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Canada Censorship Your Rights Online

Canadian Charges Against US Manga Reader Dropped 298

tverbeek writes "The U.S.-based Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Canada-based Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund have announced that the Canadian government has withdrawn all criminal charges in R. v. Matheson, a case which involved a U.S. citizen who was arrested and faced criminal charges in Canada relating to manga found on his computer when he entered the country. Customs agents declared the illustrations of fictional characters to be 'child pornography.' The defendant, a 27-year-old comic book reader, amateur artist, and computer programmer, has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. Despite financial assistance from the CBLDF and CLLDF, he has an outstanding debt of $45K for his defense."
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Canadian Charges Against US Manga Reader Dropped

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  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:38PM (#39369847) Homepage

    If you drop charges from the case then you should pay the legal fees for the defense. Or is this up to the judge?

    • by ClioCJS ( 264898 ) <cliocjs+slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:42PM (#39369907) Homepage Journal
      That might encourage people to never stop/drop, though, like SCO. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
      • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:49PM (#39369983) Homepage Journal

        sco wasn't a _criminal_ case.

        criminal cases ie. public prosecution vs. a private person with criminal charges, of course the state should pay when it loses. but the state didn't lose, it withdrew. like if coppers showed up at your house, intimidated you that they're going to take you to court for things xyz, then you go to a lawyer and ask if there's any merit and the lawyer says no and then the cops don't proceed further to do anything.

        I guess it's in this case the state didn't pay because the prosecution dropped the case..? doesn't make much sense, but plausable.. if they withdrew and it never went to court then a judge didn't decide anything on the case, didn't find the prosecution to pay for damages/costs.. pretty fucked up though, he should sue the state.

        • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:51PM (#39370003) Homepage Journal

          the important bit from the actual article.
          "Mr. Matheson has agreed to plead to a non-criminal code regulatory offense under the Customs Act of Canada. As a result of the agreement, Matheson will not stand trial. The defense of this case was waged by Michael Edelson and Solomon Friedman of Edelson Clifford D’Angelo LLP. The full Notices of Application detailing Edelson’s defense and outlining the outrageous and unlawful treatment Matheson endured are available here: Charter Notice and Jan 15 12 – Matheson Charter Notice."

          • by tqk ( 413719 ) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Thursday March 15, 2012 @05:37PM (#39370551)

            the important bit from the actual article.

            I beg to differ. The important bit from the actual article:

            He was subjected to abusive treatment by police and a disruption in his life that included a two-year period during which he was unable to use computers or the internet outside of his job, severely limiting opportunities to advance his employment and education. ... Matheson was even told by police transporting him to prison that "if you get raped in here, it doesn't count!"

            What a !@#$ing travesty, and for a comic book! Sue for malicious prosecution. They admitted their guilt when they dropped it. That it took them two years and $31,000.00 from two advocacy orgs PLUS, is even worse! Both those orgs and Ryan deserve to be compensated for this cluster!@#$.

            And I don't even *get* Manga. Holy Kafkaesque, Batman! :-P

            • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @06:49PM (#39371351) Homepage

              What's incredibly scary for me is that it is easier than people might think to get caught by this. I live in Japan and my friend's daughter (who lives in Canada) asked if I could mail her a manga so that she could practice reading Japanese. Her favorite anime at the time was Inu Yasha.

              No problem! I bought the manga, was all ready to mail it off when I thought, "Hey, I haven't read this for a while, maybe I'll just give it a read". Half way through the book, there's a picture of the main character (a 14 years old girl) taking a bath in the lake. Not an erotic scene IMHO, but I guarantee it meets the definition of child porn in Canada.

              That's just what I need; to have a record for importing child porn to Canada.

