It doesn’t make up for the fear and stress and money spent, but the Canadian government has dropped criminal charges against the guy found with manga on his laptop the customs agent thought was child pornography. The money spent for defense was over $75,000, so CBLDF donations are still being sought.
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. 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. …
He had his right to counsel and Vienna Convention consular rights violated when he was detained without being properly informed of the reason for detention. He was not granted access to counsel, or to the American Embassy. The Application asserts that Customs officers acted as agents for police and conducted an illegal search of his property. Matheson was also the subject of cruel and unusual punishment, including being denied food and blankets. Matheson was even told by police transporting him to prison that “if you get raped in here, it doesn’t count!”
Matheson has also released a personal statement. Note that the problem hasn’t lessened — travelers crossing borders are still advised to be careful of what they carry with them electronically.
Comic Book Resources has posted copies of related documents as well as identifying the specific manga that caused the problem.
Update: Tom Spurgeon talked to CBLDF head Charles Brownstein about the implications and details of the result. Most important quote:
Even today I saw a lot of discussion that it’s okay for authorities to prosecute the really icky stuff. But when you look at the actual images Ryan was prosecuted for, it’s clear that the authorities have a much lower threshold for what constitutes the really icky stuff than the average person who’s ready to sell their fellow comic book reader, retailer, or artist down the river.
… We’re a field that thrives on the power of the static image, and while our communities have our own understandings of what’s acceptable and what’s taboo, our understanding may not always square with that of local law enforcement. I’m not saying these things to stir up fear, I’m saying that equivocating about what kind of censorship is acceptable to us, as individuals, creates cracks in our armor that can bring censorship down on our field as a whole. Ryan’s story proves that there’s absolutely no profit in adopting a posture indicating that “censoring that stuff I don’t like is okay,” because taste isn’t what laws are built on, precedent is, and the precedent here could have hurt the readers and makers of comics from all over the world in a serious way.