Censorship FAIL

When will they learn?

So apparently the manga series FINDER (not to be confused with Carla Speed McNeil’s FINDER) is so awful, so terrible, so threatening to minors that it can’t be sold in Germany.  Not only can it not be sold, it can’t even be discussed, nor *mentioned* on a comics blog.

Right now, I’m breaking German law.

Of course, one asks, “What on Earth did these guys make that’s so objectionable that you can’t even SPEAK of it?”  So of course, I did what any right-thinking person would do, and went and looked it up.  Of course, I only looked it up because it was verboten.  If they’d just said “Guys, we really don’t like this so much” I’d probably have never even heard of it.  But when something gets banned, and becomes unspeakable, well, I’m all ears.  Remember, “God Save the Queen” didn’t go to #1 on the BBC until it had been banned.  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the intended result, but it was the result nonetheless.  That’s been my yardstick for censorship ever sense.  And, uh, unless they start sniffing every packet and reassembling every .jpg that gets reduced to hex code and sent over the internet, it’s not going to get stopped anytime soon.  The dead tree version, maybe.  But not the information itself.

Oh, by the way, it’s yaoi.  But you knew that already.  And it’s marked 18+ as well, so it was never intended for sale to minors.  Which leaves me trying to figure out exactly what the intention of the state in this matter.  I mean other than being knee-jerkingly reactionary.

As seen on Mangablog by way of Robot6.

EDIT – I love it when I misspell a tag.

7 comments to Censorship FAIL

  • JRB

    As far as I can understand the situation, it can be *sold* (to persons over 18 with proper ID), it just can’t be *advertised*, lest some innocent soul be tempted into buying it. ‘Course, “indexing” the thing is probably the best publicity it will ever have… :)

  • Apparently there’s some vicissitudes that I’m not completely clear on, the above distinction being one of them. Apparently, if I read things right, booksellers can actually sell it, just not display it or advertise it. This looks like a “fell between the cracks of regulation” case, but even so, the censors’ actions aren’t likely to have the intended result, and instead just get it more attention than they could imagine.

  • “Not only can it not be sold, it can’t even be discussed, nor *mentioned* on a comics blog.”

    Wrong on three counts.

    As I understand it, the “index” effectively puts severe restrictions on the marketing and distribution of a given work, so as to prevent it from being advertised or sold to minors. The given work may still be sold, however — “under the counter” and when individuals 18 or older ask for it in a brick-and-mortar retail store.

    As for the mention or discussion “on a comics blog”: The rub, I imagine, is that it may be interpreted as advertising to minors, so I would guess that it probably depends on your definition of “comics blog,” i.e. discussing or reviewing FINDER on a general-purpose manga blog frequented by minors may get you into trouble.

    In general, though, critical discussion or mention of “indexed” works are pretty common.

  • Hey, there Marc-Oliver. I’ll defer to your more thorough knowledge of the subject, but the impression I received was that an indexed item was subject to far more restrictive treatment.

    Though I’d argue the distinction between not being able to advertise an item and not being able to sell it seems pretty fine. I suppose if I’m a specialized vendor of manga I’d keep FINDER in stock and out of view, but one wonders how willing most booksellers are likely to do that with an item on the index.

    What’s a blogger’s responsibility when it comes to discussing such an item, according to the state? Written disclaimer at the top of the article? How do writers protect themselves from accusations of advertising indexed material, which sounds like a good way to get into trouble?

  • I should say that I’m by no means an expert on the legalese. But if you’ve got any interest at all in any aspect of popular culture in Germany, the “index” will eventually crop up on your radar, and so I’ve read up on it a couple times.

    With that said, there’s something to both of your points. First up, while the “index” may not mean that a given work can no longer be published and distributed in theory, you’re right that it often does in practice, because most types of publications very much depend on being advertised or openly displayed.

    And on your second point, the status quo is fuzzy, because court decisions evidently haven’t been consistent. So, in theory, if you’re discussing material that’s on the index, there’s a chance you’ll get in trouble.

    In practice, though, the crucial aspect to the whole thing seems to be that it’s NOT a case of the government scanning the airwaves for objectionable material. Rather, individuals or organizations can file a formal complaint on material they deem “youth-endangering,” on the grounds that it’s extremist propaganda, overly violent or pornographic, and is accessible to minors. Only then, and only under specific circumstances, the committee in question will deal with the material.

    So, in practice, what it boils down to — for publishers as well as the media that discuss material that’s been indexed — is that, as long as nobody objects, you’re fine. The idea behind the system is that as long as people adhere to “common sense,” nobody gets in trouble. Obviously, since it’s a system, and since there’s no set definition of “common sense,” there are bound to be errors in judgment.

    The results of that practice is that game mags will occasionally obscure the titles of specific indexed games they’re talking about or that German reprints of CAPTAIN AMERICA will turn swastikas into little boxes as a preventative measure, in order not to give any grounds for potential complaints.

    But I’m not aware of any widespread sense of oppression resulting from the practice. For instance, LOST GIRLS got published and widely discussed (and excerpted) in Germany a year or so back, and so far, nobody seems to have had any concerns about the material falling into the hands of children.

    As long as you’re reasonable about it as a publisher, you’re probably fine, and most publishers seem to be — i.e., CAPTAIN AMERICA is aimed at all ages and depends on being displayed at newsstands, so it’s probably a good idea to touch up the swastikas; LOST GIRLS, on the other hand, is aimed at adults, and so a heavy and expensive format and a layer of shrink-wrap should suffice to take care of any concerns.

    Personally, I’m not big on banning material, and there have been cases that had me scratching my head, but there are also a lot of myths about the index that make it seem much worse than it really is.

  • Marc-Oliver, if you don’t mind, I’m going to post this to its own article torrow, so it’ll be better seen. Probably Monday.

  • [...] Frisch wrote in the comments section of my recent and uninformed post “Censorship: FAIL” to explain in a lot more detail how “indexed” materials (restricted in sale to [...]

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