Wednesday, March 07, 2012

PayPal, Erotica, and Censorship

Warning: this blog post will probably offend more people than normal. You should stop reading right now.

No doubt you've heard that Paypal has given Smashwords an ultimatum, saying it must remove all ebook titles that involve bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest, and underage erotica.

Previously, several other online retailers also removed titles from their stores. Some didn't remove them, but made them harder to find by taking them off bestseller lists, keeping them out of various sales algorithms, etc.

Other bloggers have talked about this issue in-depth. I wanted to weigh in.

First of all, I think anyone who tells me what I can or can't do with my life, my body, or my mind is an asshole (as long as I'm not hurting anyone else) Keep your morals to yourself, or impose them on your defenseless children who will grow up feeling guilty and ashamed for good no reason.

Moral absolutism is silly. There is no black and white. There's always gray. And the gray keeps changing.

Throughout history, laws more or less coincided with the morals and values of the majority of any given population. Sometimes the ruling body of a country overrides what the people want, but this doesn't last forever.

Increasingly, the entities dictating morality are businesses. This is the current case with ebooks. Credit card companies pressure PayPal, who then pressures Smashwords. Ebook retailers don't like certain types of erotica, so they don't sell it.

This isn't censorship. It's businesses exercising their freedom to chose what they want to sell.

If you as an artist or consumer don't like that, too bad.

I don't like the fact that "In God We Trust" is written on my currency, but at least I have a legitimate gripe. The US Constitution grants freedom of religion, which includes freedom from religion. But the majority of my country is religious, so the phrase stays, unfair as it is.

It is not unfair if PayPal or Amazon doesn't want to be associated with "Daddy's BDSM Billy Goat Rape-A-Thon" (which, incidentally, I would probably buy, as long as the goat wasn't underage).

Though it isn't censorship, and it isn't unfair, I certainly do agree that it sucks. I'm not a fan of limiting choice. I dislike those who dictate morality. As a libertarian and a consumer, I should be able to get my smut where I want it, when I want it.

I also have other radical views. Gays should be able to marry. I should be able to buy liquor 24/7. Recreational drugs should be legal. Woman should be able to do whatever the hell they want to with their bodies (so should men.) If I want to die, I should be able to do so with dignity and without pain and get help if needed. I should be able to camp out in front of Wall Street for as long as I want to while protesting the wankers who screwed up my country's economy (and I say this as one of the hated 1%.) I shouldn't get fined for forgetting to wear my seatbelt. Victimless crimes should be abolished.

But these things aren't universally allowed in my country. That annoys me.

However, there are workarounds, and I'm still able to do the things I want to do. That's what I propose in this situation.

Porn is a billion dollar industry, and those smut-peddlers have found ways to make money online without PayPal.

Erotica authors should be able to do the same.

This isn't a set-back for authors. This is an opportunity to corner a huge market. If online retailers can't or won't sell "Spank My Donkey, Mommy: A Barely Legal Tale of Non-Consent" then artists need to stop complaining and figure out a way to sell it themselves.

There is an audience for this stuff. A big audience who is willing to pay. If the regular ebook outlets won't take their money, find a way to get it on your own. Hint: see what the porn sites are doing and copy them.

Authors aren't being censored. They aren't being treated unfairly. (If you want to know what being treated unfairly is like, sign a Big 6 contract.) So let's stop thinking in those terms.

Instead, think of how to exploit this situation for greater personal gain.

Supply and demand. There is a demand. Figure out how to supply it, without Amazon, B&N, Paypal, or Smashwords.

And when you do, contact me, so I have a place for my erotic masterpiece "Raped By Uncle Ostrich".

Here's the pitch:

Sexy Uncle Schlomo always made sixteen-year-old Betty Sue sopping wet with desire. So wet that she had to wear diapers.

But then a magic potion mix-up turns her hot uncle into a giant bird, and Betty's forbidden desire becomes even forbiddener.

When Uncle Ostrich gets high on marijuana and then marries Betty's own father (who then gets mangled in a car accident because he wasn't wearing his seatbelt, forcing Betty to smother Daddy to death in his hospital bed while riding his rock-hard manhood), devastated Uncle Ostrich begins raping everything in sight, and to poor Betty's delight she is next on the list.

This action is so hot it will melt your ereader! (Disclaimer: not responsible for melted ereaders.)

Also features spanking, abortion, toe-sucking, birding, elderly bondage, enema-play, cannibalism, erotic asphyxiation ending in murder, squirrel-play, injecting heroin into testicles, Pope-play, frotteurism, and irrumatio.

(Admit it, you had to Wikipedia those last two.)

So that's my take on the subject. Less complaining, more problem-solving. If some companies don't want to work with you, their loss.

All adult human beings are sluts. Figure out how to get our money.

Now I'm going to hop on Twitter and count the number of people who want to boycott or censor me. My current number followers is 8478. Let's see how many unfollow.

Addendum: The comments section is getting glutted with defining censorship. Allow me to clarify it here. If anyone disagrees with this definition, feel free to add to the comment thread.

Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.

(Since it came up in the comments: A media outlet is a publication or broadcast program that transmits feature stories and news to the public through various distribution channels.)

To suppress is to abolish, stop, put an end to, or withhold from disclosure or publication.

Is there any suppression going on by the government, media outlet, or a monopoly?

No. PayPal is not a monopoly, government, or media outlet.

PayPal is not preventing publication of erotica.

Hence PayPal's actions cannot be defined as censorship.

PayPal isn't infringing upon freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or human rights. They aren't censoring anything. They aren't suppressing anything. They're just refusing to sell certain titles.

Someone needs to point out a case where it is considered censorship when a retailer refuses to sell something.

313 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 313 of 313
Liz/moth said...

*Some heavy hitting financial companies have learned they can control what people read.*

*No, they've learned they don't want certain customers.
*

I believe the first statement is the correct one. The financiers who underpin the banks and credit card companies are terrified of people power. Especially people power as exemplified by writers who self publish and are not controlled by easily manipulated big companies/publishers. This whole situation is the first step in controlling self publishing. It deliberately targets a sub genre of erotica because many people will allow that and so the path to control is established. The financiers pressurise the CCs who in turn pressurise Paypal who in turn pressurise Smashwords who in turn pressurise writers who self publish. Easy.

You might say this is conspiracy theory; many bankers and ex-bankers admit that there is indeed a ‘conspiracy’ - a ‘conspiracy’ to control the world (and the world’s governments) to make profits for banks. Writers who cannot be controlled threaten that.

I understand Joe’s initial post - he doesn’t want us to give Paypal the opportunity to refute our indignation and claims with the response that what they are doing isn’t censorship. So he is trying to get us to change the way we talk about Paypal’s actions. A praiseworthy aim. I don’t agree with Joe’s definition but in a sense it doesn’t matter. If they can get us arguing among ourselves about definitions until the books are withdrawn, they have won.

I have already written to Paypal and I used the word censorship in the sense in which I understand it. They probably won’t reply but at least somebody has to read my email.

Adrian said...

What if you owned a grocery store and stopped selling peanuts because your child had a life-threatening peanut allergy? Should you have to face an angry mob demanding that you sell peanuts?

Of course you should have to deal with the backlash. Angry customers will write bad reviews on Yelp and picket outside your store. They don't have any legal authority to compel you to sell peanuts, but they absolutely have the right to complain loudly that you don't.

What's going on is Smashwords is asking authors and readers to join them in complaining about PayPal and the credit card companies.

The credit card (Visa and Mastercard) companies have clearly demonstrated that they are an effective monopoly on online payments by their staggeringly successful financial blockade of Wikileaks.

Michelle McCleod said...

The rectum scene? The one where the stick is up the bum and comes out the mouth?

Or did you just want to say 'anus'?

M

Christian K said...

Come on, Bob. If I have an 800 credit score and a 20 year history with Amex, they can't deny me the purchase of a 3 dollar book based on credit worthiness

AMEX will not allow any business who's primary function is pornography to process AMEX cards. This is a moral decision to protect their brand. The "clean value" of the Amex brand is far more important than your credit rating.

Delilah Fawkes said...

Don't you have a book where a spike goes through a man's anus an inch at a time until it eventually goes out of his mouth several hours later?

Blake Crouch said...

"Just call it SOMETHING - and then please, DO complain about it. The focus and effort needs to be on the action, and less on the definition."

I just called Paypal and complained. The woman I spoke to took the information and said she'd bring it up at her next senior group meeting...if they get BOMBARDED by their own customers complaining, that's what's going to send a message.

