Government: Editing Iranian manuscripts is illegal

The Treasury Department has warned U.S. publishers that their editors are not allowed to alter the text of any books they’re reprinting from “disfavored nations” — such as Iran, Libya, or Cuba. That means that yes, they’re allowed to print books that came from those countries, but they cannot fix typos, edit text, or even add pictures and captions. The punishment for breaking the law? A half-million-dollar fine and up to 10 years in jail. As the New York Times reports today:

Nahid Mozaffari, a scholar and editor specializing in literature from Iran, called the implications staggering. “A story, a poem, an article on history, archaeology, linguistics, engineering, physics, mathematics, or any other area of knowledge cannot be translated, and even if submitted in English, cannot be edited in the U.S.,” she said.

“This means that the publication of the PEN Anthology of Contemporary Persian Literature that I have been editing for the last three years,” she said, “would constitute aiding and abetting the enemy.”

Apparently these laws have genuinely begun to affect scientific discourse:

These days, journals published by the engineering institute reject manuscripts from Iran that need extensive editing and run a disclaimer with those they accept, said Michael R. Lightner, the institute vice president responsible for publications. “It tells readers,” he said, “that the article did not get the final polish we would like.”

blog comments powered by Disqus

Search This Site


I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

More of Me


Recent Comments

Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson