have seen, even judicial processes are bent in order to suppress opposition. Malaysia is a sick country, where freedom is being eroded daily. It is a shame if Tripod has bowed to pressure from this reprehensible regime.
I suggest we all boycott Lycos. In any event Google is a much better search engine in my opinion. [24 April 2001]
SOUTH AUSTRALIA MOVES TO CENSOR ADULTS
The conservative South Australian Government moved to stop people (at least South Australians) publishing anything on the Net that might be rated higher than 'MA', in other words R-rated material and more extreme material, even if only accessible by adults. Such publication would attract CRIMINAL prosecution (believe it or not!). This is a terrible infringement of the rights of adult Australians and should be resisted all the way. Of course, the whole idea is eventually a joke as such material, hosted offshore, if readily accessible and will continue be accessible in the future. However, the move does cast a pall over Internet commerce, as does the appalling censorship regime (not to mention gambling ban) instituted by Senator Alston, our (unhappily for Australia) Communications Minister. The Religious Right is driving Australia out of participation in the rapidly-expanding online economy. Just more dollars getting exported. [9 April 2001]
VICTORIA'S VICTORIAN MOVIE BAN.
The Victorian Government is acting in the manner of the English Victorians of the same name. While cinemas around Australia are free to screen movies on that religious holiday day commonly called 'Good Friday', the Victorian movie houses are not allowed to screen R-rated movies! This includes the very popular rerun of The Exorcist and other movies, especially appropriate on Friday 13th. It would be interesting to know the attendances at movie houses on April 13 as against attendances at the dull ceremonies in the religious houses of superstition. At least most of us who view movies like The Exorcist treat it as fiction, unlike the deluded people who listen to the myths of Christianity and who even believe that the Satan cast out of actually exists. [9 April 2001]
CLASSIFICATION 'YES' - CENSORSHIP 'NO'.
Most of us are quite happy with the notion of classifying movies and television shows, to provide a guide for viewers. But the so-called classification system as it applies in Australia is a fraud. Too many movies and publications are rated 'Refused Classification'. Thus they are NOT CLASSIFIED AT ALL and this makes it illegal for anyone to publish or screen such material. In addition, many submissions made to the classification authority are only approved when emasculated, robbed of scenes, etc. Some movies are so rated that they can only be purchased in the Northern Territory or the ACT and even with these the present Religious Right Government has instituted the category, Non-Violent Erotica, which simply means boring movies where the chief interest, if anyone finds it interesting, is watching people engaging in intercourse.
Thus 'classification' effectively means we as adults are being denied possibly half the material available. Just one example: Women In Cages has some its best scenes excised for local release. I doubt, for example, we would ever get to see the large number of Japanese movies where bondage and other kinky themes are portrayed, listed in the book, Eros in Hell (Creation Books). Our problems are compounded by the stupid action of the Hollywood studios in their annoying DVD zone system. We could import movies to Australia that are currently mangled by our censors. Fortunately the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is probing this stupid system, deeming it a restraint of trade. I doubt, though, he will get anywhere with the Americans. [9 April 2001]
PHILIPPINES CATHOLICS HAVE MOVIE BANNED.
While Victoria, Australia, moves to placate the Vatican on movies, the Philippines, another country at least partly under Rome's heel, has seen an adult movie, Live Show, banned. President Gloria Arroyo, allegedly acting after being urged to do so by the Church, has bypassed the Chief Censor (who has since resigned in protest) and insisted the movie not be shown. Curiously the film deals with a subject the Philippines Government and the Church do not like to confront - the fact that some 600,000 Filipinas including juveniles ply the country's sex trade. [9 April 2001]