A group of publishers have just petitioned the White House to “End the Book Embargo Against Cuba.” Say what? It’s illegal to send books to Cuba or import books from Cuba? Not so much. Due to the information exception in the Berman amendment, the import of books from, and the export of books to, Cuba is permitted and may not be forbidden by OFAC. But you would never know that from the petition.
Of course, what’s really going on here is that the information exception, as narrowly construed by OFAC, is defined to include only information and books already in existence. You can import Che Guevara’s El Diario del Che en Bolivia from Cuba and export Henry James’s What Maisie Knew to Cuba because both works are already in existence. What you can’t do is pay an author in Cuba to write a book for you and edit it for publication, which is, I suppose, what the publishers, however inartfully, are getting at.
The publishers do have an excellent argument to make, and it is somewhat baffling that they did not make it directly. Under the recent amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, movie, television and record companies are allowed to go hog-wild in Cuba, hiring Cubans to work on “filming or production of media programs (such as movies and television programs), the recording of music, and the creation of artworks in Cuba,” leaving book publishers behind in the dust. That, simply put, does not make an ounce of sense. I suspect that given that many publishers also have interest in music and movie production, they aren’t anxious to complain openly about differential treatment of movies, music and books.
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