Oh and also, the real monsters in this thing are the pieces of shit (the moral majority) who complain loudly enough in the first place to convince these CC companies to take action. Clearly there are a lot of them and they would gladly take your right to read/watch something in the privacy of your home away with the click of a button, because they are arrogant and believe their perception of the world is the one and only.

They deserve a collective EFF U.

JA Konrath said...

I've got a book where the villain is Vlad the Impaler, but I cant' remember if he ever impaled anyone on the page.

If it was on the page, it wasn't graphic or gratuitous. I don't do graphic of gratuitous. I prefer to be minimalist, and let the reader fill in the blanks.

Delilah Fawkes said...

GO BLAKE! :)

I'll be doing the same thing today. Let's let our voices be heard at least as loudly as the vocal, rights-blocking minority (who call themselves the Moral Majority.)

JA Konrath said...

Though to be fair, the sex scenes in my Timecaster books could be considered gratuitous and graphic. And their purpose is to titillate.

Anonymous said...

Joe said "If it was on the page, it wasn't graphic or gratuitous. I don't do graphic of gratuitous. I prefer to be minimalist, and let the reader fill in the blanks."

Hahahahahahahah. I think that's the funniest thing I've read all morning :).

I read and enjoyed "Trapped," and remember a ton of graphic scenes, including [SPOILERS!!] a boy accidentally eating the cooked flesh of another after he was roasted alive until his eyes popped. Then the kid who ate human flesh vomited, and you described the taste of his vomit on a psycho's lips after kissing and biting him with sharpened teeth. [END OF SPOILERS!!]

It turned my stomach, and it wasn't even the grossest scene, but that's why I paid for that book.

Sometimes I enjoy a good gross out :).

Michelle McCleod said...

To your last point in your post: "Someone needs to point out a case where it is considered censorship when a retailer refuses to sell something. "

The problem is the retailers aren't refusing to sell content, the financial companies are refusing to fund the transaction. Financial companies are not retailers.

Some academic sources:

http://works.bepress.com/terence_lau/5/

"In commercial speech, the U.S. Supreme Court has in the past two terms handed down decisions dealing with “coerced speech.” Another problem in commercial speech is “coerced silence” or “coerced ignorance.” The paper begins with the Supreme Court’s doctrine that the First Amendment protects both the speaker’s right to speak and the public’s right to hear. Metaphorically, the channels of free speech in this country are pipelines that connect opinion makers with the American public. Increasingly, the control of pipelines resides in fewer and fewer hands, allowing economically powerful interests to either filter or censor the information. This threatens both the efficient running of a free market and the political freedoms inherent in American democracy. The authors call this phenomenon “corporate censorship.”

https://litigation-essentials.lexisnexis.com/webcd/app?action=DocumentDisplay&crawlid=1&doctype=cite&docid=55+DePaul+L.+Rev.+119&srctype=smi&srcid=3B15&key=5a35837823aaec439dd75d16c2f978ad

"Consider, for example, the use of SLAPP suits by large corporations to silence critics. 11 SLAPP is an acronym for "strategic lawsuits against public participation." 12 In addition to silencing critics, a popular fashion is to restrict the flow of information to the American people, or certain segments of the American people, in order to modify their behavior or to conform their opinions. This "screening of information" is insidious and undermines what it means to be a free people in the democratic sense."

M

Christian K said...

Just call it SOMETHING - and then please, DO complain about it. The focus and effort needs to be on the action, and less on the definition.

While I do think that PayPal was a little out of line applying the "porn rules" to erotica, VISA and AMEX are not going to change their mind on this issue anytime soon (MasterCard really doesn't matter much).

They are not going to say it's "OK" to use their service to sell potentially illegal material. Illegal?? Well, consider that the last text based obscenity prosecution (2008 - Karen Fletcher) ended in a plea agreement. This was a case involving just stories and no images.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they are talking about The List.

According to a review on Amazon:

This review is from: The List (Kindle Edition)
I thought the basic premise of the book, as outlined in the summary, was interesting and different enough to make me curious so I bought the book and started reading. When I was only 10% through the novel (according to my Kindle), already there had been fingers amputated, a beheading, someone's face had been sliced, a dog impaled, a woman attacked twice, and numerous accounts of torture (ie, a man impaled through the anus and then the stake move an inch an hour until it exited through his mouth hours later)

JA Konrath said...

a boy accidentally eating the cooked flesh of another after he was roasted alive until his eyes popped. Then the kid who ate human flesh vomited, and you described the taste of his vomit on a psycho's lips after kissing and biting him with sharpened teeth.

I didn't say my books were without violence. I said the violence wasn't graphic of gratuitous.

But the vomit scene was pretty gross.

Michelle McCleod said...

1997 Wired article on Walmart censoring music content echoes the current situation: http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/1997/06/4181

Delilah Fawkes said...

Thanks for the great sources, Michelle! :) Those articles are very helpful.

JA Konrath said...

(ie, a man impaled through the anus and then the stake move an inch an hour until it exited through his mouth hours later)

That didn't happen on the page to any character. That was read by the cop in an autopsy report. This is from the book:

The crime took place last year in Tennessee. A twenty-nine-year-old Caucasian male by the name of Robert Mitchell had been found in the woods outside of Nashville.
He’d been stripped naked and impaled upon a ten foot wooden pole. It had pierced his rectum and eventually exited through his mouth. The coroner theorized it took Mitchell a while to die.
He’d slid down the length of the stake an inch at a time. By the time it ruptured something vital, Mitchell may have been hanging there for over ten hours.

The pictures made Tom wince.


That's pretty much the opposite of gratuitous. It is also necessary. With Vlad the Impaler as the bad guy, I had to establish what impaling was, so when the hero is threatened with it the reader understands what it entails.

That said, no one gets impaled in the book, other than that guy in the autopsy report, and that's the only mention of it.

John DuMond said...

I think the argument about whether this constitutes censorship (and I agree with Joe, by the way) is missing the point here. First off, is it a violation of anyone's constitutional rights? According to the Constitution of the United States (First Amendment):

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

(emphasis mine)

No mention of a requirement for private entities (like Paypal and the CC companies) to sell erotica, or engage in any other type of speech they do not wish to. Consequently, this is not a First Amendment issue. If, however, a government body were to compel Paypal to change its policy, that would be a violation of their First Amendment rights, as it would be forcing the company, under color of authority, to participate in a type of speech against it's will.

As for the CC companies, they look kind of foolish on this. Thousands of porn sites, as well as age verification services for porn sites, take most (if not all) credit cards as payment for their services (and have for years)... Or so I've heard ;)

Delilah Fawkes said...

John DuMond said: "I think the argument about whether this constitutes censorship (and I agree with Joe, by the way) is missing the point here. First off, is it a violation of anyone's constitutional rights? According to the Constitution of the United States (First Amendment):

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.""

With respect, Michelle's sources up above state that restriction information or pushing silence on a certain group is indeed a form of restriction free speech:

https://litigation-essentials.lexisnexis.com/webcd/app?action=DocumentDisplay&crawlid=1&doctype=cite&docid=55+DePaul+L.+Rev.+119&srctype=smi&srcid=3B15&key=5a35837823aaec439dd75d16c2f978ad

"Consider, for example, the use of SLAPP suits by large corporations to silence critics. 11 SLAPP is an acronym for "strategic lawsuits against public participation." 12 In addition to silencing critics, a popular fashion is to restrict the flow of information to the American people, or certain segments of the American people, in order to modify their behavior or to conform their opinions. This "screening of information" is insidious and undermines what it means to be a free people in the democratic sense."

I think that's the main issue here, and the one that all indies should be wary of.

Adam Pepper said...

Did the free market fulfill the demand for Internet poker? No, because the US govt stopped the flow of money. The free market can't function when the government won't allow it. I don't want to speculate too much, but I don't think Paypal turns away paying customers out of nowhere without some external pressure.

It's interesting that you bring up the war on illegal drugs. The fiction at issue here is legal and shouldn't be driven underground.

Giselle London said...

Hm...really easy to say "do something else" when you don't have children to feed, and it's not YOUR genre that's being decimated. I *do* write other stuff...but the erotica puts food on my table.

And guess what? My stories *don't* violate any policies. They are all one adult man, one adult woman, no BDSM, no bestiality, no incest (not even pseudo). Hell, my stuff is plain VANILLA erotica. But All Romance Ebooks yanked five of my seven stories anyway.

Why? Good question--they won't tell me why, despite repeated requests. They'll only say I "violated their policies." I've appealed to them through their own appeals process, and they STILL haven't responded to me. I'm not allowed to make changes to the books and re-upload them without permission (if I even could figure out what to change) and since they won't respond, I can't get that permission.

