Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Smashwords Spokesperson, Mark Coker, had this to say about PayPal's attempt to censor authors who write on topics they deem inappropriate. We authors must protest this company's attempt to control what we write. Here's how we can get together and do it. (Posted with permission.)

In case you haven't heard, about two weeks ago, PayPal contacted
> Smashwords and gave us a surprise ultimatum: Remove all titles
> containing bestiality, rape
> or incest, otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal account.
> We engaged them in discussions and on Monday they gave us a temporary
> reprieve as we continue to work in good faith to find a suitable
> solution.
> PayPal tells us that their crackdown is necessary so that they can
> remain in
> compliance with the requirements of the banks and credit card
> associations (likely Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express,
> though they didn't mention them by name).
> Last Friday, I sent the following email to our erotica authors and
> publishers:
> https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/27 Then on Monday, I issued an
> update,
> and announced we would delay enforcement of PayPal's guidelines so we
> and PayPal could continue our discussions:
> https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/28
> PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction. Regardless of how one
> views topics of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are
> pervasive in mainstream fiction.
> We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers. This
> is unfair, and it marks a slippery slope. We don't want credit card
> companies or financial institutions telling our authors what they can
> write and what readers can read.
> Fiction is fantasy. It's not real. It's legal.
> There's no easy solution. Legally, PayPal and the credit card
> companies probably have the right to decide how their services are
> used. Unfortunately, since they're the moneyrunners, they control the
> oxygen that feeds digital commerce.
> Many Smashwords authors have suggested we find a different payment
> processor.
> That's not a good long term solution, because if credit card
> companies are behind this, they'll eventually force crackdowns
> elsewhere. PayPal works well for us.
> In addition to running all credit card processing at the
> Smashwords.com store, PayPal is how we pay all our authors outside the
> U.S. My conversations with
> PayPal are ongoing and have been productive, yet I have no illusion
> that the
> road ahead will be simple, or that the outcome will be favorable.
> Independent advocacy groups are considering taking on the PayPal
> censorship case.
> I'm supporting the development of this loose-knit coalition of
> like-minded groups who believe that censorship of legal fiction should
> not be allowed. We will grow the coalition. Each group will have its
> own voice and tactics I'm working with them because we share a common
> cause to protect books from censorship.
> Earlier
> today I had conversations with the Electronic Frontier Foundation
> (EFF), The
> American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the
> National
> Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). I briefed them on the
> Smashwords/PayPal situation, explained the adverse affect this
> crackdown will have on some of our authors and customers, and shared
> my intention to continue working with PayPal in a positive manner to
> move the discussion forward.
> The EFF blogged about the issue a few days ago:
> https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/02/legal-censorship-paypal-makes-ha
> bit-de
> ciding-what-users-can-read
> Today, ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release:
> http://www.scribd.com/doc/83549049/NCAC-ABFFE-Letter-To-PayPal-eBay-re
> -Ebook
> -Refusal-2012
> I will not be on the streets with torch in hand calling for PayPal's
> head, but I will encourage interested parties to get involved and
> speak their piece.
> This
> is where you come in...
> Although erotica authors are being targeted, this is an issue that
> should concern all indie authors. It affects indies disproportionately
> because indies are the ones pushing the boundaries of fiction. Indies
> are the ones out there publishing without the (fading) protective
> patina of a "traditional publisher" to lend them legitimacy. We indies
> only have each other.
> Several Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this
> censorship affects women disproportionately. Women write a lot of the
> erotica, and they're also the primary consumers of erotica. They're
> also the primary consumers of mainstream romance, which could also
> come under threat if PayPal and the credit card companies were to
> overly enforce their too-broad and too-nebulous obsenity clauses (I
> think this is unlikely, but at the same time, why would dubious
> consent be okay in
> mainstream romance but not okay in erotica? If your write paranormal,
> can your were-creatures not get it on with one another, or is that
> bestiality? The insanity needs to stop here. These are not questions
> an author, publisher or distributor of legal fiction should have to
> answer.).
> All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their
> opposition to financial services companies censoring books. Authors
> should have the freedom to publish legal fiction, and readers should
> have the freedom to read what they want.
> These corporations need to hear from you. Pick up the phone and call them.
> Email them. Start petitions. Sign petitions. Blog your opposition
> to censorship.
> Encourage your readers to do the same. Pass the word among your
> social networks.
> Contact your favorite bloggers and encourage them to follow this story.
> Contact
> your local newspaper and offer to let them interview you so they can
> hear a local author's perspective on this story of international
> significance. If you have connections to mainstream media, encourage
> them to pick up on the story.
> Encourage
> them to call the credit card companies and pose this simple question,
> "PayPal says they're trying to enforce the policies of credit card
> companies. Why are you censoring legal fiction?"
> Below are links to the companies waiting to hear from you. Click the
> link and you'll find their phone numbers, executive names and postal
> mailing addresses.
> Be polite, respectful and professional, and encourage your friends
> and followers to do the same. Let them know you want them out of the
> business of censoring legal fiction.
> Tell the credit card companies you want them to give PayPal permission
> to sell your ebooks without censorship or discrimination. Let them
> know that PayPal's policies are out of step with the major online
> ebook retailers who already accept your books as they are. Address
> your calls, emails (if you can find the
> email)
> and paper letters (yes paper!) to the executives. Post open letters
> to them
> on your blog, then tweet and Facebook hyperlinks to your letters.
> Force the
> credit card companies to join the discussion about censorship. And
> yes, express your feelings and opinions to PayPal as well. Don't
> scream at them. Ask them to work on your behalf to protect you and
> your readers from censorship.
> Tell
> them how their proposed censorship will harm you and your fellow writers.


CarysWeldonblog said...

It's so important to get the word out! Thanks for giving me a heads up.

GMiki said...

Thanks for the heads up, Carole. That's really awful. Censorship in one area means censorship is possible in all areas. We're returning to the 1950s to suit the sensibility of someone or a group of someones who want to control the rest of us. Ultimately, it's about political control and making it impossible to voice dissent.

Tammy Dennings Maggy said...

I find it funny that PayPal is saying that it's the banks who are doing this to them when people use their credit cards and debit cards to purchase erotica and porn all the time without restrictions. PayPal is doing this because of their own moral clause, not that of the banks. Don't be fooled.