Publishers Join Legal Battle Against Oregon Censorship Law

May 1, 2008
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May 1 – May 9, 2008 Edition

Publishers Join

Legal Battle Against

Oregon Censorship Law

WASHINGTON, DC/4/28/08-The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has joined with six Oregon booksellers, the ACLU of Oregon, and a host of others in challenging a new Oregon law that criminalizes the dissemination of sexually explicit material to anyone under the age of 13 or the dissemination to anyone under the age of 18 of any material with the intent to sexually arouse the recipient or the provider. The new statute, which makes no provision for judging the material as a whole, nor for considering its serious literary, artistic, or scientific value, went into effect on January 1.

The lawsuit, filed April 25 in federal district court in Portland, seeks an injunction barring enforcement of the statute, which it calls unconstitutionally vague and overbroad and which burdens the exercise of free expression and creates a chilling effect on the sale, display, and dissemination of constitutionally protected speech. Notably, the law contains no exception for family members and in a statement issued this morning, the Oregon ACLU remarked that among those who could be prosecuted are a 17-year-old girl who lends her 13-year-old-sister a copy of Judy Blume’s Forever, or a grandmother who gives her 7-year-old grandson a copy of Robie Harris’ widely-praised book on human sexuality, It’s Perfectly Normal. The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, one of the plaintiffs in the case, sees enforcement of the statute as a “logistical nightmare” for Oregon booksellers.

“While the statute may have been a well-intentioned effort by the Oregon legislature to target sexual predators, it is so broadly written that it threatens all kinds of constitutionally protected speech. Surely we can protect our children without shredding the Constitution,” said AAP President and CEO Pat Schroeder.

In addition to AAP and ABFFE, plaintiffs in the case include the Freedom to Read Foundation, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Powell’s Books, Annie Bloom’s Books, Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette; and the Cascade AIDS Project, among others.

The Association of American Publishers is the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry. AAP’s approximately 300 members include most of the major commercial book publishers in the United States, as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies. AAP members publish hardcover and paperback books in every field, educational materials for the elementary, secondary, post-secondary and professional markets, scholarly journals, computer software and electronic products and services. The Association represents an industry whose very existence depends upon the free exercise of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

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