You want to pretend it's just people with "offensive" books who are suffering, but it is not. When everyone says this is a slippery slope, they are not kidding--I'm a victim of the slippery slope. I did EVERYTHING that All Romance Ebooks asked of me, made sure my tags were okay, changed my blurbs in case there was an "offensive" word, and did it all with no complaints...and I still got the axe.

But hey, Joe, I took your advice, and did something *different*. I just published an erotic short about two elderly people in the Depression era who have sex in the missionary position while still partly-dressed. All descriptions are couched in flowery euphemisms, and there's no possible way it could violate anyone's definition of "obscene."

We'll see how long it takes for ARE to take it down. If they do, I guess I could have the old man go crazy and peel off the woman's skin while she's still alive, strip by strip, then roast her over an open flame...because I *know* no one will censor *that*.

God bless America!

John DuMond said...

Delilah,
Comparing the use of SLAAP lawsuits to silence dissent with the decision on the part of a private entity to not engage in a certain type of trade is like comparing apples to... lawnmowers.

JA Konrath said...

http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=4222798&page=1#.T1j6BzEgea9

What bugs me about the Karen Fletcher obscenity case is that she had 29 wackos paying $10 a month to read stories about children being raped.

Should that be protected under the 1st amendment? Yes.

But would I mind terribly is local law enforcement took a closer look at her subscribers to see if any engaged in actual child pornography? No, I wouldn't mind that at all.

Perhaps that's hypocritical. Perhaps that's a violation of rights. But I would guess that someone on a paysite who gets off on the rape and torture of children might actually be in possession of actual child porn. And my opinion of those guys is to castrate them.

So I don't think she should have been prosecuted. But I do think those on her subscriber list should be considered "persons of interest".

India Drummond said...

Woelf sez: What about phedophilia? Do we then include this category too? Where do we draw a line?

Joe Sez: I thought about bringing this up, but it's such a slippery slope. Fiction isn't real. As long as no one is being hurt, people should be able to write whatever they want to write, and sell whatever they want to sell.

The big difference is that I believe pedo fiction/porn is illegal. Everything Paypal is talking about is LEGAL fiction.

And to those who say the semantics don't matter, I'd say that words do matter. The woman who unfriended me for disagreeing with her sounded, frankly, like an idiot. Her entire argument was that being told she couldn't sell her books on Smashwords was violating her first amendment rights. By picking the wrong argument and using the wrong words to define her position, she diluted the power of her point, which was (I believe) that she wanted Paypal, Smashwords, and everyone else involved to pull their heads out of their asses and recognise that stores should not be hindered from selling any LEGAL product they want to sell.

JA Konrath said...

Hm...really easy to say "do something else" when you don't have children to feed, and it's not YOUR genre that's being decimated.

I do have children to feed. I fed them for the 12 years it took me to land a publishing contract. And when one of my books didn't sell, I did something else. And something else. And something else. Nine unsold novels before landing a deal.

You really want to lecture me about how tough and unfair this biz is?

You want to pretend it's just people with "offensive" books who are suffering, but it is not.

Can you show me where I said anything of the sort?

If they do, I guess I could have the old man go crazy and peel off the woman's skin while she's still alive, strip by strip, then roast her over an open flame...because I *know* no one will censor *that*.

No one would censor that, because this isn't a case of censorship. :)

Michelle McCleod said...

Well Joe, once those kind of sites are shut down, the sickos can just move on to mainstream fiction. It's a little harder to find, but it's in there and all those one or two page scenes that are not the main plot, and thus are allegedly not titillating will still be enough to get that crowd off.

We have no problem giving the sickos a hard-on, it's just women we don't want having sex.

I would not be at all surprised if there are lists online of mainstream books that serve as good 'stroke fiction' to the sexual deviants out there.

I think my next book with be marketed as mainstream fiction, but will secretly be erotica.

M

Delilah Fawkes said...

Joe says "I do have children to feed. I fed them for the 12 years it took me to land a publishing contract. And when one of my books didn't sell, I did something else. And something else. And something else. Nine unsold novels before landing a deal."

Joe, I hate to say it, but you just did the same thing nine times until you caught a break.

If indie publishing goes south for erotica writers, it's a much different story.

JA Konrath said...

Joe, I hate to say it, but you just did the same thing nine times until you caught a break.

I did catch a break. Luck is a huge factor. But I didn't do the same thing nine times. The books were in different genres. I kept at it until I found something the publishers wanted, which was book #10.

JA Konrath said...

We have no problem giving the sickos a hard-on, it's just women we don't want having sex.

That's our society, but it ain't me.

I want women to have lots of sex, and to think about it all the time, and to write about whatever fantasies they can dream up. I think that makes the world a better place.

Archangel said...

agree with Selena and others here, that censorship or? as a main point may actually confuse the issue because it's not the main point, in my opinion.

I think the squeeze on only certain groups, without banning ALL such subject-matter groups or individuals across the board is far more important to squint at.

Just to inject a reality into the discussion from another angle. DOJ is likely to bring pressure on big six and big bookselling sites for illegal pricefixing re their dreamt-up 'agency model,' e.g., keeping prices of ebks artificially high in order to offset losses in print on paper market.

For those who dont live in USA, DOJ stands for Department of Justice which is the biggest judicial investigatory arm of the US govenment. They are the Federal investigative agents re monopolies, price fixing and other illegal business and smaller governmental practices, such as human rights violations, etc. All the big six with the exception of Random (they say because it took months and months to get with it, re agency model) are in the DOJ's sights. Stay tuned. There may be a whole lot of shakin' going on, affecting big six, amz, b and n, and indie authors ... especially in ... well, you see what y ou think will happen to your sales if agency model of holding prices for ebooks at 9.99 no longer holds and big authors are selling at 2.99 and upward all over the spectrum, and what AMZ may do in response.

On another note, I think it may be useful to review Larry Flynt's case (not the movie), but reading the actual briefs or transcripts to see what happened there and how the courts decided 'back then.' I note that one person has apprised him of the situ with paypal and erotica.

Thanks

drcpe

Anonymous said...

Just a comment and random thought:

This is big money Paypal is losing. Erotica is big business and Paypal must be losing thousands, maybe tens of thousands of dollars daily by refusing to process payments for this type of fiction.

There must be *some* reason they've decided to throw away that much money. Even the most moral argument pales when you're losing that much cash.

My bet? (feeble tho it is...)

I think the CC companies are worried about overseas lawsuits from countries that aren't as liberal as the US. Countries where just being gay is a death sentence and where the internet is flourishing in a big way. Maybe they're worried about a lawsuit from these countries freaking out over their people having access to erotica when their own standards are so different. And, as we all know, lawsuits only make money for the lawyers.

Just some random thoughts. Dismiss them or discuss as you will.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... Via Wikipedia:
Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.
To suppress is to abolish, stop, put an end to, or withhold from disclosure or publication.
Is there any suppression going on by the government, a media outlet, or a monopoly?
No. PayPal is not a monopoly, government, or media outlet.


What you're doing, and it's obviously intentionally dishonest by now, since it's been pointed out many times, is taking the actual definition and removing 'controlling body' and substituting it with your own 'monopoly'.

They are not synonyms.

A 'controlling body' can be many things, from a school board, library board, art gallery owner, book store ownership, community day organization committee, parents, public online forum moderators, Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Facebook, and on and on. Any body that controls the media within it is a controlling body. And if that controlling body suppresses something because they deem it offensive, that's censorship. By definition.

So, if you're going use the definition, use the definition, not one that you've created in your imagination.

Christian K said...

I am SO off the topic here, I apologize in advance.

Well Joe, once those kind of sites are shut down, the sickos can just move on to mainstream fiction. It's a little harder to find, but it's in there and all those one or two page scenes that are not the main plot, and thus are allegedly not titillating will still be enough to get that crowd off.

Naw, they will go back to free-fiction and fan fiction sites. There is far more of it out there, and it's much easier to find than pay erotica. Incest? Look for fan fiction about the show Supernatural. Rape? Take your pick! There are so many stories you really need to pick a sub-genre. "Sex-pollen made them do it"? "Sexual Slavery"? "Stranger Rape"(not very popular)? Child Porn? Try the site with 130,000 authors writing adult graphic Harry Potter stories. Want to see the real dirty stuff? Google search for a fandom's kink meme. Be careful tho, it will be extremely graphic.

And just who are these sickos? The vast majority are female and in high school and college. It would be amusing to see DOJ try to drag a bunch of girls and young woman into court, the obscenity ring of the century.

Christian K said...

