The PWO, following the recommendation of the UPU, opposes to the publication of images of illegal stamps on sites. Please find below some arguments for this position.

"Shell" wrote (on RCSD):
> So, how do I know which issues are illegal?  A picture of the illegal stamp
> with say a watermark or disclaimer stating it was illegal would certainly
> help me.  I do not understand why you don't want pictures of illegal
> stamps shown.
> Shell
> (Just another newbie question from Planet 10)

Yes, in a way you are right. If we use catalogues in identifying the usual stamps, why shouldn't we use the same method for illegals? Unfortunately, it's not so simple, and the devil is hidden, as so often, in many significant details.

I'll take some arguments from an earlier posting of mine and I'll complete them with knowledge from the further evolution of the topic.

1. A (smaller) problem is that such a site won't be complete, because:

- there are so many illegals
- they aren't already listed somewhere, so it's practically impossible to identify and to find them all (this being the job of the UPU and of PAs.
- of course anybody can help them, and is invited to do so)
- there are many potential illegals, about which the PAs haven't complained
at the UPU, so that officially at least their status is still unclear.

 So the question will be: Which is the status of suspected stamps that aren't shown on that site? I repeat it, it's not the big problem, because if the idea should be good, the fact of presenting less were anyway better than of showing nothing.

2. Another problem is that there is a high risk that some (more or less collectors, rather all kind of fans), who love Madonna, Britney etc., will see these illegals on the proposed sites and that they will buy them anyway. So why facilitate the access to such information and this way facilitate the activity of illegals dealers and producers? They could even link to such a site, and say that the problem is just controversial. Consider also that after a time these illegals, proposed by ex-fans, enter the philatelic circuit. Just take a look at eBay, where many unsuspecting persons try selling their illegals (I know it directly from many of them). This is, BTW, the argument invoked by the UPU.

3. There are some pornographic stamps. Challenged by me, a participant wrote on this subject "Lady or not, I will publish what is illegal", which shows a certain logic and determination, but less common sense. I think that this is also a bad idea, and that this would classify such a site as a X-rated one. The afflux of visitors from sex sites (who will surely link to a such "related" one) is guaranteed, but is this in the interest of philately? You know my answer. The contradiction between offering a full view of illegals and staying moral comes from the evil nature of illegals, of course, and not from those who wish fighting against them.

4. Because illegals are (obviously for quite anybody) immoral, why show more of them than necessary??? Why not take example from the editors of the renown Stanley Gibbons catalogues, who write following on the subject of stamps with a controversial validity (which, btw, aren't considered illegals): "From June 1967 very many stamp issues were made by a succession of agencies which had been awarded contracts by the Ruler, sometimes two agencies operating at the same time. Several contradictory statements were made as to the validity of some of these issues which appeared 1967-1972 and for this reason they are only listed in abbreviated form." It's for Ajman, SG edition 1997. If the editors decided to only list, in an abbreviated form, the stamps of a controversial validity, and _without_ showing their images, then why should be done much _more_ than that for stamps of _no_ validity at all?

5. The fight against illegals is taken very easy by some. I can affirm it, because at PWO we have some experience and we made many things in fighting illegals, possibly more than all others together on the Internet (see the links below, please). For example, we have published (together with AskPhil) the UPU Circulars referring to illegal stamps. We find that these circulars provide sufficient information in order to identify the already denounced illegals. Coming back to the big numbers of different illegals and the difficulty to obtain all of them for a catalogue of images, may I mention that the (cheap) idea of taking just a very limited number of images from eBay and to put them of sites is simply absurd (I couldn't find a milder word, sorry). Just think how have the authors identified these illegals. My answer is (and it's obvious): by comparing them with the descriptions from UPU circulars!!! That's exactly what I made too when I wrote to dealers on eBay, explaining them what are they actually selling (most didn't know) and asking them to take back their offers (what worked in 80% of cases). So may I ask, why put such images of illegals on sites, when anybody (yes, anybody who can read) can identify them by using the circulars? Isn't this just a method to demonstrate its own superiority, or something like that?

6. Some have written here that the Circulars are unintelligible and difficult to understand, but I have never seen an example... I would agree that they could be more complete (I'm sure that UPU welcomes any good suggestions), but not that they are hard to understand. IMO, they aren't more difficult than the stamp catalogues.

I hope that my arguments will help in better clarifying the situation of illegals, of means to fight them, and of taking the most appropriate and responsible position.

I support the idea that any person is responsible for what they buys, sells or collects, and that it's not the right of others to dictate them what should they collect or not. But, in the same time, it is necessary to fight against those who abuse the unsuspecting stamp collectors and the poor postal administrations, who infringe the property rights of those PAs, and sometimes infringe intellectual property too.

Victor Manta

(published on the Usenet newsgroup rec.collecting.stamps.discuss, on July 19, 2002

Published: 07/19//2002. Revised: 07/19/02.
Copyright 2002 by PWO and
by Victor Manta, Switzerland.
All rights reserved worldwide.