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Lifting of Publishing Sanctions in Cuba, Iran, Sudan

Government eases U.S. publisher dealings with Cuba, Iran, Sudan American publishers are free to engage in publishing activities with people in Cuba, Iran and Sudan without fear of violating U.S. economic penalties against those countries, the Bush administration said Dec. 15.

The relaxation was a response to a September 2004 lawsuit filed by publishers' and authors' organizations in federal court to strike down regulations of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control that effectively barred U.S. publishers from publishing books and journal articles originating in countries such as Iran, Cuba and Sudan that are subject to U.S. trade embargoes.

A lawsuit filed by Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Iranian national, and The Strothman Agency LLC of Boston, and another suit brought by PEN American Center and Arcade Publishing, pressured the government to end what amounted to prior restraint on freedom of speech.

"We are very pleased that the U.S. Treasury Department has revised its regulations," said Wendy J. Strothman, founder of The Strothman Agency. "Now American readers can hear directly from Shirin Ebadi, an eloquent fighter for human rights, and from other writers living in embargoed countries."

In response to the suits, OFAC issued the new regulations which explicitly permit Americans 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." This includes substantive editing and marketing of written materials, collaborations between authors, and the payment of advances and royalties.

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, counsel to the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), the Association of American Publishers Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division (AAP/PSP), PEN American Center (PEN), and Arcade Publishing, the plaintiffs in the case.

U.S. publishers are still restricted in their dealings with the governments of these countries, government officials and people acting on behalf of the governments. In addition, publishers wanting to operate a publishing house, sales or other office in the three countries need to get permission from the U.S. government. The same goes for transactions involving the development, production, design and marketing of software.

Noel L. Griese, APR, is editor of BookNews newsletter (where this story originally appeared and is used with permission), and of Anvil Publishers, Inc., Atlanta   770-938-0289

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