I want women to have lots of sex, and to think about it all the time, and to write about whatever fantasies they can dream up. I think that makes the world a better place.

See my earlier comment re: fan fiction.

Christian K said...

I think the CC companies are worried about overseas lawsuits from countries that aren't as liberal as the US. Countries where just being gay is a death sentence and where the internet is flourishing in a big way.

No they are worried about obscenity prosecution in the USA, that's where the "incest, rape, bestiality" comes from.

S.Wolf said...

Christian said... No they are worried about obscenity prosecution in the USA, that's where the "incest, rape, bestiality" comes from.

Why would credit card companies be concerned about being prosecuted for obscenity, when they aren't writing or reading it? That's like saying the U.S. Mint should be concerned because people are buying obscene porn with the money they print.

Can you give any examples at all of a credit card company being prosecuted because someone bought something obscene through their service?

JA Konrath said...

The only way for a business to be a controlling body is if it is a monopoly, or if there is collusion.

PayPal cannot suppress erotica. They don't have the power to, because they don't control the market.

Delilah Fawkes said...

I just emailed PayPal from their site under "disputes" because there wasn't a topic for a generic compliant, and when I called, they made a note but wouldn't get me to a proper complaints department or a supervisor.

I asked them to please take positive action and stop threatening sites that want to sell legal content that they find objectionable. I asked them to please stop freezing those accounts and cutting Americans off from being able to purchase what they want from retailers who want to sell it to them.

Who else is going to contact them to speak out for indies? :)

Tom Maddox said...

Fascinating dialogue happening here although I do think too much effort has gone into defining censorship.

Good points are being made about credit card companies. When you buy something with a credit card you are not buying with your money but with the credit card company’s money. If you come to me and ask to borrow money from me in order to buy something I am morally opposed to then chances are you are going to get a big NO from me. I don’t have an issue with you buying it but I don’t want my money to fund it, even temporarily. Why shouldn’t a credit card company have that same right to say no? I may or may not agree with them but I am essentially asking them to briefly loan me the money to make a purchase.

The shaky ground there is debit cards. When I make a purchase on my debit card it comes directly from my checking account and that should not be the same thing as asking to borrow the money briefly. But, my bank debit card has Visa printed across the front so I am guessing it would have the same issues and that I have more of a problem with.

There seems to be a lot of issues with the policy. It appears the definition of what is offensive and what material is refused is vague and not consistent. I say fight it and try to do what you can to keep the books available. But like Joe, I think the business should have the right to decide for themselves.

Delilah Fawkes said...

That's the kicker, though, Tom :(. PayPal is freezing funds for the sellers, basically threatening them until they stop selling the erotica PayPal deems offensive.

The e-book sites were fine with selling it, and left alone, that would have been their business' choice.

Adrian said...

Strange, my original comment never appeared. (I blame PayPal.)

Why is PayPal doing this? The Smashwords email suggests it's at the behest of the credit card companies.

So why are the credit card companies doing this?

And the credit card companies do effectively have a monopoly. Their frightening financial blockade of Wikileaks shows just how much power they wield.

Another question I have is whether they're really targeting erotica on certain topics or will the same prohibitions stand against any book with such content? The original bits I read about this kerfuffle suggested that it would be across the board. If you can't sell books with rape and incest, then I think that rules out a whole lot of mainstream lit and other popular books like, ya know, the Bible.

Government censorship? No, probably technically not (unless it's the government coercing the CC companies to push for these prohibitions). A cause for concern? Absolutely.

Christian K said...

PayPal cannot suppress erotica. They don't have the power to, because they don't control the market

You are correct, PayPal cannot, however VISA does have that power and could if they chose too.

Delilah Fawkes said...

Adrian, so far there's been a massive double standard, and only indie erotica has been targeted on the effected sites.

However, if PayPal makes good with their comment to Selena Kitt that "all BDSM is rape" in their eyes, we could see a whole lot of mainstream erotica and romance (not to mention literary) works suffer as well.

If it does become across the board, you're absolutely right: everything from Greek mythology to Taxi Driver is SOL.

It's a scary issue.

Christian K said...

Why would credit card companies be concerned about being prosecuted for obscenity, when they aren't writing or reading it?

Visa (for example) goes to great lengths to prevent illegal funds from entering the Visa system, this includes processing payment for illegal materials. Visa is very concerned about their brand image, both as a public marketing effort and to prevent government interference.

Marta M. Sprout said...

Part of me aches because I just picked myself up off the floor from laughing so hard at your Uncle Ostrich pitch that my sides hurt; on the other hand, I understand the outrage.

However, the bigger picture is this: CAPITALISM is the real beast in the room and all of America is in love with him. There is no way on earth that PayPal’s panties-police can contain that Goliath no matter what they do.

On a note of optimism: I think PayPal just stepped on their own bottom line and opened a brand new door on payment methods. Their ultimatum launched a stark wake-up call to all online retailers – don’t we call that the inciting incident? – and, in doing so, they propelled a resounding call of opportunity throughout all corners of the internet.

I’ll bet that right this minute some smart people are planning to give PayPal some serious competition for shares in the pie of secure, user-friendly payment methods. Based on the indignant outrage these new comers will be welcomed with open arms.

Sorry Joe, Disney is never going to pick up Uncle Ostrich, but to think that any entity is going to successfully dictate to us the content of books, music, or film is just silly. There are just too many industries and dollars at stake and a very hungry public. Supply and demand. It’s just that simple.

Joe, I greatly enjoy your don’t gripe, do something about it attitude. Best wishes to all.

Christian K said...

Why is PayPal doing this?

VISA Brand Protection
Members must not use the Visa-Owned Marks:
• In any manner that may bring the Visa-Owned Marks or Visa Inc. or its affiliates into disrepute
• In relation to, or for the purchase or trade of, photographs, video imagery, computer-generated
images, cartoons, simulation or any other media or activities including, but not limited to:
– Child pornography
– Bestiality
– Rape (or any other non-consensual sexual behavior)
– Non-consensual mutilation of a person or body part
Effective through 31 May 2011, Members not complying with these requirements will be subject to
penalties prescribed under the Electronic Commerce Merchant Monitoring Program.
Effective 1 June 2011, Members not complying with these requirements will be subject to penalties
prescribed under the Global Brand Protection Program

Source: http://usa.visa.com/download/merchants/visa-international-operating-regulations-main.pdf

Michelle McCleod said...

Joe wrote: "PayPal cannot suppress erotica. They don't have the power to, because they don't control the market."


They suppress paid erotica so that it can only be on free sites. They suppress the money and that suppresses the genre, leaving it to the folks writing Harry Potter X rated fan fic.

Is there some reason why you don't think we should be paid?

Re: My use of sickos in a previous comment, when I used it I was thinking of the man who followed me home when I was 14. Of the man who tried to drag me behind bushes at the park when I was 12. Those are the guys I picture enjoying the underage rape with violence that is getting a free pass in mainstream fiction.

Someone else said those folks are psychotic and my point was why should the readers they consider to be sickos be getting their rocks off if I can't get off mine?

And Paypal wants to ban rape? Then they have to ban it ALL, there is no rape then, by their definition, that is ever okay. It's all violence against women, right? Erotica was probably the one genre that took rape past its violence and now that's gone.

It appears the rule is, write whatever you want, just don't call it erotica.

M

Anonymous said...

Bing! Bing! Bing!

I think we have a winnnah!

Looks to me like VISA is worried about their brand and someone has decided to carry it to the extreme.

At least there's a more logical reason other than "THEY HATE INDIES!" here.

Delilah Fawkes said...

Marta M. Sprout says: "I’ll bet that right this minute some smart people are planning to give PayPal some serious competition for shares in the pie of secure, user-friendly payment methods. Based on the indignant outrage these new comers will be welcomed with open arms."

I certainly hope so :).

Like I said earlier, two big name erotica writers and I are actively building a new storefront right now for just erotica titles, so if we see a new payment processor willing to support the content other sites have banned, that will be an awesome business opportunity for everyone involved!

My arms are open as we speak!

Delilah Fawkes said...

Anonymous says: "Looks to me like VISA is worried about their brand and someone has decided to carry it to the extreme.

At least there's a more logical reason other than "THEY HATE INDIES!" here."

If the bans from the affected sites were for both traditional titles (like Siren titles on Bookstrand), or even all erotica (versus just indie erotica), I'd agree 100%.

I think this is definitely a blow, for now, at short erotic fiction, which is produced mostly by indies, but not *yet* at longer, more mainstream erotica as published by small presses or dressed up as romance (although with the same content.)

