Friends, all the great beasts of the Conspiracy are starting to get stirred up over this all-out battle for Good over Evil.

Just in case you haven't believed me when I told you how serious this is, I'm going to bombard alt.slack and SubSITE with the same legalistic horrors that poor old Vreedeez has to cope with night and day.



Foundation of Northern California
1663 Mission Street
Suite 460
San Francisco, CA 94103
[415] 621-2493

Foundation of Southern California
1616 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
[213] 977-9300


Contact: Public Affairs, ext. 260
Adam DiPaolo, ext. 209


Entering a dispute with broad First Amendment implications, the ACLU filed legal papers today with the state Board of Equalization objecting to a practice of taxing authors of comic books at higher rates than authors of conventional books.

The dispute involves a Board of Equalization proposal to charge back sales taxes to a San Francisco comic book author Paul Mavrides for selling work to comic book publishers. Had Mavrides been a conventional book author or freelance writer, no sales taxes would have been due.

The ACLU and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which represents Mavrides before the Board of Equalization, emphasized that, while the dispute may at first seem narrow, it has clear, chilling ramifications for many forms of artistic expression.

Expressive media that have strong ties to young people could be taxed at far higher rates than other media, creating inequities that might limit the number and diversity of comic books and other publications that speak most directly to such audiences.

The ACLU motion was filed jointly as a legal brief in letter form with the Board of Equalization by the ACLU of Southern California and the ACLU of Northern California. The brief urges the Board of Equalization to refund more than $1,000 in sales taxes Mavrides paid earlier in compliance with an order he received from the board. In addition, the Board of Equalization is being asked to change enforcement patterns and alter regulations to conform to the First Amendment.

The dispute was announced at a news conference at the ACLU of Southern California, and was attended by plaintiff Paul Mavrides, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and former Los Angeles Times editorial cartoonist Paul Conrad, Marvel Comics co-creator Stan Lee, and cartoonist Frank Miller, co-creator of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The news conference was also joined by Sanford Presant, attorney for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and Paul Hoffman, volunteer Attorney and former legal director of the ACLU of Southern California.

The brief contends that the arbitrary sales tax applicable to comic books and other cartoon illustrations creates a "differential taxation" scheme, and that the tax exemption on text but not comic books or comic strips because they contain illustrations is unconstitutional.

The ACLU argues that the differential taxation scheme violates our rights to free speech because illustrations, like text, are entitled to the same First Amendment protection. By taxing comic books, the State Board is interpreting and regulating a tax scheme arbitrarily based on whether the content includes text with incidental illustrations-which is not taxable, or work that is primarily illustrations-which is subject to a sales tax.

"The First Amendment forbids the state to tax artistic expression differently from textual expression, " said Ann Brick, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. "This is especially true in the context of comic book authors who employ words and illustrations to convey their messages. Not only does the differential taxation impinge on the cartoonist's right to freedom of expression, but it unfairly discriminates against the cartoonist who writes dialogue and gets taxed and the cartoonist who works with a writer, and the writer but not the cartoonist is exempt from paying taxes."

The tax law poses broad potential impact for other forms of media which involve the use of illustrations, such as the press, comic strips, political and social commentary, academic research and children's books. The state's differential taxation scheme could create a myriad of arbitrary and discriminatory taxes against these forms of media that include illustrations as part of its message.

"Many things are best expressed through a picture or a picture accompanied by a few words," said Paul Hoffman, former legal director and volunteer attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. "For some ideas, the picture is the only practical means of expression, or the only one capable of reaching a wide audience. The economic damage to Mr. Mavrides from having to pay this tax is significant, but the damage to our system of free expression is incalculable. Free expression is too important to be sacrificed at the altar of vague regulations that selectively tax illustrations."


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