Home Apple Bans Cartoon Ulysses: This Week in Online Tyranny

Apple Bans Cartoon Ulysses: This Week in Online Tyranny

Apple bans Ulysses, again. Apple, energized by its campaign against porno, required Rob Berry, a graphic novelist, to redact the lovely lady lumps and other human bedanglements in his interpretation of James Joyce’s novel, “Ulysses,” called “Ulysses ‘Seen'” before he could offer it in the iTunes store.

This, of course, is the problem with all censorship, from international country-wide filtering to a single company’s ill-advised big brothering of its customers. For every highly offensive sex act (sex is dirty, after all) that the little people are spared, tons of legitimate content is junked along with it.

In this case, Apple managed to make itself look magnificently asinine, by in effect echoing one of the seminal American court cases of free speech vs. censorship, the Ulysses obscenity trial of 1933. A company dedicated to communications and self-branded as the herald of the future looked to be standing on the side of narrow-minded, thin-lipped Babbits of nearly a century ago. Berry wrote to tell us that Apple has since changed its mind and the novel is available for download to the iPad in all its glorious boobdom.

But what we wondered, was why Berry agreed in the first place. We asked him if he didn’t feel that the decision was not wholly his to make. While a new interpretation of an old work is still a new work, it retains and communicates its original.

“(Y)our question about responsibility to Joyce is a deeper one that I’m surprised no one had thought to ask any of us yet…(P)utting it on the iPad, even altering my own artwork to meet their restrictions, is done in service of bringing the novel to a new audience of readers and connecting it’s many, many fans with an sleeker and easier forum for discussing it. I feel it’s a bit of shame most of the press has been about the controversy, but certainly the old man himself was no stranger to controversy. I’m never quite certain what he’d think of my drawings, but I’m pretty sure he’d be loving all the new attention.”

Good intentions of course, and he’s probably right about Joyce’s love for the attention. But it still leaves some of us uneasy, even though the point is now academic. Perhaps if nothing else, Apple will be more careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in its zeal to purify it. Especially if it’s a nicens little baby named baby tuckoo.

DISCLOSE Act could impinge blogs in U.S.The DISCLOSE Act requires disclosure of corporate and union political speech after the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission declared the government could not ban political expenditures by companies, nonprofit groups, and labor unions. Some, however, have begun to argue that this law’s language is loose enough that it could allow the Federal Election Commission the right to regulate all political speech, including that of bloggers. Although it seems a bit alarmist, what harm could arise from tightening the language?

Iceland establishes strong free-speech laws. In order to become a “new media haven” Iceland has passed the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative proposal, co-written by whistle-blower site WikiLeaks. It “resolves to task the government with finding ways to strengthen freedoms of expression and information freedom in Iceland, as well as providing strong protections for sources and whistle blowers.” The only real effect this is likely to have is to keep an organization’s servers from being shut down. That’s important, but it certainly won’t keep a tinhorn from tossing you into an oubliette until you expire. Hafdis Huld and the Elder Edda aren’t the only things awesome about Iceland.

Iran runs the life of another blogger into the ground. Iran let Hengameh Shahidi go a week without food after she could no longer take solid food before they began to free her intravenously. She has been confined in the notorious Evin prison since last July, according to OR318, an organization that started in response to the death of the first blogger in prison, Omid Reza Mirsayafi.

Australia to force ISPs to store internet activity of all Australian internet users. Australia, the China of the Western democracies when it comes to Internet censorship, has outdone itself. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian government plans to store information that includes browsing history and plans to do it regardless of whether any given user is suspected of a crime. Honest to G-d? Are you people all wasted down there? Who’s next, Canada?

Canada charges man with hate crime for using YouTube. I… I… I don’t care that it’s way to early for a beer. Canada’s late-to-the-party Constitution has very weak free speech rights. Some have argued they are so weak they amount to no rights at all. “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” So, if you are “unreasonable,” you can be shut up. Good thing all “unreasonable” people are bigots. Otherwise, you could have a real problem.

Sign photo by Richard Rutter

Buck Mulligan drawing from Ulysses Seen by Rob Berry

Bottom photo by Robin Frousheger from No Clean FeedFlickr group

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