Barnes & Noble faces lawsuit over art books

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama grand jury indicted the nation’s largest bookseller, Barnes & Noble, on child pornography charges involving the sale of books by noted photographers whose work includes pictures of nude children.
State Attorney General Bill Pryor said Wednesday he started the grand jury investigation after receiving complaints about two books being sold at Barnes & Noble stores in Alabama: “The Age of Innocence” by French photographer David Hamilton and “Radiant Identities” by San Francisco photographer Jock Sturges.
The indictment accuses the New York-based company of disseminating “obscene material containing visual reproduction of persons under 17 years of age involved in obscene acts.”
Barnes & Noble vice president Lisa Herling said officials had not yet seen the indictment and could not comment.
The indictment was returned by the grand jury Feb. 6 but not made public until Wednesday. It involves 15 counts over the sale of “The Age of Innocence” and 17 counts over the sale of “Radiant Identities.” If Barnes & Noble is convicted, the company could be fined up to $10,000 on each of the 32 counts.
A Tennessee grand jury returned an indictment against the bookstore chain over the same books in November. The charge of distributing obscene material harmful to minors has not yet gone to trial.
Sturges, reached at his studio, said Pryor will waste a lot of taxpayers’ money on the prosecution because the photographs “are not done flirtatiously” and have been displayed in major museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Sturges said “Radiant Identities” has sold more than 60,000 copies in nearly 10 years on the market.
Pryor contends the work is pornography rather than art because the photographs are “designed to elicit a sexual response.”
“We must protect children from those who would exploit their innocence for financial gain under the guise of so-called art,'” he said.