Issue 93, Spring 2004

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in September, 2003, that trade embargoes apply to scientific and literary manuscripts by authors from Iran, Cuba, Iraq, Libya and Sudan unless they are “camera ready.” Government permission would be needed even for routine edits such as correcting spelling or grammar, or reordering sentences and paragraphs.

Publishers and First Amendment advocates condemned OFAC’s action as an unwarranted and unconstitutional effort to suppress intellectual and academic discourse and inquiry. In response, in a letter dated April 2, 2004, OFAC relaxed its interpretation to allow style and copy editing, but there are still important restraints on collaboration and editing for substance. NCAC has been working with the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression & PEN American Center to oppose the restrictions.

NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin said that “it’s absurd to treat publishers of scientific papers and works of fiction as if they are ‘trading with the enemy.’ This interpretation will undermine both our knowledge base and a cornerstone of democracy—free speech and the free exchange of ideas. In the effort to promote freedom abroad, the government seems willing to sacrifice it at home.”