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FTRF files suit against Arizona nude image law

Posted By Jonathan M. Kelley, Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Yesterday, the Freedom to Read Foundation joined several other organizations and bookstores in filing a lawsuit in federal court against Arizona House Bill 2515, which makes it a felony "to intentionally disclose, display, distribute, publish, advertise, or offer a photograph, viodeotape, film or digital recording of another person in a state of nudity or engaged in specific sexual activities if the person knows or should have known that the depicted person has not consented to the disclosure."

The suit asserts that the law violates the First Amendment, in that it is overbroad, vague, not narrowly tailored to achieve its stated goal, and is a content-based restriction on constitutionally protected speech.  Read the full complaint here.

The law, whose putative target is "revenge porn" (that is, the malicious online posting of explicit photos by aggrieved ex-lovers), in fact cuts a much broader swath: the complaint lists a number of every day situations in which libraries, booksellers, journalists, artists, and others could be prosecuted for distribution of protected speech that is historic, educational, artistic, and/or newsworthy in nature.

The suit, Antigone Books v. Horne, was coordinated by Media Coalition and the ACLU.  Media Coalition has created a wonderful Q&A that explains the case and discusses the reasons for the lawsuit and the law's problematic reach.  Included in that is this, specifically regarding the concerns of librarians:

Q7: What can booksellers and librarians do to comply with the law?
A: The threat of going to prison means every bookseller and librarian is responsible for every book, magazine newspaper and video they carry. To follow the law, they would have to review each picture in every book and magazine they carry, which would be an almost impossible task. They would also have to determine whether each picture violates the law, without knowing the circumstances surrounding each photograph. Many booksellers and librarians will decline to carry material that includes nude images, rather than risk prosecution, even though they have a constitutional right to sell this material.

The law also affects their customers and patrons. If booksellers and librarians are forced to remove any material that includes a nude photo, customers and patrons are deprived of their right to purchase and borrow these materials. That means you would not be able to purchase an issue of National Geographic at the bookstore and you won’t be able to borrow art books that include nude images from the library.

The ACLU also has an excellent blog post explaining plaintiffs' objections to the law.  There has been extensive media coverage already of this case: 

Joining FTRF as plaintiffs are five Arizona booksellers (including Antigone Books), the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the National Press Photographers Association, and Voice Media Group, publisher of the Phoenix New Times and other alternative newspapers.

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