            • Eh, the Japanese mentality on nudity / art is different from the Western mentality; as such, what is considered very acceptable in Japan is considered offensive in the US. Given the popularity of manga in Japan, as well as its rising popularity in Western countries, the Canadians were faced with a very nasty choice -> declare the content, under very prudish standards, to be 'child pornography' and risk a international incident (because it would be totally cool for Canada to declare the Japanese to be a b

            • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm ... minus herbivore> on Thursday March 15, 2012 @08:01PM (#39372093) Journal

              Well don't forget we now have actual thoughtcrime here in the USA, never thought I'd see the day but we have. There have been not one but TWO people thrown in jail for thoughtcrime, one the writer of the "pro pedo" book which put his thoughts on paper, no pictures, no drawings even (although i think it is bullshit that they can try to charge you for crimes against a child that doesn't actually exist, what's next get busted for a book with vamps or elves in it? they look Lolita) and the other was a guy that was actually told by his shrink to write his fantasies down in a diary so he could sit down with the shrink and discuss them. Both are in jail for thoughts on a page which if that isn't the very definition of thoughtcrime i don't know what is.

              basically the whole damned thing has gone insane, its like the red scare all over again. and the worse part is its not doing a damned thing about those that actually abuse children for profit, hell there is an article on wikileaks by a guy that sells CP where he is laughing his ass offf at the whole thing. he talks about what a joke the system is, how easy it is for him to get around it, and how just for fun and to give cops something to do he'll occasionally pay malware writers to dump some CP on some dumbass who gets a bug and point the cops towards it just to watch some random schmuck suffer. You can tell by reading his article he's the type that would throw bricks off a busy overpass just to see some random suffering, a real sick fuck, yet he lives like a king and doesn't worry about shit. sadly talking to a friend that works catching CP for the state crime lab i now know why, the prosecutors have no desire to go after guys like him because it crosses state lines and would mean they don't get the credit or press conferences that advance their career,so in the end its all worthless, just another case of doing "something" no matter how stupid, pointless, nor how many lives it destroys, because "something" gets them elected while "something that works' don't. this whole fucking system is just rotten and foul, no other word for it, foul.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          More like the cops kick your door in, break all your stuff and pile it up in the yard, rip your house down and then after finding nothing of interest "magnanimously" offer to not haul you off anyway and shoot your dog so long as you "agree" that they don't owe you any damages.

      • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @05:08PM (#39370193) Homepage Journal

        How about if you drop charges you pay for the defense to date (and a reasonable compensation for any jail time or lost opportunities) but if you prosecute and fail you pay triple. Just to make sure there's no dirty dealing, if you manage through misconduct to get a conviction you shouldn't have, you get to do the time yourself.

  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:38PM (#39369849) Homepage Journal

    Legal systems aren't any fun to ever get involved with.

    • This could be the next Universal Health care. Universal law coverage. Except you kind of need medical help when you need it, since your body doesn't care if you have insurance. Being arrested and having to mount a costly legal deference could have been avoided by not arresting him for cartoons.

  • by Ultra64 ( 318705 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:38PM (#39369851)

    gee, only $45,000 in debt

    • by citab ( 1677284 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:40PM (#39369877)

      who says he could afford it? he didn't have a choice but to defend himself.

    • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @05:08PM (#39370189) Homepage

      The actual cost of his defense was $75K. The other $30K was paid by the two legal defense funds.

      The defendant's personal statement about the case is worth reading: rather chilling: http://cbldf.org/homepage/ryan-mathesons-personal-statement/ [cbldf.org]

      • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @06:01PM (#39370841) Homepage

        The real deal-breaker here is that he made a plea bargain. Unfortunately, this is how he lost. I know first-hand how this can go. By making a plea, you are granting the prosecution a free pass on any treatment or unfairness you may experience in the process.

        But I feel for the guy. He's young and likely scared. And after almost two years of this crap hanging over his head, misery, depression and paranoia are among the giant mess of emotions he was probably feeling.

        Still, it's a lot of money and I would consult with an attorney about the wrongful arrest and try to get some backing by one or more professionals in the field of psychological medicine to support a case based on his pain and suffering he was subjected to over a very long period. And believe me, being charged with something false and having such things hanging over your head and over your future horizons is no small matter.

        He should definitely sue. He will probably lose because a judge would not want to cripple his criminal justice system with a precedential ruling in favor of the former defendant, but there's a good chance they might settle with him to keep the profile on the issue down.

        • by tqk ( 413719 ) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Thursday March 15, 2012 @11:48PM (#39373777)

          The real deal-breaker here is that he made a plea bargain.

          This is Canada (not USA). I know you US-ians do that sort of stuff regularly, but that's (from what I'm used to) not done here, that I know of.

