CBLDF’s First In-Comic Ad Campaign Covers Canadian Manga Case, Assisted by Bonfire Agency

To bring greater awareness to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s defense of an American arrested in Canada for having manga-style comics on his laptop, the Bonfire Agency, a “pop culture marketing firm”, has created the ad shown here.


The details of the case are these: A traveler going from the U.S. to Canada to visit a friend had his laptop searched at the border. A Canadian customs officer declared the manga seen on the computer “child pornography”.

If convicted at trial, he faces a minimum of one year in prison. This case could have far reaching implications for readers of comic books and manga in North America, who increasingly read and experience comics on their computers. The CBLDF has agreed to assist in the case by contributing funds towards the defense, which it has been estimated will cost $150,000 CDN.

Before you ask, it doesn’t matter what the manga was.
The more disturbing trend — and one that has also been applied when people travel into the United States — is the idea that you are responsible for removing anything any official might object to from your computer or cellphone before crossing a border, because it’s all open for inspection. Instead of a suitcase, for example, where you choose what to travel with, many people just grab their laptop and go. That can get you into a great deal of trouble.

That’s why Bonfire created an ad (pro bono) to “tangibly illustrate … the denial of one’s First Amendment rights and the confiscation of comic art material.” The text says

What if the comics you took on a plane landed you in jail?
That’s the danger facing one American, who could spend a minimum of a year in a foreign prison for doing just that. Turns out that anyone leaving or entering the country can be stopped, searched or detained by customs agents because of comic art in print or on laptops, tablets or cell phones — even without suspicion of criminal activity. Get the facts now at cbldf.org — and join the fight to protect your First Amendment rights. Defend Creativity.

The ads will run beginning later this month as public service announcements in “comics of the majority of comic book publishers”. This is the first time ads have been run in comic books for the CBLDF. I’ll be watching for them, to see which publishers are participating.

To help, you can donate or become a member of the CBLDF. Canadian Christopher Butcher gives an impassioned response to the CBLDF action, while Erica Friedman provided some advice on precautions for manga fans to take while traveling. Personally, it’s gotten to the point where I have a travel laptop, an old machine that doesn’t have any significant personal information on it, only a web browser and whatever files I choose to put on for that trip. I started doing that so that I wouldn’t worry about the machine being damaged or stolen, but now I think it’s a good idea for other reasons. (Although I do recognize that it’s rather a luxury, to have a “spare” computer for such purposes.)

4 Responses to “CBLDF’s First In-Comic Ad Campaign Covers Canadian Manga Case, Assisted by Bonfire Agency”

  1. Jamie Coville Says:

    It’s not just manga fans.

    I bought Ghita of Alizaar in San Diego in 08. This was a Frank Thorn GN. It’s a Red Sonja story with the serial numbers filed off and made for more mature readers.

    I was selected for random inspection coming back. A young, male border guard went through my stuff and confiscated the book based on suggested bestiality and rape. It was sent to customs, who cleared it and gave it back to me, but I was still red flagged and I usually get inspected every time I cross the border.

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