Indiana comics shops have to register as “adult bookstores”

Free Press

There’s a law going into effect July 2008 in Indiana which will require any store which sells sexually explicit books to register with the state, with a charge of $250. The state will then notify the store’s local government (county, city, zoning boards) of the store’s registration. Selling “sexually explicit” material without registration will be a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail, and up to a $1000 fine.

The sponsor of the bill says, “I wrote this bill in response to a situation in my district where a store gave residents the impression it would be selling books, movies and snacks. Instead, the store opened selling sexually graphic products. If the retailer had to register with the Secretary of State beforehand, the residents could have been notified of the store’s intent and petitioned to keep the retailer out of the community.”

In other words, if a new comics shop is going to stock Eros books such as Birdland and Ironwood behind the counter, or even if they’re planning to fill special orders from their customers for books from the Previews Adults Supplement, they’ll have to register ahead of time with the state, and face opposition from neighbors who think this means they’re getting a porn shop (which are always assumed to bring illicit sexual activity and crime in their wake).

The law is being challenged in court by the ACLU of Indiana, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Media Coalition, and of course a bunch of Indiana booksellers. They argue that this registration requirement amounts of a restriction of free speech, and a violation of the First Amendment.

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