Customs Seizure – Publications

The titles covered on this page are a small selection of books, magazines and comics that have reportedly been confiscated by the Australian Border Force (FKA Australian Customs Service).

The full list, which includes such titles as THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK, can be found on our Publication Censorship Timeline under the ‘Customs issues’ heading.

It has been compiled from a variety of publicly available sources such as forum and social media posts, fanzines and websites. The remaining alerts have been reported directly to us by readers of the site. Any additions, no matter how old, are welcome.

This list has been assembled due to the lack of a publicly available database of seized items. The aim is to document titles that may need to be avoided. It is in no way meant to encourage anyone to import a prohibited item. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information and take no responsibility for errors.


Spore Whores

Author Steve Carter & Antoinette Rydyr / Published by Eros Comix / 1994-1996 / Australia

SPORE WHORES was a three-issue comic created by Australian artists Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr (S.C.A.R). It was published in the US by Eros Comix.

In early 1995, Eros sent them complimentary copies of their published work. The Customs Service intercepted the package and seized the three issues of SPORE WHORES as well as FEMOSAUR WORLD. Despite the artwork having been produced in Australia, they claimed it could be classed as an import because it was now in a different format.

The contents were sent to the OFLC. Seven weeks later, they received a letter stating that FEMOSAUR WORLD was found to be ‘Not Prohibited’.

The National Classification Database records FEMOSAUR WORLD No. 1 as being passed as Category 1 in May 1995.

Femosaur World No 1 (1993) - Comic Cover 1
Issue No. 1

SPORE WHORES No. 1 was found to be a ‘Prohibited Import’ because it contained:

May 1995
…detailed and gratuitous depictions in pictorial form of acts of considerable violence or cruelty, or explicit and gratuitous depictions in pictorial form of sexual violence against non-consenting persons.

– Australian Customs Service
Spore Whores No. 1 (1994) - Comic Cover 1
Issue No. 1

Although they are not listed in the National Classification Database, the article at S.C.A.R’s website says that No. 2 and No. 3 suffered the same fate.

Spore Whores No. 2 - Comic Cover 1
Issue No. 2
Spore Whores No. 3 - Comic Cover 1
Issue No. 3

Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr did manage to have their copies returned.

April 28, 2011
As the creators we were entitled to receive complimentary copies of our own books for our own use so we wrote a letter to the Attorney-General seeking the right to import.

We were, however, given permission to obtain our personal copies so we picked up our package from Customs. Inside, the copy of SPORE WHORES that had obviously been sent to the OFLC was well thumbed, battered and dog-eared with stains on the cover.

article @ weirdwildart.com

From Hell

Author Alan Moore / 1991-1996 / USA

In March 2000, the Australian Customs Service seized FROM HELL No. 7 (1995).

From Hell No. 7 (1995) - Comic Cover 1
Issue No. 7 (1995)

In October 2000, they also confiscated the FROM HELL: COLLECTED EDITION, of which issue seven was a part.

From Hell Collected Edition (1999) - Comic Cover 1
Collected Edition (1999)

After much effort, Eddie Campbell, the Australian based comic book artist, eventually managed to get it cleared by the OFLC.

October 25, 2000
The award-winning 568-page graphic-novel meditation on the Jack the Ripper case by Campbell and writer Alan Moore first came to the attention of authorities in March when FROM HELL #7 was confiscated from an earlier shipment intended for Quality Comics and referred to the Office of Film and Literature Classification. The OFLC determined Oct. 3 that the work was not fit to be allowed in the country, and since issue #7 was included in the collection, customs officials applied the ban to that book, as well.

Campbell told the Journal, “The officers seemed a little taken aback when the author and publisher phoned from within the country. I told [customs officer Con Greenwood] that the book was highly regarded in America, England and six foreign languages and he replied, ‘I don’t care what goes on in the rest of the world; this is Australia.’ And I’m sure he speaks for a great number.”

Campbell said customs officer Nicole Moore had told him, “It was the image of the breast being cut off that offended her.”

Moore declined to speak to the Journal, and Greenwood, her supervisor, asked not to be quoted. Greenwood refused to give his official title. Campbell said, “The Customs chappie said that if Mr. Dean [from the Journal] quoted him in print that I would find no good will there from here on.”

– Australian Customs Blocks Import of From Hell
tcj.com

November 14, 2000
… FROM HELL has been cleared for importation in Campbell’s home country of Australia as of Nov. 14. Based on the recommendations of Australia’s Office of Film and Literature Classification, which had reviewed a copy of FROM HELL Volume 7, the Australian Customs Service had banned both Volume 7 and the collected edition from import. Two copies of the collected edition ordered by Quality Comics, a shop in Perth, were seized by Customs.

Campbell and Andrew Frith of Quality Comics requested that the collected From Hell be resubmitted for review as a complete work and reclassified on that basis. Campbell told the Journal, “Following my urging to take a look at the complete work and consider context, the OFLC have returned advice in only 15 days that the book is acceptable for importation.”