Which makes you wonder when those titles will be taken down, and who will be next after that?

Unknown said...

I'm still looking for the definition of "is." I also find so much irony in righteous indignation from unrighteousness. It makes me smile. Maybe this one of those "gray" areas of which you spoke, Joe.

Delilah Fawkes said...

Why do you say we're unrighteous :)?

Personally, I believe in God and Christian living, but I also enjoy sex and reading about sex.

Does that make me unrighteous or my opinion laughable? :)

Woelf Dietrich said...

Joe said:
"And before this turns into a debate about fictional media feeding deviant real-life behavior, that's a myth. Psychotics are going to act psychotically because they are psychos, not because they watched a violent movie or played a violent video game. I've seen studies about pornography. When porn is suppressed, there are more sex crimes. The advent of the internet--and access to porn--led to a reduction in sex crimes."

Don't worry, I'm not going there and neither am I an expert so I can't contribute anything of value. However, I know about at least two cases where pedophiles published books in which they tried to justify their interest in children. It created quite an uproar. Like you said previously, nothing is ever black or white. There are only shades of ever-changing grey. I think the same is with erotica. I don't have anything against erotica, but I personally draw the line when it comes to creating an outlet where people can fantasise about raping children and animals. I don't believe banning material that glorifies such behaviour equates to censorship. If we, as a society, want to enjoy absolute freedom (not that there is such a thing), we will need to take a stand on what is right and what is wrong. That is a responsibility that comes with freedom. So in this instance I will respectfully disagree with you.

S. Wolf said:
"You're dismissed. I'm done discussing this with you. Fortunately, this country was founded by folks who protected us from people like you."

Are you sure about that? The last time I checked most people find any one of those categories vile. Not sure why you felt the need to be insolent about it, especially since I was prepared to discuss it in a civil manner. But then you have nothing of value to contribute to the discussion, apart from taking sentences out of context and then regurgitating your diatribe ad nauseam. As for "dismissing" me, I wonder whether you read your sentence out loud to hear how it sounds. I can actually imagine that. Don't forget to tap yourself on the shoulder too. It will complete the picture in my mind. Anyway, after reading your comments to Joe I now understand your tactics. You are one of those people who will always want to be right, no matter the evidence or logic. You can retort if you want, but I'm not prepared to say anything further on this subject, at least not until you've grown up.

Delilah Fawkes said...

Woelf 2.0, there are a lot of romances that women have enjoyed for decades that involve rape fantasies or some form of incest fantasy.

That's where the "most people find it vile" thing gets sticky.

a) Just because a lot of people think something is vile doesn't mean it should be illegal (see: Interractial or gay marriage.)

b) It's not most people. Women are the biggest readers and the biggest consumers of romance, which last time I checked made up about 60% or more of the book market.

A lot of those romances (yes, romance, not erotica) deal with people sleeping with step-family (a banned "incest" theme according to PayPal), calling someone "daddy" in the sack (banned), or something called "forced seduction" or "dubious consent" (rape fantasies--banned.)

It's not a question of black and white morality, it's a question of blocking women's fantasies from the market. And why should they if the booksellers are happy to carry them?

Woelf Dietrich said...

Delilah Fawkes said..."It's not a question of black and white morality, it's a question of blocking women's fantasies from the market. And why should they if the booksellers are happy to carry them?"

I don't have a problem with erotica or the rape/incest "themes" some romances contain. Again, if it is part of a sub-plot that moves the story into a certain direction and forms part of a greater or broader message, I don't see any issue with it. I'm more concerned about fantasies that involves some kind of sexual violence towards children and women that are aimed to turn on, instead of inform.

I was under the impression there was a huge difference between erotica, including all its fetishes and "illegal" erotica. I still do actually, but I don't see why women's fantasies need to be curtailed if it falls under the legal erotica. In that regard I agree with you.

I think the problem here is that we have a moral debate on the one side, and on the other, we have a debate about application in the practical sense, and that is where the problem lies.

Michelle McCleod said...

Well, if literature is now expected to conform to Visa's brand protection terms, we're all in trouble. Most fiction and lots of non-fiction will have a problem passing muster with financial censors.

The only thing, most traditionally published fiction is still getting a pass. Again, this is a situation that has created clear winners and losers. Follow the money.

If NY Publishing can collude on pricing, why not collude to eliminate their online competition?

M

Selena Kitt said...

It's ALL LEGAL. Aside from the debatable pedophilia - there has never been an obscenity conviction for writing incest, rape or bestiality in erotica.

The problem here is not the practical application of some moral standard - the problem is that we shouldn't be having a moral debate about written fiction at all, no matter the subject.

Christian K said...

but I don't see why women's fantasies need to be curtailed if it falls under the legal erotica. In that regard I agree with you.

So, you are saying women cannot have violent fantasies? Or am I misreading that?

Delilah Fawkes said...

Even the violent fantasies are legal in erotica.

That's the absurdity of it all: No one is breaking the law, but it's being removed regardless.

Woelf Dietrich said...

Christian K said...So, you are saying women cannot have violent fantasies? Or am I misreading that?"

You misunderstood. Anyone can have any fantasy they want. I think I've made it quite clear by now where my concerns lie.

Woelf Dietrich said...

Delilah Fawkes said...
Even the violent fantasies are legal in erotica.

That's the absurdity of it all: No one is breaking the law, but it's being removed regardless.

If that is the case, then surely there must be another agenda at play, and not one based on moral objection.

Christian K said...

It's ALL LEGAL. Aside from the debatable pedophilia - there has never been an obscenity conviction for writing incest, rape or bestiality in erotica.

Selena, do you really think that you can get 12 jurors in Utah or Arizona to say rape fiction meets their community standards for good clean fun?

I am not being flippant or sarcastic, I am being very very serious.

Anonymous said...

What's interesting is that people are protesting Paypal 'censoring' all of a sudden when all they are doing is joining with the majority of online processors. Why weren't most of you protesting VISA and the others all along?

(since others are overblowing things, I'll use this overblown saying)
When AMEX blocked sex related stuff I didn't use them so I ignored it.
When VISA blocked erotica I didn't use them so I looked away.
....
When Paypal blocked me selling my writing I protested but there was no one to turn to.

It's not impossible to sell Erotica, its just getting less convienient at the moment. Other methods like checks and money orders exist but people are used to instant response.

Selena's idea of selling credits on a erotica website is interesting. If she expanded it past her companies books I'd be interested in putting my writing on it.

[word verification: spanc theardi, almost read it as spank thread]

Delilah Fawkes said...

That's a great point, Wayne. Speaking for myself, I had no idea the credit card companies were behind it until after we were already kicked off Bookstrand a couple of weeks ago.

It hasn't been confirmed by any credit card companies and PayPal won't release the name of the company(ies) the pressure is coming from.

If I knew who to protest against other than PayPal, I'd be doing that as well.

Does anyone have anything concrete with these companies banning sites from selling erotica, etc? If so, I'll happily start kicking up a fuss in their direction :). Much obliged!

Delilah Fawkes said...

Ooh, PayPal just commented about their decision on their blog:

https://www.thepaypalblog.com/2012/03/paypals-acceptable-use-policy-on-sale-of-certain-erotica/

I left a comment asking about pseudo incest (non-incest between step family members of consenting age, which they prohibited on eXessica, Bookstrand, AllRomanceEbooks.com, and Smashwords) and also asking about their comment that they believed "all bdsm is rape."

Hopefully they'll shed some light on those topics.

Anonymous said...

IMO so many are missing the big picture by insisting all their focus on words like incest, bestiality and rape. Their willful blindness causes them to disregard the evolution of the marketplace and the role the concept of money plays in it.

What is so important for people to consider, so important I will mention it again and again, is money is a storage of human labor.

Trade is the exchange of labor derived from the resources of the planet and money is the storage vessel of that labor. Nothing more, nothing less

And I really think some people are going to have to be led all through a quick history/recall of both the marketplace and money to get just how large of a role the facilitator of the exchange of money/LABOR plays in dictating what is sold in the marketplace.

In today's global marketplace, the facilitator - the major credit card companies Visa and Mastercard as well as their internet exclusive child Paypal - are no longer just facilitators in the exchange of money/LABOR as people want to claim, they are now arbiters

Marketplace
What was once the country store became the 3 store downtown. What was once the 3 store downtown became the mall. What was once the mall became the online mall.
What was the local hardware became the local multi-product discount store. What was once the multi-product discount store became Amazon.

