Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Japanese Cartoons, Virtual Child Pornography, Academic Libraries, and the Law

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Japanese Cartoons, Virtual Child Pornography, Academic Libraries, and the Law

Article excerpt

On March 10, 2006, Dwight Whorley was sentenced to twenty years in federal prison on child pornography charges. (1) Whorley, a man with a history of receiving and sending child pornography via email, and who has previously served time in federal prisons for those offences, was convicted among other charges of using a public computer at a Virginia Employment Commission office on March 30, 2004, to receive twenty Japanese cartoons that showed seemingly minor (younger than eighteen) females engaged in sexual intercourse with males seeming older than eighteen. This part of his conviction and his sentencing was based on his violation of the 2003 PROTECT (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today) Act. His appeal to reverse his conviction was denied by the courts. (2)

In May of 2006, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confiscated a package mailed from Japan to Christopher Handley, a comic books collector in Glenwood, Iowa. The package contained Japanese comic books that had cartoon visualizations of seemingly minor females engaged in sex with older males and animals. The US Postal Inspection Services served a search warrant on Handley and subsequently found and seized from his home other drawings of children engaged in acts that they concluded was sexual abuse. Handley was convicted, as Dwight Whorley was, on violations of the 2003 PROTECT Act, and his appeal for dismissal was denied. (3) On February 13, 2010, Christopher Handley, who had no criminal history, was formally sentenced to six months in prison for importing and possessing seven Japanese comic books depicting cartoon children having sex. The books Handley bought were available through the Japanese Amazon website. (4)

Graphic novels, comic books, and cartoons have become an extremely popular area of collection development in both academic libraries and public libraries. (5) As more artists embrace this visual form of artistic representation to express the major and minor themes of the human experiences, librarians are responding to this burgeoning medium of information transmission by actively adding these materials to library collections. Yet with new media come new areas of concern. By definition, child pornography--for our argument, the visual exploitation of children in sexual situations--is not a legitimate area for collection. The production of child pornography that uses actual children must be prevented, and libraries, through their purchasing power and their wide outreach to the public, can aid in the halt of further distribution of this pernicious material. However, themes of the human condition often include the unsavory, vicious, nasty, and cruel, and comics and cartoons, with their subversive, rebellious, "underground" history, are a good media for the expression of these themes. It is no surprise that examples of highly graphic nature, both violence and sexual, can be found in the pages of graphic novels. And as the comics and cartoons make their way into the collections of libraries, it is also not surprising that sexualized images, produced without any human beings participating, sometimes featuring children, are also found in libraries.

The purpose of this article is to investigate whether academic librarians, in their legitimate performance of their duties as collection developers, have any immunity from criminal prosecution, especially from any violation of the 2003 PROTECT Act. It is not the purpose of this article to argue whether this law is unethical, unconstitutional, illogical, or potentially illegal in its overreach. This article is instead concerned that little in the library literature covers criminal violations by librarians. Because of the indictments and convictions of Dwight Whorley and Christopher Handley, and the inherent sensationalism of anything mentioned as child pornography, it is not difficult to imagine that librarians could be accused for purchasing and possessing child pornography (in our case, Japanese cartoons). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.