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Treasury Department Responds to Lawsuit By Writers and Publishers

—-Changes Its Regulations to Permit Publication of Books and Journals From Authors in Sanctioned Countries—-

(December 15, 2004) – In response to a lawuit filed in September, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today reversed what was effectively a ban on publishing books and journal articles by authors in countries such as Iran, Cuba and Sudan that are subject to U.S. trade embargoes.

The suit, brought by the Association of American University Presses, the Professional and Scholarly Publishing division of the Association of American Publishers, PEN American Center (PEN), and Arcade Publishing, argued that OFAC's ban violated both the First Amendment and federal laws making it clear that U.S. trade embargoes should not include information and expressive materials. In October, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian author and human rights activist, filed a companion case alleging that the OFAC regulations would prevent her from accepting a U.S. contract to publish her memoirs.

OFAC's new regulations explicitly permit publishers and writers subject to U.S. jurisdiction to engage in "all transactions necessary and ordinarily incident to the publishing and marketing of manuscripts, books, journals, and newspapers in paper or electronic format." They countermand – but do not revoke – earlier regulations that imposed so many restrictions on editing, marketing, collaborations, and payment of advances and royalties as to make publishing impossible for writers in the embargoed countries.

The revised regulations are "clearly a step in the right direction, permitting the broad range of publishing activities American publishers and authors must be free to pursue," according to Edward J. Davis and Linda Steinman of Davis Wright Tremaine, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "We will continue to examine the regulations in detail, but it is plain that significant obstacles have been removed for American publishers and authors who want to work with authors in Cuba, Iran and Sudan. Works of critical importance to the advancement of science and our understanding of international affairs can now be published without threat of civil and criminal sanctions."