Senator Kevin Smith
& Representative Jim Milum
Arkansas General Assembly

March 13, 1999

 

Dear Senator Scott & Representative Milum:

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression opposes House Bill 1938, a bill that could have prevented the publication of some of the most important books in American history, including Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. ABFFE represents the nation’s independent booksellers, including members in Little Rock, Rogers and Blytheville.

H.B. 1938 authorizes a producer of a perishable food product to sue anyone who disseminates disparaging information about a product if that person knows or should have known that their claim is not based on “reliable, scientific facts.” The producer can recover both compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.

H.B. 1938 could result in the suppression of books and magazines that make claims about the safety of our food supply. Booksellers are not scientists and cannot tell what are “reliable, scientific facts.” To avoid a possible lawsuit, they will be forced to stop selling any works that make controversial statements about food products. Had such a law been on the books at the time, they would not have sold Sinclair’s study of the meat-packing industry or Carson’s investigation of the effect of pesticides.

If booksellers are not free to sell controversial works, everyone’s freedom is at risk. Please support the First Amendment.

Sincerely yours,

 

Christopher Finan
President
American Booksellers Foundation
for Freedom of Expression
135 Fulton Street, Suite 302
New York, new York 10038
(212) 587-4025