– From Hell Cleared Down Under
tcj.com

Eddie Campbell on Customs & the OFLC

In 2002, Eddie Campbell spoke about the problems that FROM HELL had in Australia.

2002
The book had been banned in Australia from importation. They banned a little slim edition and logically they thought they worked it out. Since the little slim one’s contained in the big one, then the big one should be banned too. So they seized two copies of the big book coming in through customs in Australia in October, which is like six months after the little one. The little one gone to the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) and they sent them advice that the thing should not be allowed for importation. Not suitable for importation.

I got the email from Diamond that there was this problem and since it was my neck of the woods, since it’s my book, I probably wanted to do something about it. So I got on the phone to customs. They said, “There is nothing we can do. We’ve been given a ruling by the OFLC that the book is to be banned. The book is not to be imported.”

So I phone up the OFLC: the Office of Film and Literature Classification. I talk to the OFLC and they says, “Oh no, we don’t give a ruling, we just give advice. It’s up to the customs what they do with it if they follow it or not.” So I go back to customs and they say, “Oh no, it was a ruling.” So I spoke to the papers. I was on the radio about this. I thought I might as well get some publicity out of it. And somewhere along the way it occurred to me that I’m not quite getting all this publicity. I’ve gone and wasted my time. There’re no books for anybody to buy.

It lasted for two weeks. I finally came up with a solution. I contacted customs and I said, “Look, you banned the first book, and it is terrible, violent, it’s hideous, it’s horrible, it shouldn’t be allowed, but within the context of the second book, the bigger book, it acquires a different meaning. Its significance is considerably altered.” I don’t think they completely understood. “All right,” I said. “But you haven’t submitted the big book. This is a different book. It is a six hundred-page book. You’ve got a banning on a forty-eight-page book. This one is a six hundred. You should resubmit. You should submit the big book to the OFLC.” They wondered if I would stand by a ruling against the book if they resubmitted it. I said, “Yes.” I lied.

Anyway, the book went out to the OFLC. There’s a committee of twelve members. It took them two days to decide the book was all right. Now had any of them read it in two days? They flipped through it and said, “Go away. Bugger off.” So the book was cleared. I thought I’d got through them—so I had won.

– Eddie Campbell interview
– University of Florida’s Comics Conference
article @ english.ufl.edu

Manga & Hentai Customs Seizure x 15

Publisher Various / Japan

In April 2012, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service in Melbourne inspected a parcel containing twenty-seven Japanese manga and hentai comic books. Fifteen of these were seized because they contained stylised images of sexual fetishes containing non-consent or physical harm.

The confiscated titles were:

  • AKI MOMO AUTUMN PEACH
  • CIRNO DAI PINCH!
  • EVA NYAN GORANSHIN 1
  • EVA NYAN GORANSHIN 2
  • GENSOU SATO NO OU SANAE RYOUJOKUHEN
  • GENSOU SATO SHIRI MATSURI
  • ILYA WITH SERA RIZU BUN HOKAN KEIKAKU!!!
  • MARKED 2 WAFUU
  • MELANCHOLY OF MARISA CHAN, THE
  • ODEKAKE PACHE!
  • SAKUYA-SAN YAKUMOUSOU
  • SATORI CANNOT MAKE ANY FRIENDS
  • SEI PURAKUTHIS
  • TENKAI BEACH

May 11, 2012
To: Bruno Marques

On 28 April 2012, an Express Mail Service (EMS) parcel containing twenty seven (27) comic books was examined by Customs and Border Protection, addressed to you at …

Fifteen (15) comic books were identified as contravening the Customs Act 1901, by depicting stylised images of sexual fetishes containing non consent or physical harm.

Included with this letter is a seizure notice for the above goods. Please note that it is in your interests to read the “Important Note” on the seizure notice.

Although seizure action only will be taken in this instance, you should be aware that it is an offence to import these goods without a permit under Section 233 (1) (b) of the Customs Act 1901. The maximum penalty for the importation of these goods is $110,000.

Information relating to what you can and can’t bring into Australia can be obtained by contacting the Customs Information Centre on 1300 363 263 or at www.customs.gov.au.

– Sean Quinn, Investigations Branch
– Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

Challenging Customs

Mr Marques contacted Fiona Patten from the Australian Sex Party (NKA Reason Party) for advice. She recommended he take the matter to court, which would force Customs to have them rated.

With the help of Greg Barnes, a Victorian civil liberties barrister, Mr Marques challenged the confiscation.

In October 2012, the seized items were submitted to the Classification Board by Australian Customs and Border Protection. They were rated as follows. It is unclear which title each item refers to.

