AE Monthly

Articles - June - 2004 Issue

Book Business Heroes

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Though this decision only affects Colorado, the long-range effect, if all booksellers stand up to this intrusive procedure, may be that the government can no longer search one’s reading habits in hopes of finding some way to prosecute for a breach of the law.

Chris Finan, President of the ABFFE said, in an interview with Christopher Dreher from Salon.com, "If we allow law enforcement access to customer records whenever they think it's convenient, customers won't feel secure purchasing books and magazines that are their constitutional right to buy. It's important because many books are very private, or about sensitive issues, and if they feel booksellers turn over buying information at regular intervals, customers won't buy those books."

Now, one might argue that amphetamine manufacturers and drug dealers do not deserve First Amendment protection. It is certainly not the intention of any book dealer of my acquaintance to encourage the manufacture and dealing of dangerous drugs or condone any other crime for that matter. Most of us are law-abiding and support our local law officers. But that is not the issue. The fact remains that once the government is allowed to pry into these kinds of records – books, videos, emails, etc. – they will be closing the distance to Big Brother. Just about any book that one reads could be used to prove one is some sort of criminal.

At a hearing in October of 2000, our hero, Meskis, explained that bookstore customers should not have to be afraid to buy controversial books and went on to note that she received hundreds of letters and phone calls from people who fully agreed with her. Other witnesses included Judith Krug, a librarian and director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association. She explained that “violating the reader’s right to privacy would ultimately erode public dissemination of information.” (ABFFE).

In addition, “Charles Robinson, a Washington bookseller who has belonged to the American Booksellers Association for twenty years, including two terms as its president, and who served as founding vice-president and is a current board member of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, testified regarding the heavy and far-reaching burden compliance with search warrants such as these would present.” (ABFFE).

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