Money
In its most basic form, money/currency is the vessel in which labor is stored and condensed into the most easily barter-able form, be the form be cows, coins, paper or electronic bits moving high speed through cables. This is so important, money/currency = the means and form in which labor is stored (including a promise of future labor in a debt-based monetary system)

Now as man conquered one technology after another, the form of money/currency/storage of labor had to change with it. This is not a nonfactual based assertion, consider where we would be if it did not. Let's say you have a seller like me whose product of labor is an electronic book and my CA. based buyer's product of labor is tomatoes.

Without money/currency existing to store our labor, this buyer would have to deliver me X number of tomatoes when I delivered my book electronically - already burdensome to say the least. However the burden is just being born. Upon deliver of his labor, the tomatoes, I could either keep the tomatoes because I am in need of tomatoes or I may have to seek a long barter chain to convert the product of his labor, the tomatoes, into something I need.

Anonymous said...

Above Continued

Ahh, thus our trade/commerce is so much easier when he can send me a vessel which stores his labor, a few dollars/currency/money instead of delivering me, tomatoes, his actual labor.
But a few dollars is not what he is sending me and that is what these people are missing. If he was sending me a few dollars, I would be delivered dollars in their paper form. But that is not what I am delivered. I am instead delivered a credit of a few dollars and this delivery is facilitated by the credit card companies.

So what has occurred in our evolution to both the global marketplace and monetary system we have, is the major credit card companies, Visa and Mastercard, are the final arbiters of the marketplace. They are the ones with all the control in what can be traded.

For people to advocate global sellers to exchange postal orders, checks and such, I say, hell, what not just ignore all of the evolution and have my buyer deliver me a portion of the cow. If their solution to dealing with what has become the arbiters of money/LABOR is to walk backwards in the face of a market that is propelling forward at an exponential pace, then they should be able to argue the exchange of cow portions is also suitable.

Because of what money really is and because of the technology and global marketplace of today, anyone should be able to see the controlling factor -- position of arbiter - the facilitator of the money/product of labor has.

And this concept was not missed by the long-term arbiter below, whose bloodline for many years and continues today, to play just that role.

When Rothschild said what is quoted below, he was speaking in the limitations of a national outlook because that was the age/evolutionary state of the marketplace at the time -- his heydays were in the days of a national marketplace. However his bloodline continues the role it has had in the marketplace and has successfully evolved into being an arbiter in the global marketplace of today. Thus his words should be adjusted accordingly.

"Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes it's laws" — Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild

Michelle McCleod said...

By the way Paypal has a blog on this issue: https://www.thepaypalblog.com/2012/03/paypals-acceptable-use-policy-on-sale-of-certain-erotica/comment-page-1/#comment-14951

I left the comment below and am waiting to see if they publish it.

Can you clarify what is meant by images associated with erotica? That's not a statement I've heard before from Paypal on the issue. As far as I've read, erotica books don't contain pictures beyond a cover.

How exactly does this policy protect your interests? Also, how does this policy protect your interests when traditionally published books containing content that violates your policy are still sold on sites using Paypal? And how does this policy protect your interests when content in violation of your terms is still for sale on Ebay, your parent company?

Further, when your policy effectively dictates the confines of a genre, you are limiting speech.

Michelle

Selena Kitt said...

It is very very hard to prosecute fiction. The Miller test has been notoriously difficult to pass. And if you want to talk the community standards test - go take a look at a book called 50 Shades of Gray. It knocked The Hunger Games out of the top spot on Amazon for a while there. It's an erotic BDSM novel. Hundreds of thousands of women are reading "porn" about sex + pain and loving it. So yeah, I think it would be hard to get a jury to hang an author for writing a titillating fictional account of a rape.

Anonymous said...

Actually that's what Craigslist was started as from my understanding. The ability to trade various skills for non monetary value.

People have created these institutions from their need for convenience and the ability to go into debt to get things they feel the need for. To avoid these institutions you just might have to accept some inconvience and the inability to go into debt to get what you want.

There's also a third way, where companies create their own trading currency such as Second Life and other companies have. Bitcoins is an attempt at a third way but frankly too unstable for me.

There's no law preventing Selena for example allowing people to purchase credits from her, then she purchases items for them on her own website or even a third party site such as B&N/Amazon/eBay and ships it to them.

For me, the questions are a) does someone want to do the work, b) is erotica a viable niche or would the person/company need to go to a larger arena to make it work?

In theory there's no reason you couldn't send me money and purchase credits and for example I go online and buy you a Hustler copy or shipment of lumber from Lowe's and order it shipped to your address.

Selena Kitt said...

That's a brilliant quote - and very true. It is increasingly difficult to differentiate between govt and corporations.

Unknown said...

I gotta say I agree with you, I've let the whole thing slip by mostly. Usually with a side note that it is Paypal and Smashwords decision what they do with their money and/or business.
And with a second (and often third) side note that they are not censoring all erotica and BDSM (which is what most people are saying they are censoring), they are only censoring things that are illegal in probably almost all the countries they sell in. I get it that they were pressured and decided to take the way out that would lose them the littlest money.

The only thing for me that is a bit iffy is that I write gay fiction and some of my works border on erotica. Being gay is still a crime in some places and there is a little bit of fear in me that they might ban works people have a moral objection to next(gay, lesbian, BDSM, etc).

Michael McClung said...

Hi Joe,

I think the semantics debate about censorship is a little bit silly, actually, and deeply distracts from the matter at hand.

I found your comment on the chik-fil-a to be an imprecise analogy. Can the owner close on Sunday? Sure. You'll just take your business elsewhere.

But what if that fast food joint was in a food 'desert' like the east side of Detroit? What if you didn't have a car to take your business somewhere else, and the buses didn't run on Sunday?

I know, I know, the invisible hand of the free market will - eventually - move, and new choices will present themselves. Except that they probably won't, in this instance. Hungry? Well go to the liquor store, which *is* open on Sunday, and grab yourself a Snickers.

The point is, as has already been made numerous times, PayPal is the only viable service provider for the authors in question, and to think that another service provider is going to pop up any time soon is clapping really hard to bring Tinkerbell back to life.

My personal opinion is that, no, businesses do not have an absolute right to decide who they buy from, who they sell to, or what or when they sell it. If they did, I know plenty of places down south that would still have a sign above the door that says 'No Coloreds Allowed'. Government regulation exists because, unlike libertarian fantasies would have it, a free market is not a fair or even a particularly sane market.

Case in point: Right now we have businesses a, b, c and d (CC companies) telling business e (PayPal) to tell business f (Smashwords)to stop 'selling' x(xx). Why? is it illegal? Nope. It's just 'icky'.

Delilah Fawkes said...

A lot of states still have anti-sodomy laws, so watch out :).

(Just kidding, because as has been stated, fictional accounts of rape, beastiality, pseudo incest, etc aren't illegal and are prevalent in lots of works, not just erotica.)

Topher said...

Bitcoin. Use it to receive payment for things Paypal doesn't allow. It's a Libertarian's wet dream but also great for full personal control of your money. There are now payment processors that make it easy to integrate into sites and allow auto-conversion to US$ to avoid exchange risk. They cost less than Paypal too. So it's win-win all over.

Mark Coker said...

Hi Joe, hi all. Coming to this late. Traveling.

This issue with PayPal is ongoing, so for the full timeline and the very latest, see the Smashwords Press Room to access PayPal #1, #2, #3 and #4, and then see Site Updates for interim updates, include an important update today.

We'll keep issuing updates as our progress or lack thereof merits. Wish us luck, we'll need it.

Joe, let's hook up for beer at RT Booklovers next month.

Delilah Fawkes said...

Thanks for the info, Mark! :)

Michael McClung said...

Bitcoin? Seriously? Bit coin is not a viable alternative to PayPal. How about something that's not already under investigation by the DEA for money laundering?

Anonymous said...

And, meanwhile, the hole in the ozone layer grows bigger.

What's that got to do with this debate? Plenty!

The production of CFCs was banned worldwide in the 90s, due to ecological concerns. It slowly started to expand again in the 00s due to there being an increase in its production. This was due to the demand for cheaper refrigerants, and companies being quite prepared to deliver CFCs to do so. These companies tended to operate in countries with either corrupt or inept govrnments who were quite incapable of policing its manufacture.

What's my point? If there's a buck to be made, somnebody will supply it or facilitate its delivery. If Amazon bans it, somebody else will take up the slack. If PayPal refuses to facilitate its delivery, somebody else will. Sooner or later, probably sooner. And they will reap the benefits.

Does it matter whether they deliver something deemed "bad for you"? It might matter to me (I have strong views on CFCs, whaling, human trafficking), but not to the consumers who value such services enough to pay, nor those who wish to profit from it.