          I still don't understand what to or why he pled the charges; still researching. I'm beginning to feel like a stranger in a strange land, and I live here. This guy shouldn't have needed to plead to anything! WTF is a "non-criminal regulatory offense"? I've never heard of it. Bringing too many cigs across the border?

          As part of the deal, the prosecutor withdrew all criminal charges against me. I knew my defense was extremely strong, but I also knew all trials are inherently risky. If I had gone to full trial, the original criminal charges against me posed the risk of a minimum mandatory sentence of one year plus having to register on a sex offender registry in Canada and potentially even in the United States.

          Ho. Ly. !@#$.

          Lend me a gun somebody?

          This case was important to me. Japanese animation and manga are something I hold precious. I first got into anime when I was about eight years old by watching Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z that aired on TV at the time.

          Sailor Moon. Dragon Ball Z. So, what innocuous hobbies are going to trigger attack dogs on me? ReBoot? Guilty as charged. Take me away!

          Ryan, I apologize for my country's actions.

      • by Smauler ( 915644 )

        Italics from linked statement

        The law shouldn’t be based on what you like or don’t like. The people should have their own choice to pursue what they like and avoid what they don’t like.

        Here's the problem. He's talking about what the law should and should not be, and not what the law is. There is not a single legal system in the world which allows people to pursue what they like. Drug laws, bestiality laws, incest laws, homosexuality laws, indecency laws, are everywhere, and are differe

        • by Endo13 ( 1000782 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @06:25PM (#39371117)

          You took the quotes completely out of context. He doesn't mean what you're implying at all.

          For those who don't want to bother RTFA, here's the full paragraph:

          Others like me that are interested in comics, manga and anime should become informed about this important issue and stick together. Some people may be tempted to say things like, “Well, I don’t like that type of manga” or “That doesn’t bother me — I’ve never read that title,” but you should step back and take a look at the big picture. The law shouldn’t be based on what you like or don’t like. The people should have their own choice to pursue what they like and avoid what they don’t like. When overzealous governments try to unjustly attack comics and manga, they are attacking all of literature and art as a whole. Free speech should be absolute, not a pick-and-choose sort of thing. This is a very important right that we enjoy every day and we need to stand up for ourselves and protect it!

    • by Ultra64 ( 318705 )

      I'm a bit confused by "-1, Troll"

  • "Anime and manga" (Score:5, Informative)

    by bluemonq ( 812827 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:42PM (#39369909)

    From the press release: "Moreover, they should also be aware that although anime and manga is legal in many areas of the United States and Japan, etc., to possess and utilize..."

    The hell? Makes it sound like all anime and manga have naked children in them. Also, Matheson didn't get off scot-free: "Mr. Matheson has agreed to plead to a non-criminal code regulatory offense under the Customs Act of Canada."

    • The hell? Makes it sound like all anime and manga have naked children in them.

      A lot of people think they do, or at least some sort of depravity. I've never heard a mainstream show reference Grave of the Fireflies etc. but at least one sitcom has referred to the more... notable... elements of Legend of the Overfiend when discussing "Japanese cartoons".

    • So he was in debt, no real money for defense and the prosecutor got him to plead guilty to a lesser crime when it saw its case wouldn't hold up in the long run. sounds an awful lot like what happens here in the USA all the time. Lets face it the world doesn't work the way it should, I wish I knew what I could do about that.
      • by marnues ( 906739 )
        You may not believe me, but it works as well as it currently can. The exact same tactic is how Al Capone was finally put into prison. That it can be used against non-criminals in this way is abhorrent. Unfortunately no one has ever found a legal system that catches Al Capone but repays this guy for lost time, money, and prestige. And none of us have the ability to try something new. Your best bet is to find a place that wants your help, and give it your all. You may not be changing the world, but you
    • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:51PM (#39370009)

      "Mr. Matheson has agreed to plead to a non-criminal code regulatory offense under the Customs Act of Canada."

