NEW YORK—A coalition of publishers and authors filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to overturn Treasury Dept. rules restricting American publishers from working with authors in countries under a trade embargo, such as Cuba and Iran.

Court action, filed in federal court in Gotham, says the rules put forth by the Treasury Dept.’s Office of Foreign Assets Control violate the First Amendment as well as several international acts.

Regs require publishers to seek a license from OFAC before publishing certain works from an embargoed country.

Under the rules, Americans can’t sign deals for books that aren’t completed, or market new or existing works from the affected countries.

Further, U.S. publishers can’t provide “substantive or artistic alterations or enhancements” to the works.

Those violating the rules face significant criminal penalties.

Author and PEN American Center president Salman Rushdie said the regs are arbitrary and counterproductive.

“For example, OFAC says publishers are free to publish ‘pre-existing’ texts from these countries. Yet the countries currently under U.S. trade embargo routinely prevent important work by writers and scholars from seeing the light of day. American writers and publishers are being told that unless they get a license from OFAC, they may not work with their censored colleagues in these countries to bring their works into print,” Rushdie said in a statement.

Suit was brought by the PEN Center, the Assn. of American Publishers Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division, the Assn. of American University Presses and Arcade Publishing.

The PEN Center, part of the international org of poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists (thus the name PEN), said it will be risking criminal penalties if it publishes “The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature.”

Recently, the U. of Alabama Press suspended publication of two books by Cuban scholars in the fields of archeology and history. Both books included material otherwise unavailable to overseas auds.

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