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February 15, 2007

Today's Ellison/FBI Suit Update: CBLDF Replies, Fantagraphics Defense Fund

In an e-mail, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein clarified the organization's position on the Harlan Ellison v. Fantagraphics lawsuit:
"It's inaccurate to say that the CBLDF declined to help Fantagraphics in the civil suit it is currently waging with Harlan Ellison. We were unable to offer monetary support for Fantagraphics' case but did offer varieties of non-monetary support.

"Our board of directors determined that the case did not meet the threshold for us to offer monetary support, in accordance with our Bylaws. The Fund reserves its limited monetary resources for the defense of cases that impose an unjust restraint upon the First Amendment rights pertaining to content within the comics medium. Generally the Fund's monetary resources are applied to criminal cases involving First Amendment issues directly pertaining to comics, and that have severe precedent bearing upon the sale or creation of works within the comics medium. In the rare instances where we have become monetarily involved in a civil case, those cases involved restraints upon the First Amendment rights relating to comics content and bore severe precedent implications on the Free Speech rights of others using the medium. The legal matters at issue in this case have more direct bearing upon journalistic prose than they do upon the comics medium that we are explicitly chartered to defend.

"While we were unable to extend monetary support to Fantagraphics, we did offer to assist the company in a variety of non-monetary ways. We offered Fantagraphics assistance in finding counsel, which they declined. We also offered to assist in finding organizations that may be able to assist them financially, and that's something we're still working on. Most Free Expression organizations have tight budgets and, like the Fund, are principally involved in defense of cases involving government rather than civil actions. We hope to be able to connect Fantagraphics with some leads that can help them pay for their case, but as yet have not found any organizations with the ability to do so.

"Finally, we have offered the possibility of participating in an amicus (Friend of the Court) brief in the future if the need should arise and if the specific legal issues pertain to the First Amendment concerns we are chartered to defend. Amicus briefs tend to fall into the category of non-monetary support for us, and are an area where we have actively weighed in on First Amendment matters that do not explicitly involve the comics medium, but do involve precedent issues that could affect the rights of those using the medium."

"Naturally, we hope that both parties are able to resolve this case without further litigation. However, the Fund is not in the position to pay for a case that does not have a direct bearing upon defending the First Amendment rights of comic art. Should Fantagraphics ever find one of its comics titles under assault from a local government, we will gladly step in to defend their First Amendment rights vigorously, as we have always done."

At The Comics Journal Message Board, Fantagraphics Publisher Gary Groth announced that a legal defense fund for the defendants was being established and would be announced soon.

This entry was written and placed by David P. Welsh as a favor to this site, without editorial oversight or intrusion.

Harlan Ellison responds to this article.
posted 12:16 pm PST | Permalink

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