      Hey look buddy, we know you're going to sue the pants off of us if we don't nail you with something, so our lawyers found this obscure section of the customs code that is really vague and could nail anyone, because heh, that's what it's there for, and anyway, yeah... you're guilty, and your sentence is, er, nothing. But the important thing here is that justice was served: Namely, We Got Our Man(tm). Er, sorry about ruining your life dude... sorta. Okay, not really. Heh heh, eh? Now if you'll excuse us, we have to go watch videos of ourselves beating the crap out of a bunch of illegal immigrants as part of some 'sensitivity training'. It's mandatory, and so the boss made it BYOB. Man this job sucks... they don't pay for the beer. My last law enforcement job paid for the beer... oh .. crap... is this thing still recording?

    • More importantly... (Score:5, Informative)

      by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:55PM (#39370059)
      People have been arrested in the US for the very same offense as the guy from TFA -- possession of illegal manga.
    • Re:"Anime and manga" (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Princeofcups ( 150855 ) <john@princeofcups.com> on Thursday March 15, 2012 @05:20PM (#39370345) Homepage

      The hell? Makes it sound like all anime and manga have naked children in them.

      There's the mistake that everyone makes. The child pornography laws came about as a way to protect children from being exploited, i.e. abused, in the creation of said pornography. How this ever turned into "mind crime" is crazy. Now people accept that the possession of any representation, i.e. drawing, of an child, i.e. under the age of 18, in a sexual fashion is criminal. How did we ever get from one to the other?

  • Ten years ago (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JazzHarper ( 745403 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:48PM (#39369971) Journal

    I knew that it would be best to leave my laptop at home when entering Canada. Even the Canadian customs officer, who was very nice, said, "That was a wise decision".

    • Re:Ten years ago (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @09:15PM (#39372847)

      What I don't understand is how they are even catching people with stuff on their computers in the first place. The comments on Slashdot (in various stories, not just this one) make it sound like laptops are routinely searched at the border (both in the US, and Canada).

      But I've entered both those countries 20, 30 times (I'm Australian). Not once has my laptop been searched; nor have I seen officers request to search anyone else's. They don't seem to pay any attention to electronic devices at all (not surprising, basically everyone travels with a laptop/tablet these days).

      So my question is: when and where are these searches occurring? Am I just lucky, or are these searches very rare to begin with (and probably only done if someone is stopped at the border for some other reason first?)

  • by Fjandr ( 66656 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:54PM (#39370047) Homepage Journal

    As distasteful as it may be in the case of images produced with the intent to be a form of child pornography, it sickens me to see artificially-produced images classified as child pornography. It opens the door to criminally penalizing people for something which must be judged based solely on opinion. There cannot be an objective judgment that an artificially-produced image constitutes "underage pornography," and criminal penalties should be based as closely on objectivity as possible.

    These resources should be directed toward finding and jailing people who produce child pornography using actual children, not those who produce images which require (sometimes highly) subjective interpretation.

    • by flimflammer ( 956759 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:58PM (#39370081)

      Won't someone think of the drawn children?!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      it sickens me to see artificially-produced images classified as child pornography

      So you're a pedophile?

      (That is the reaction I get when I say such things...)

    • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @05:23PM (#39370383) Homepage

      As I understand it, the images he was arrested and charge over were not even of children. They were adolescent/young-adult characters who might have been of legal age or maybe not. This ambiguity is not uncommon in the work of Japanese artists, especially in light of the cultural taboo (I'm not sure if it's still illegal in Japan) against drawing pubic hair. The initial judgment that the drawings were "child pornography" was made by a supervisor who had not even seen them, let alone someone qualified to somehow make that judgment.

      • Moreover, he claims that the characters in the drawings in question were actually fully clothed.

        So pictures of clothed people not involved in sexual acts and not necessarily underage is now 'Child Porn'.

        What a travesty. As a Canadian, this is an embarrassing story for our legal system.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is true. Be careful drawing stick figures on napkins, make sure they are not too short...
  • Microfinancing (Score:4, Informative)

    by marnues ( 906739 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:57PM (#39370067)
    Most importantly, donate to the CBDL to help pay the bills! http://cbldf.org/ [cbldf.org]
  • He plead guilty, and in exchange the crown allowed a lesser charge.

    Does /. really not understand the concept of a plea bargain?

    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @05:15PM (#39370259) Homepage Journal

      Yes, we are well aware of how a plea bargain is used as extortion to force people to accept a charge they are innocent of when they cannot afford a proper defense or are afraid of the kangaroo court. Often it's used as an excuse to not pay damages that are ethically owed to the defendant.

