Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Department of Utter Ridiculousness (a.k.a. When Copy Editing Is a Crime)

The U.S. Treasury Department, according to a Feb. 28 article in the New York Times, "has warned publishers they may face grave legal consequences for editing manuscripts from Iran and other disfavored nations, on the ground that such tinkering amounts to trading with the enemy.

"Anyone who publishes material from a country under a trade embargo is forbidden to reorder paragraphs or sentences, correct syntax or grammar, or replace 'inappropriate words,' according to several advisory letters from the Treasury Department in recent months.

"Adding illustrations is prohibited, too. To the baffled dismay of publishers, editors and translators who have been briefed about the policy, only publication of 'camera-ready copies of manuscripts' is allowed.

"The Treasury letters concerned Iran. But the logic, experts said, would seem to extend to Cuba, Libya, North Korea and other nations with which most trade is banned without a government license."