Swedish manga translator still guilty of child porn charges

Svea Hovrätt, a regional court in Sweden, today found manga translator Simon Lundström guilty of possession of child pornography, because of 51 drawn pictures (cartoons) that were considered child pornography. The court thus confirmed the verdict from July 2010 by local court Uppsala tingsrätt, but lowered the sentence a bit after scrutinising the drawn cartoons.

In a press release, Svea Hovrätt explains that “in four images, it cannot with absolute certainty be ruled that they depict children” and that “in eight images, it is uncertain if they are pornographic in the sense of the law”.

But they also write:

Regarding the remaining 39 images, the court finds that they are, from a legal perspective, to be regarded as pornographic images of children.

It should be remembered that there were no real children depicted in these images – all were cartoons. It was thus fantasy creatures that the court investigated. A bit surprised, they note that some of the “children” have “cat ears and tails”. Nevertheless, they come to this conclusion in the verdict, which I have read:

Even if some of the images do not appear real in all details, there is no doubt that they depict human beings.

Lundström is thus sentenced for child pornography of the lower degree, and has to pay a fine of 5,600 SEK (632 euro).

Lundström is Sweden’s most famous manga expert. He is teaching in this subject at the university and has translated over 80 manga, most of them published by Bonniers, Sweden’s biggest publishing house. One could expect that Bonniers would defend Lundström, since this verdict will most definitely affect their own business, but instead they chose to stop working with him, according to DN.

As a manga expert, Lundström possessed about three million pictures, that were investigated by the police. Of these three million, only 51 were considered child pornography (or 39 of them, according to Svea Hovrätt). One can also note, that out of these 51 pictures, 20 were duplicates from a backup disk.

Lundström says he is surprised at the verdict, and concludes that he must now stop working as an expert of manga in Sweden (from TT Spektra/SvD):

“I can work as a translator, but not as a manga expert, as I would need access to the erotic cartoons that exist in Japan. I’m not even allowed to visit manga artists’ homepages in Japan, since that is considered a crime”, he says.

Many are surprised that drawn cartoons, where no child has been involved in the creation process, can be deemed child pornography in Sweden. In its press release, the court explains the aim of the law:

The reason why the law has been extended to include drawn images is that such images are seen as humiliating to children at large, and not only to the child that might have been used as a model.

Personally, I’m very surprised too. I was convinced Svea Hovrätt would find Lundström not guilty – the court always has a choice to interpret the text in the law. Hopefully, Lundström will appeal to Högsta domstolen, the highest court in Sweden, and it will repeal the ruling.

I’ve chosen to illustrate this post with a painting by Gaston Goor (1902-1977), a French illustrator who worked closely with Roger Peyrefitte. This painting is now most definitely illegal to possess in Sweden. (Neither me nor my blog’s servers reside in Sweden.)

Some Swedish blog reactions to the verdict:

  • Wille at Prylfeber recommends Swedish manga fans to go through their mangas and cut out any picture that might be considered child porn in Sweden.
  • 之乎者也 on what he calls “blaspedy”.
  • Mårten Schultz analyses the verdict, and regrets that fiction, here in the form of cartoons, are not protected by the constitution.

Also read my three posts in Swedish (but with illustrations that everyone will understand), about ways other than sexual that Ecpat and other defenders of the law think are goods way to humiliate children in drawings (murder for example):

I’m still convinced this interpretation of the law will not hold, or that the law will be changed. But until then, Sweden should be considered a no-go area not only for manga fans, but for artists in general.