      • by Rix ( 54095 )

        He had quite a bit of money made available to him, so that's not an issue.

        Further, Canada is a civilized country that provides a defence for all accused. I understand that Americans may find that novel.

        • by Chryana ( 708485 )

          Yeah right, I'm sure he didn't mind spending nearly 50 thousand dollars to defend himself from something which most people would not consider to be a crime! As for the defense bit, you will have to elaborate, because it is meaningless. Are you saying Canada gives a public defender more easily? Last I heard, you need to be dirt poor to get one, just like in the US, notwithstanding the fact that the accused is not even a citizen of Canada.

        • It sounds like they didn't provide an adequate defense, because he had to hire $75,000 of lawyers.

          And, in the US, you can get a public defender, too. Said public defender is usually about as good at defending as Windows Me is at being a stable, modern, secure operating system.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Given that he's $45K in debt as a result of this, I would guess that he didn't have enough money made available.

          Normally, Canada does seem to be more conscientious about this sort of thing, but this seems to have been an exception.

    • by Meshach ( 578918 )

      Does /. really not understand the concept of a plea bargain?

      Judging by the comments attached to this story I would say they do not.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @05:05PM (#39370155)

    No crime committed.

  • by soundguy ( 415780 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @05:25PM (#39370409) Homepage
    If you're crossing a border with ANYTHING on a laptop besides the operating system, you're just asking for trouble. If you need to work in multiple countries or just like to travel a lot, lease, colo, or home-base your own server and keep your stuff there. When you get to your destination, download and install an SCP client, then access the files you need. Download and install TrueCrypt, create an encrypted file, and use that to store local working copies of things as necessary. Download and install a non-factory web browser and use that to access your own secure web mail system.

    Before going back across the border, save any work back to your remote server and delete the SCP client, browser, Truecrypt, and the encrypted file. If you're really paranoid, reinstall the OS from the rescue partition.

    The secret to staying out of jail is pretty simple - don't be lazy, don't be stupid, don't poke the bear.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2012 @08:01PM (#39372097)

    This is from Ryan Matheson's Statement available here: http://cbldf.org/homepage/ryan-mathesons-personal-statement/

    "Canada is extremely strict in their customs and immigration process — probably the strictest in the world — and should exercise extreme caution if you travel there."

    I agree! In my pervious job I would travel to Canada from Michigan to approve equipment built in Canada from our specifications. This was usually $500,000.00 to $1,000,000.00 USD amount going INTO the Canadian ecomony.

    This is how my last three trips went.

    1. Entering Canada they pulled me over to be searched. They asked me the same question about 10-15 times trying to get me to say that I was working illegally in Canada without a work permit. I was not and they did not trip me up. They went through all my papers opened every compartment in the car and made a huge mess.

    2. For a VACATION to Toronto to spend my own money in Canada I was threatened to be searched and finger printed while I was in the middle of driving about 12 hours after work.

    3. On my most recent trip to approve equipment I had no problems. This is because I decided to start over with a new company in the US to build the equipment. If they want to treat me like a criminal then I have no reason to do business there.

    As a side note this equipment is destined to other countries around the world so I have some experience with other customs inspections. You can fly to Europe, go to several countries and no one will even ask you why you are there. If you cross to Canada and back from the US expect to be interrogated and searched. BS.

  • by grelmar ( 1823402 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @11:07PM (#39373575)
    When you have to cross a border, assume that the customs agent is going to be an under-educated, under-paid, bigotted, rule thumping misanthrope with an axe to grind who's job is essentially workfare for the distant relative of a petty bureaucrat.

    I've traveled through North America, Asia, and Europe, and the above statement would apply to 95% of border guards/customs officials I've had to deal with.

    1. Travel light.
    2. Pack no printed material of any sort - if you're traveling for business, fax, email, or Fedex your documents ahead of you.
    3. Computers/Laptops can and will be confiscated on the slightest pretext. You will never see it again. It's an early Christmas/Birthday gift for the Customs Official's kid.
    4. Learn the etiquette of bribes for the country you are about to visit, especially in the "in some places its really dumb to try and bribe officials, in others it's an insult not to bribe them" sense.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"