US eases ban on editing manuscripts authored in countries under trade embargoes

The US government has eased the ban on editing manuscripts authored in countries under trade embargoes.  The following is an article published in the New York Times on 4th April 2004:

WASHINGTON, April 4 – The federal government has eased a ban on editing manuscripts from nations that are under United States trade embargoes, a move that appears to leave publishers free once again to edit scholarly works from Iran and other such countries.

The Treasury Department sent a letter on Friday to a lawyer for the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers, an international group representing more than 360,000 engineers and scientists, saying the organization’s peer review, editing and publishing was “not constrained” by regulations from the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The group says its members produce 30 percent of the world’s literature in electrical and electronics engineering and computer science.

The letter from the Treasury Department referred specifically to publishing by the institute, but Arthur Winston, the group’s president, said he believed the ruling would be “a relief for nearly everyone” in the scholarly publishing community.

“The ruling eliminates potentially disturbing U.S.government intrusions on our scholarly publishing process,” Mr. Winston said.

No one at the Treasury Department could be reached for comment Sunday night on the ruling.

The department and publishers have long quarreled over the exemption of “information or informational materials” from the nation’s trade embargoes. Congress has generally allowed such exemptions.

Nonetheless, the Treasury Department sent out advisory letters over the past year telling publishers who were editing material from a country under a trade embargo that they were forbidden to reorder paragraphs or sentences, correct syntax or grammar, replace “inappropriate words” or add illustrations.

The advisories concerned Iran, but experts said the ruling seemed to extend to Cuba, Libya, North Korea and other nations with which most trade is banned without a government license.

In theory, even routine editing on manuscripts from those countries could have subjected publishers to fines of $500,000 and 10 years in jail.


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