September 28, 2004

Trade Regs and Speech [7:14 am]

Treasury Being Sued for Curbs on Editing

Treasury Department regulations against editing manuscripts from Cuba, Iran and other countries under American economic sanctions violate the First Amendment of the Constitution and should be overturned, a group of American publishers said in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday.

[...] The regulations, meant to keep Americans from trading with enemies, require anyone who publishes material from a country under trade sanctions to obtain a license before substantively altering the manuscript. The publishers say that keeps them from performing typical editing functions like reordering sentences and paragraphs, correcting grammar and adding illustrations or photographs.

The regulations do not forbid publication of existing works from those countries. They allow publishers to print and distribute materials that come to them in camera-ready form, that is, ready to be published without alteration. But they also restrict marketing materials, which the publishers say essentially prohibits publication.

The publishers argue that the regulations do not allow enough room for them to prepare material from foreign authors for the United States market and create a “chilling effect” on them. “For all practical purposes,” the suit states, “that means American publishers simply cannot publish their books.”

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