Self interest will always trump morality, even if it has to go underground to do so. And if it goes underground, it will ruthlessly smash any opposition to its enterprises. Which is a fabulous argument for legalising well... anything.

If legal, at least there is some control over its supply and consumption.

Joshua Simcox said...

"I've got a book with an anus scene?"

I seem to recall an anal rape scene involving Donaldson in "Serial Uncut".

As for Selena's Jack Ketchum comparison, I think it's a bit unfair. Ketchum goes to extremes in his fiction, but I don't think he's ever done so with the intention of titillating. I'd also argue that Ketchum's work is far more thoughtful and artful, even when it pushes the boundaries of what's traditionally considered good taste, than most of the fiction at the center of this argument.

--Joshua

Topher said...

While Bitcoin is much, much smaller than Paypal it is functional and working for many users everyday right now. The last 30 day trading volume was about $15 million on the largest exchange and that doesn't even touch the volume that didn't go through an exchange or through other exchanges and other than USD. It has the very nice advantage that there is no way to limit it and shut it down, regardless of whatever govt entity wants to investigate about it. Using auto-conversion the primary risk of exchange rate volatility is mitigated. MtGox and a few others now offer checkout modules and osCommerce now supports it. If you researched it more you would see that flippantly writing it off only indicates lack of understanding of how it works and can be useful for exactly this problem. There is a tremendous amount of work being done to make it even more useful to individuals resisting a world dominated by corporate centralized control.

JA Konrath said...

I seem to recall an anal rape scene involving Donaldson in "Serial Uncut".

That wasn't rape. That was forced consent. :)

It also wasn't graphic.

Michael McClung said...

" If you researched it more you would see that flippantly writing it off only indicates lack of understanding of how it works and can be useful for exactly this problem."

Fair point. I really don't understand how it works. If you can explain to me how it avoids being shut down if the US government wants it to be shut down, and how it will attract users in anything like the numbers the erotica writers in question need, then I will amend my statement. Until then, I can only see bitcoin as as a dog with a different set of fleas.

Tom Hrabchak said...

I think there should be sufficient safeguards to prevent children from accessing materials like that, but paypal should not be cutting off anyone.

I don't agree with some of those things personally, but I don't have a right to tell someone else they can't enjoy, or spend their money, on such materials, as long as they don't distribute them to kids or something.

Also, I apparently agree with all of Joe's views, or close enough.

Also, I only had to look up one of those two words.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so, private cos are saying they won't process payments for these books.

Fine. Boycott them. Call your senators. Whatever.

It sucks, sure. Maybe it'll get changed. One day. Maybe not. Maybe someone will set up a co that will process these payments.

Meanwhile, why do you need to sell these books? The goal is to make money and reach readers, right? But why does there need to be an actual purchase for that specific book to do so?

Why can't you monetize a site? Monetize ads in these books? And why couldn't you, for ex, sell a book or short of "acceptable" erotica, but give away free copies of this "illegal" erotica w the purchase? But not tie these free copies to the purchase.

I have to think you could skirt the processors' guidelines...while still technically complying?

Anonymous said...

I should have added, maybe someone will also create a form of payment (ex.; credit card) that will also agree to pay for this erotica.

And I should have added isn't there a way to skirt the credit cards' and processors' guidelines. This isn't just about the processors, obviously.

Delilah Fawkes said...

"VISA Brand Protection
Members must not use the Visa-Owned Marks:
• In any manner that may bring the Visa-Owned Marks or Visa Inc. or its affiliates into disrepute
• In relation to, or for the purchase or trade of, photographs, video imagery, computer-generated
images, cartoons, simulation or any other media or activities including, but not limited to:
– Child pornography
– Bestiality
– Rape (or any other non-consensual sexual behavior)
– Non-consensual mutilation of a person or body part"


That last section might be something you horror writers want to think about. What if Visa is just going in order?

Maybe you guys can just monetize a site instead of selling your "illegal" horror? :)

Just a thought for the future.

Sarah Stegall said...

The Internet is not an information highway; when there's an obstacle on a highway, traffic backs up and everything comes to a stop. The Internet is an information river; when there's an obstacle, the river flows around it.

PayPal is going to lose a huge, huge chunk of business in order to comply with the credit card companies, who also will lose a huge, huge chunk of business. And some smart people out there are going to find a way around the obstacle and make a huge, huge amount of money off of controversial fiction. As long as we can keep the gummint from interfering, the issue will work itself out.

This is not "censorship". It's "inconvenience".

Sarah Stegall said...

One data point to consider: a primary reason credit card companies stopped accepting transactions from porn and gambling sites was consumer rejection. That is, when the bill arrived, credit card holders claimed "I didn't authorize that charge! It must have been my neighber/dog/alien intruder!" Credit card companies generally don't want to take the time, expense and effort to investigate such claims, especially for small amounts (<$100). So they delete the charge. But reversing these charges still takes time and effort on behalf of the credit card money, not to speak of the money they're losing. If this sort of thing happens once or twice on Amazon or eBay or Sears, no big deal. But gambling and porn consumers made THOUSANDS of chargebacks. This amounts to fraud, and both Amex and Visa pulled the plug on such websites ages ago. In a plain and simple business sense, it just was not worth the headache and expense of dealing with porn and gambling sites that consistently racked up these charges. On the other hand, the credit card companies had very few problems with chargebacks from people buying sex toys on Amazon.

It's a business decision, not a morality decision. The credit card companies are defending themselves, so they think, against the possibility of the same kind of chargebacks they got from sites selling BDSM, incest, rape or bestiality pornography. They aren't making a distinction between video porn and written erotica. Maybe they need some education on this subject, or maybe their internal accounting justifies these decisions. Not many financial services companies like turning away charges -- they are not in business to become moral arbiters, they are in business to make money. So when the credit card companies start leaving money on the table, I have to wonder why. My first thought is NOT going to be that they are too high-minded to allow porn charges, when you can use credit cards to buy sex in Vegas. There's another reason.

Michelle McCleod said...

Joe: Forced consent is a fancy way to dress up dubious consent, which is also banned by Paypal.

Still no comments published on Paypal's blog.

For those saying 'just monetize a website' that's just switching out Paypal for Google/Bing. No real difference when it comes to TOS and mercurial enforcement.

M

Remittance Girl said...

In light of PayPal's public statement on this issue, I would just like to clarify one thing:

There are, underlying this, some serious ramifications to the way PayPal has exerted power in this case. True, no one is going to bother standing up for a bunch of erotica writers. So they caused Smashwords to pull my book? So what?

Now, using the same exact mechanism, PayPal could decide to refuse services to anyone who carried anything written by a member of a certain political party. They could pressure retailers into only carrying brands that they had some financial alliance with. And it would all be legal, perfectly, because they're a company and they can decide who to do business with.

Ultimately, what this debacle has shown up is a grave weakness in the structure of maintaining a free market on the web.

In the same way that banks were bailed out for being 'too big to fail' we have a single transaction services provider that has gained such a market share that it can manipulate the marketplace without, in fact, selling anything itself.

Delilah Fawkes said...

Remittance Girl, I 100% agree with you.

And if that's not a controlling body, I don't know what is O_o.

Maria Santicelli said...

"One data point to consider: a primary reason credit card companies stopped accepting transactions from porn and gambling sites was consumer rejection. That is, when the bill arrived, credit card holders claimed "I didn't authorize that charge! It must have been my neighber/dog/alien intruder!" Credit card companies generally don't want to take the time, expense and effort to investigate such claims, especially for small amounts (<$100)."

And that's exactly the reason why Smashwords doesn't take back e-books, because the chance of someone reading the book and then returning it are too great. I wish Amazon would do that, too, instead of insisting on an overinflated customer service. Seven days my ass *_* Excerpts and teasers are there for a reason, and if retailers only changed their TOS in a way that doesn't allow for returns for certain products, indie authors would be much happier. I mean seriously, how hard can it be for a potential custumer to take a peek at a product before buying it? A simple warning before finalizing the purchase is all it'd take to make someone aware of their responsibility.

And yes, I am aware that theft of credit card data and stuff happens, but that's another topic for another discussion and not the problem here.

But enough with the ranting, now I'm off, quietly grumbling in my corner.

Geez ...

Delilah Fawkes said...

A writer friend just looked further into the TOS for Visa and PayPal, and it looks like even giving it away for free and monetizing your site to pay yourself for your efforts also violates it.

So hopefully they stop censoring and let the e-bookstores sell what they want, or we're going to need a new payment processor to step up.

Anonymous said...