  • Item 01 (87 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)&(b)
  • Item 02 (54 pages) – Category 1
  • Item 03 (28 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)
  • Item 04 (71 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)&(b)
  • Item 05 (78 pages) – Category 1
  • Item 06 (62 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)&(b)
  • Item 07 (67 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)&(b)
  • Item 08 (64 pages) – Category 1
  • Item 09 (89 pages) – Category 1
  • Item 10 (86 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)&(b)
  • Item 11 (78 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)&(b)
  • Item 12 (48 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)&(b)
  • Item 13 (40 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)&(b)
  • Item 14 (32 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)&(b)
  • Item 15 (36 pages) – Refused Classification – Reason: Pubs 1(a)&(b)

October 2012
Reason: Pubs 1(a) The publication is classified RC in accordance with the National Classification Code, Publications Table, 1. (a) as publications that “describe, depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.”

Reason: Pubs 1(b) The publication is classified RC in accordance with the National Classification Code, Publications Table, 1. (b) as publications that “describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not).”

– Classification Board

The case is withdrawn

January 18, 2013
Your ref. Z 00949794
Our ref. 12062972^

Melbourne Magistrates’ Court
233 William Street
Melbourne VIC 3000.

Dear Coordinator

CEO of Customs v Mr Bruno Alves MARQUES; Condemnation Application Melbourne Magistrates’ Court Proceeding: Z00949794

1. We act for the CEO of Customs in the above proceeding, which proceeded by way of a mention on 10 December 2012.

2. At the mention, the parties indicated to the magistrate that the matter was likely to settle without the need to proceed to final orders. The Court was asked to adjourn the matter sine die, on the basis that the proceeding would be withdrawn by our client if settlement was reached. The Court acceded to the request and the proceeding was adjourned.

3. As anticipated the matter has settled. Our client now seeks to formally withdraw the proceeding.

4. Please confirm when this request has been attended to and please do not hesitate to contact the writer if you have any query.

– Nikolas Tumbri, Senior Lawyer
– Australian Government Solicitor

Inconsistent customs decisions

February 23, 2013
The Australian Customs Service has been forced to return a private collection of Japanese manga comics recently seized from a Melbourne collector. The case has set a new benchmark for the importation of manga and also raised questions about the ability of Customs officers to properly evaluate adult material. Manga is a very widely used media and entertainment format by many young Australians.

Eros Association and Sex Party President, Fiona Patten, coordinated the classification issues around the decision and Victorian civil liberties barrister, Greg Barnes, ran the legal case.

Bruno Marques is a member of the Melbourne-based Manga Appreciation Society and last April ordered 15 manga comics on line, including THE MELANCHOLY OF MARISA CHAN, SATORI CANNOT MAKE ANY FRIENDS and AKI MOMO: AUTUMN PEACH. Australian Customs Investigations Branch manager, Sean Quinn, wrote to Marques advising him that “fifteen (15) comic books were identified as contravening the Customs Act 1901 by depicting stylised images of sexual fetishes containing non consent or physical harm”.

Fiona Patten said that all the material Customs had seized was freely and legally available to view online. “When I saw what they had taken, I advised Mr Marques to object and take the matter to court, thereby forcing Customs to have the material classified by the Classification Board (CB). The CB ruled that 30% of the material was quite legal to bring into the country and last week, Mr Marques went and picked them up from Customs House”.

In November of last year Mr Marques purchased the same publications again in Bali and presented them at Melbourne Customs for inspection and was allowed to bring all of them in.

Ms Patten said this raised serious issues around the uniformity of decision-making in Customs and the education levels of ordinary officers at the coal-face. “In our negotiations with Customs they claimed that they didn’t need to have the Japanese publications translated to classify them. In fact the only translations that were put forward were provided by Bruno Marques. Customs even used the translations that he provided, against him. How reliable can decisions on foreign material be if no official translations are made”, she said? “These were cartoon drawings of Japanese fantasies like 200 year old fairies having consenting sex with giant frogs, so why would Customs even consider them as illegal imports? The characters are not even human.”

She said the initial decision was out of touch and culturally arrogant. ” The material was never illegal to possess in Australia which begs the question as to why Customs are seizing legal material under the Regulations. Mr Marques’ interest was for his personal use and the only way he could challenge the Customs’ decision was to take it to court.

Ms Patten said that even though possession of the material was legal in Australia, Customs’ actions could now mean that if someone were to draw the images in any Australian state that that would be considered a ‘production’ and leave the artist liable to a jail sentence. “I would advise all Australians who now get a seizure notice for any media to immediately appeal the decision and allow the courts and the CB to assess the material”, she said.

Ms Patten said that she had written to the new Customs Reform Board and the Minister to request that the Customs Import Regulations be urgently amended so that they did not contradict or work against the Classification Act. “Material that is legal to posses in Australia should be legal to import for one’s own personal use”, she said. “Since 2004 it has been an offence to import media that would be Refused Classification (RC) but the RC classification under the Act has always been about commercial use not private use. Customs have deliberately misinterpreted the Classification Act for what seems to be their own empire-building purposes and in so doing have trashed the civil rights of many Australians.

– Customs Seizure of Japanese Manga Ruled Invalid
Australian Sex Party

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