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Censorship

Literary Groups Defend ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Comparing Fifty Shades of Grey to Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Fear of Flying, prominent literary groups criticized the Brevard County Public Library system for refusing to carry E. L. James‘ racy novel.

The National Coalition Against Censorship circulated the letter, getting signatures from the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, PEN American Center, American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Independent Book Publishers Association. Follow this PDF link to read the letter. Here’s an excerpt:

The idea that “erotica” should be categorically excluded from public libraries has no merit. Sexuality, an integral part of the human experience, has always been part of creative expression. As the late Justice Brennan observed, “Sex, a great and mysterious motive force in human life, has indisputably been a subject of absorbing interest to mankind through the ages.” Indeed, a library’s collection would be incomplete without the, by now classic Memoirs of A Woman of Pleasure (“Fanny Hill”), Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer or even Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. There is no rational basis to provide access to erotic novels like these, and at the same time exclude contemporary fiction with similar content.

’50 Shades Of Grey’ Pulled in Florida Libraries

E. L. James‘ bestselling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has been pulled from some library shelves in Florida. The book is being removed from Brevard County Public Libraries for its graphic depiction of S&M and bondage.

Library services director Cathy Schweinsberg explained to Florida Today: “Nobody asked us to take it off the shelves. But we bought some copies before we realized what it was. We looked at it, because it’s been called ‘mommy porn’ and ‘soft porn.’ We don’t collect porn.”

Florida resident Linda Tyndall has created a petition trying to urge the library to reconsider. The petition explains, “Because banning books is wrong, no matter what the perceived content.” (Via The Guardian)

China Section at London Book Fair Generates Protest

The London Book Fair opened with a protest against a special section on China, a country whose censorship policies have led to the imprisonment of authors.

The annual event includes more than 60 sessions dedicated to the Chinese book market including: “China and UK Literature Forum,” “Modern Chinese Masters,” and “Science Fiction in China.” The Associated Press has the story:

A lone protester demonstrated outside the ‘China Market Focus’ section of the fair Monday morning, holding a picture of imprisoned Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and a sign saying ‘stop literary persecution.’ Writers and anti-censorship groups also have criticized the decision to invite an officially sanctioned slate of Chinese writers to the fair.

Most Frequently Challenged Library Books of 2011

The American Library Association (ALA) has released its annual list of the most frequently challenged library books of the year. We’ve linked to free samples of all the books on the list–follow the links below to read these controversial books yourself.

During the past year, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received 326 reports of “attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves.” The list was part of the ALA’s 2012 State of America’s Libraries Report.

Here’s more eBook news from the report: “The rapid growth of ebooks has stimulated increasing demand for them in libraries, but libraries only have limited access to ebooks because of restrictions placed on their use by publishers. Macmillan Publishing, Simon and Schuster and Hachette Book Group refused to sell ebooks to libraries. HarperCollins imposed an arbitrary 26 loans per ebook license, and Penguin refused to let libraries lend its new titles altogether. When Random House raised ebook prices, the ALA urged it to reconsider.”

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Police Drop Criminal Investigation into Middle School Teacher Who Read ‘Ender’s Game’ in Class

In South Carolina, Aiken Public Safety have closed a criminal investigation into a Schofield Middle School who read to his students from Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. The investigation began when a mother complained to police and school officials over “pornographic” reading material in the classroom.

Here’s more about the case: “On March 12, the teacher was placed on administrative leave while police and school officials investigated whether he breached school policy or the law when he read from three books, among them Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, which became the focus of the probe when a 14-year-old student’s mother complained about the subject matter of the book.”

Despite the end to the criminal investigation, the Aiken County School District’s internal investigation is still ongoing. If you want to share your opinion about the controversy, here is contact information for the office of the school district’s superintendent.

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Smashwords Removes Controversial Censorship Policy

Smashwords founder Mark Coker has restored its Terms of Service agreement following a community-wide debate over censorship.

The site had added a provision that would censor content that includes rape, bestiality and incest, but it has been removed.

Coker wrote on the Smashwords website: “I met with PayPal this afternoon at their office in San Jose. They will soon announce revised content policies that I expect will please the Smashwords community. Effective immediately, we are returning our Terms of Service to back to its pre-February 24 state. Beyond that, our friends at PayPal have asked me to hold off sharing additional details until they’ve had a chance to finalize their new policies. Thank you for your patience and support during this crazy last few weeks.”

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Smashwords Founder on PayPal Censorship: ‘We View This Attempted Censorship as a Bad Precedent’

After receiving an ultimatum from PayPal last month, the self publishing platform Smashwords updated its policy, restricting books from including stories with bestiality, rape and incest.

PayPal cracked down on erotic content in the company’s vast catalog, threatening to cut off service if Smashwords did not eliminate content with “erotic fiction that contains bestiality, rape and incest.”

In a newsletter sent out to users today, Smashwords founder Mark Coker wrote: “Regardless on one’s opinions about these objectionable topics, we view this attempted censorship as a bad precedent.  Fiction is fantasy.  It’s not real.”  Read more

One Million Moms Group Targets Archie Comic

The conservative group One Million Moms is urging Toys ‘R’ Us to stop stocking an Archie Comics issue that features a gay wedding.

In issue 16 of the Life with Archie series, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character, gets married to his boyfriend. One Million Moms has created a form letter for parents to email to the toy store. You can read the complete letter below…

The letter concludes with this threat: “Please remove all the same-sex ‘Just Married – Archie’ comic books immediately from your shelves. My decision to shop in your stores depends on it.”

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Librotraficante to Smuggle Contraband Books into Arizona

A group of authors, publishers and organizations (including the Association of American Publishers) have created a book caravan to bring “contraband” books back into Tuscon, Arizona schools.

Beginning March 12th, the Librotraficante (featured in the video embedded above) will caravan from Houston to Tucson handing out banned books. Follow this link if you want to donate to the cause.

Last year, Arizona passed the controversial H.B. 2281, a bill banning school curriculum “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.” Along with the bill, a number of ethnic studies books have been removed from school district shelves (list follows below).

 

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Vietnamese Youth Seek Out Banned Books

The Communist regime in Vietnam continues to ban books, but according to an AP report in The Washington Post, that isn’t stopping young people from finding copies of books they want to read.

Whether it’s from Amazon, illegal downloading or shopping from street vendors, resourceful teens are finding ways to get copies of books that have been banned by the government.

The Washington Post has more: “Vietnam’s graying Communist Party is all about control: It censors all media, squashes protests and imprisons those who dare to speak out against its one-party system. But today, as iPhone shops rub shoulders with Buddhist pagodas, cultural authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to promote their unified sense of Vietnamese culture and identity — especially among the country’s youth.”

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