Wednesday, May 12, 2004

What's the Treasury's gripe with us?

Remember the Treasury ruling (discussed at A Capital Idea in April) that works from embargoed countries could not be copy-edited or translated or published? Its Office of Foreign Assets Control said that would be providing "services" for that country.
"Activities such as the reordering of paragraphs and sentences, correction of syntax, grammar, and replacement of inappropriate words by U.S. persons, prior to publication, may result in a substantively altered or enhanced product, and is therefore prohibited."
You could apply to the government to circumvent the rule.

About a year after an appeal, the department ruled that copy editing was OK. But many questions remain.

This article by the New York Press is the first I've seen that mentions newspapers and literary efforts.
Needing to secure the government's permission to publish didn't sit well with national literary groups like the international writers and editors' association PEN and its 2700 members, or the 310-member Association of American Publishers. The groups began talking and looked into the possibility of filing suit against the government. New York-based poetry journal Circumference added a subversive twist. It wasn't just going to flout the law. It was going to dedicate a whole issue specifically to works by artists from sanctioned countries (translated into English, of course).
Similarly, newspaper editors were worried how it could affect them.
Writing to OFAC Director Newcomb, the outgoing president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Peter Bhatia, asked a new question to OFAC regulators: What about op-ed pages?

"Any attempt to edit an op-ed for space by removing words, sentences or paragraphs would appear to violate the law," wrote Bhatia.

Licensing violated an international human rights treaty to protect journalists, he explained, and closed by asking whether newspapers, when they tweaked op-ed pieces from certain foreign countries, were in fact violating the law.
OFAC won't comment.


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