Nominet as official police censors

Ian Batten igb at
Mon Nov 29 08:49:57 GMT 2010

On 29 Nov 10, at 0715, Peter Tomlinson wrote:

> Peter Mitchell wrote:
>> What an excellent way of enforcing a police officer's personal interpretation of (say) the Obscene Publications Act, without having to trouble the courts. I look forward to the disappearance of all DH Lawrence study sites.
> Thus putting yet another cost burden on students, as they would have to buy the books and the commentaries on the books... (A friend's daughter is studying DHL as part of an English Lit degree - like so many others, she is having to work hard in a minimum wage job to fund her studies without taking on even more "student debt" - DHL book text is available on line FOC for study purposes, so I assume other books in the same genre are similarly available.)

For those that think the police acting as censors of academic study is fanciful, let us consider University of Central England (previously Birmingham Polytechnic, now Birmingham Metropolitan University.  Peter Knight is an absolute hero of this, because he and the senate went toe-to-toe with the police (and the wikipedia article, below, doesn't come close to describing just how toe-to-toe it was, from what one hears locally):

> In 1998, the university was involved in controversy when a book by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Mapplethorpe (2002), was confiscated. A final year undergraduate student was writing a paper on Mapplethorpe's work and intended to illustrate the paper with a few photographs. She took the photographs to the local chemist to be developed and the chemist informed West Midlands Police because of the unusual nature of the images. The police confiscated the library book from the student and informed the university that the book would have to be destroyed. If the university agreed to the destruction, no further action would be taken.
> The university Vice-Chancellor, Dr Peter Knight, took the view—supported by the Senate—that the book was a legitimate book for the university library to hold and that the action of the police was a serious infringement of academic freedom. The Vice-Chancellor was interviewed by the police, under caution, with a view to prosecution under the terms of the Obscene Publications Act, which defines obscenity as material that is likely to deprave and corrupt. The police focused on one particular image, 'Jim and Tom, Sausalito 1977', which depicts one man urinating into the mouth of another.
> After the interview with the Vice-Chancellor, a file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has to take the decision as to whether or not to proceed with a trial. After a delay of about six months, the affair came to an end when the DPP informed Dr Knight that no action would be taken as "there was insufficient evidence to support a successful prosecution on this occasion". The original book was returned, in a slightly tattered state, and restored to the university library.[54]

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