Some of you may have noticed the Manga Is Not A Crime banner on my sidebar during one of your visits and the story of Ryan Matheson is a prime reason for my support of the work the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund does. Back in 2010, he was arrested trying to cross the border from the US to Canada when Canadian Customs official searched his laptop and found anime/manga imagery that they deemed child pornography.
CBLDF announced yesterday that all the charges against Ryan Matheson have since been dropped, which comes as fantastic news. Of course he’s not out of the woods yet with legal fees and some very unpleasant memories to follow him but it’s a big relief to see his immediate fight has finally ended.
Speaking out for the first time, Matheson says, “I’m glad to finally put this awful ordeal behind me. Ever since the beginning I knew I had committed no crime, so I was never willing to accept a plea to any criminal charge. The entire legal process is very traumatizing, and the overzealous bail conditions imposed on me were very difficult to endure. Although my defense was extremely strong, all trials are inherently risky and I value my life too much to risk a potential minimum mandatory sentence. I am very grateful for the spectacular work Michael Edelson and his team put into my case, and to all the generous people who supported me and contributed to my defense. I was able to stand up to the very last day and fight for something I believe in.”
As a Canadian, I have immense pride in my country as a place that values peace and equality. There’s no where in the world I’d rather live and I get homesick quick ever being off Canadian soil. Unfortunately nowhere is perfect and the pit in my stomach I feel crossing the border from trips to the US on my way home is a stern reminder of that. That I could be arrested for my bags full of comics is terrifying – it’s scary because it’s unfair for material that hurts no one, it’s scary because it could happen to anyone at anytime and it’s scary because if it happens, as Ryan Matheson’s case shows, there’s nothing you can do should someone else decide that what artwork you choose to look at is wrong.
MangaBlog’s Brigid Alverson has a really informative write-up on the case along with some history of other similar occurrences over at Comic Book Resources. It’s well worth a read and I hope gives you a good idea why supporting a group like CBLDF is such an important thing to do for comic readers everywhere.