I knew about the high charge back rates being a problem in Poker even before the Internet gambling laws. It shows up in other online industries like World of Warcraft and Everquest for example, gold farmers often buy an account, get gold one way or another, move it to a different account and cancel the original charge with VISA. So WoW and EQ pay higher fee's due to excessive charge rejections.

Brianna said...

I love you even more now! I didn't realize how close we were on the political spectrum....

Dawn Allen said...

Great distinctions. Sorry, it wouldn't let me remark using my Wordpress blog and this will show as anonymous. I hate that. So you know I am real:

http://dawnall.wordpress.com/

Topher said...

See more info on Bitcoin payment processing: bit-pay.com
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Hope Welsh said...

Two quick points: One, people keep saying that PayPal and the credit card companies are telling you what you can do with your money, like a teller asking you what you want the cash for before letting you withdraw from your account. The fact is, that's wrong. It's like a bank asking you what you want the LOAN for before they'll grant it, and they do that every day. That's what the word "credit" means in credit card. MC, Visa, etc are lending you money, and they have the right to set the terms of that loan (which is based mostly on what sorts of things are likely to cause them not to get repaid).

Not really. Sure, people use credit cards. Every day. But they aren't using them on PayPal for the most part. They are using DEBIT cards--their own money sitting in their bank account.

Every debit card is sponsored by Master Card or Visa. Great. But, it's MY money on them.

Paypal, if I remember correctly, required a bank account for me to join. (It's been 10 years, it might have changed)

Delilah Fawkes said...

Yeah, my PayPal is linked directly to my bank account.

No credit involved whatsoever.

Peter von Harten said...

I have seen "Busty Tales", a collection of short stories on impossibly huge-breasted women, pop up on my login screen multiple times on Smashwords. It's also been sold on Amazon, and while I question the logic of authors who actually sell such smut for $2.99 per ebook, I would fight to the death for them to have the freedom to do so.

Kudos for your political views Joe, I can agree on all points. And you're right, it's not censorship. If Amazon was suddenly overloaded with my taste in erotica, I might enjoy it for a while, but I ultimately would probably stop using their service. I respect them as a company, and like a lover, if you truly care for someone, it's not all about the sex.

Wow, that was a strange analogy, but you get the point lol.

WayneThomasBatson said...

Sorry, Joe, you couldn't be more wrong on this issue. I respect your right to disagree, but seriously, the kind of thing you're arguing here is the end of organized society. And, from the foundation of your argument, it defeats itself. You wrote "Moral absolutism is silly. There is no black and white. There's always gray. And the gray keeps changing." You just disproved your own point. How can moral absolutism be silly when to say that, you've made an absolute. You say there is no black and white, but there must be for you to be able to say that. There is a right and wrong. It's not just what feels good, do it. It's not just to each their own as long as I'm not an axe murderer. Stand for something or fall for anything.

Archangel said...

MORE IMPORTANT to pay attention to DOJ investigating Agency Model re 5 of the 6 'big publishers. The issue of closing business advantage for certain authors' works, is also important. But the investigation into price fixing and if that i broken and forbidden by the Department of Justice, will flood ebook market with lesser priced books by midlist and established authors via their publishers. AmZ could take a huge hit in income... other outlets for book-book sales could go down fast, and new authors would be competing now with one another in a sense, but literally millions of books poured at low prices by big 6. Remains to be seen, but if DOJ breaks what some legal minds say is 'price fixing'... the split AMZ now offers may also change. Just my .02, important to keep an eye on this and also that.

I see it in my journalistic work daily now, that quite a few political candidates for high office too would like to show the general public they are not only 'family values' oriented by various means, but also are proclaiming in various ways that they are having no part of those pesky megacompanies either, that they need to be reigned in. Looks good on a contender's resume. In reality, it is the cheapest kind of rhetoric that plays to the few at the potential expense of the many.

just my .02

drcpe

Thomas Diehl said...

"PayPal isn't infringing upon freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or human rights. They aren't censoring anything. They aren't suppressing anything. They're just refusing to sell certain titles."
Yeah well, given that this is actually the very definition of censorship...
The fact that this is a business decision does not make it not censorship, those two terms simply are not mutually exclusive. Your argument would be right if the book shop decided not to carry the stuff. But a payment processing business has no business telling people what to buy or sell it just has to process the money. Judging what I buy or sell is simply none of their their business, it's the salespeople's one.

John said...

All -

Has anyone checked out Google eWallet as an alternative? It can be added to a web site, [so would work for Smashwords] and anyone building an online store.

The cost is 5% of transactions, so might be too expensive?

Michelle McCleod said...

Visa says it's not them driving Paypal's decision, a direct contradiction to the way Paypal has couched its action to date.

http://www.bannedwriters.com/2012/03/10/visa-writes-us-back-this-is-not-our-doing-paypal-censorship-erotica/
M

jameslockhartperry said...

Paypal isn't a person, they're a very large business. This isn't Mom and Pop deciding not to sell a product in their corner store. It's absurd to talk about personal freedom for a mega-business that processes financial payments.

And as far as Paypal not being a monopoly, exactly how many payment-processing mechanisms can you use to buy a book from Smashwords? This issue wouldn't be an issue in the first place if they weren't an effective monopoly.

If the gov't passes a law to suppress something, it's all out in the open--you know who made the decision, and you can vote for or against them. No one has a clue who made this decision, and no one has any recourse.

Doesn't matter if you call it censorship or not. That's not how things are supposed to work.

Rolando said...

Joe, I think I disagree with you. You rightly state that this issue is one of businesses exercising their freedom to choose what they want to sell. But you also write that moral absolutism is silly, that there is no black and white but rather only gray, and it keeps changing. If that is the case, if there are no absolutes, why do companies make these decisions? I believe they do because they are clearly concerned about customer backlash if they become associated with certain extreme forms of expression (i.e. books with rape, incest, bestiality etc.). Even without this brouhaha Smashwords already had self-imposed limits to the books they will publish (e.g. all the characters engaged in erotica must be adults), and even you state that you would buy "Daddy's BDSM Billy Goat Rape-A-Thon” as long as the goat wasn't underage.

So this “underage” theme for example, is a common denominator, and there are a few others. I think that this demonstrates there is a pulse out there. I think this pulse reflects the presence of some real absolutes into what our society considers acceptable or not. The line may be “fuzzy” or “grey” and it may waver, but for the sake of your business you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you have crossed said line. I think that if these absolutes did not exist, companies wouldn’t care.

JohnMWhite said...

I agree with the general thrust of this article - PayPal refusing to do business with those who would publish things it does not wish to be associated with is business. Just as Rush Limbaugh's sponsors pulling out because they do not wish to be associated with racism and misogyny (anymore...), withdrawing funding or support is within their right.

However, it is not as if censorship cannot result from such activity. Getting into semantics about what is technically censorship or suppression isn't really going to do much to deal with the issue. Money makes the world go round and sadly money truly has come to be speech. If you are financially cut off because of the content of your speech, you are in a way being censored, whether actively or passively. There are other options for these writers, but it is not as if Paypal isn't a monopoly in all but the most literal sense of the word. A large portion of the Internet won't deal with anybody else. Many users won't trust anybody else. A lot don't even know that anything else exists. I even know of some small-time publishers who strongly urge their writers to get a Paypal account, because they'd really rather not send funds through any other system. Paypal is the go-to solution, others just do not have the trust or recognition, and that can lead to people passing rather than buying. Especially if they have to sign up for yet another account at yet another provider and hope their personal details are safe there as well.

Still, the more reasons there are to use alternatives, the better. Paypal may dominate but there are at least still other options, and in principle they have the right to make the decision to which they have come.

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Jennie Bozic said...

"What has happened here is very much like your bank teller demanding to know what you want to spend your money on before allowing you to make a withdrawal."

Not exactly, no. Paypal is not actually doing anything to stop you from using your money to buy books with the aforementioned themes. You could withdraw your money from your Paypal account tomorrow and buy the Uncle Ostrich series without a single question or objection from them. They are simply refusing to be a part of the transaction themselves. That is very different from censorship.

Jim said...

We called it censorship. People rallied. Paypal caved. (see the Smashwords update from tonight)

If we had taken Joe's timid stance ("it's just a business decision") Paypal wouldn't have changed their policy.

Mark Coker did wonderful work. Writers who took a stand and called it what it was built an army to back up Coker.

Freedom wins. We win. Joe...you lose.

smut said...

Well, huh. I'm aligned politically with Joe Konrath. There's something I didn't know at the start of the day.
Nothing worse than sanctimony, and there's a lot of it in the world. Moral vanity is everywhere. It drives the political machine.

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