Tuesday, May 01, 2012
PayPal Reverses Policy on Obscene Content
By OFW chief editor: Carlos J Cortes And Renee Miller
Published: March 13, 2012

In an email sent out to Smashwords authors and publishers, Mark Coker announced that Paypal has reversed its proposed censorship of independently published books. Coker reports that he met with PayPal in their offices in San Jose and was informed of PayPal’s decision to modify its policies to allow legal fiction.

Effective March 12, 2012, Smashwords reverted its Terms of Service back to its pre-PayPal ultimatum state. In other words, there will be no censorship of erotic novels that contain “legal” content within the story.

Coker went on to thank Smashwords authors, publishers and customers for standing up to PayPal’s attempt at censorship (and make no mistake, censorship is exactly what it was, not a business decision) through phone calls, emails, letters, petitions, blogs and social media posts.

And here’s the important thing that writers and publishers can take away from this crazy few weeks: We can make a difference. Without the collective voice of everyone who chose to see this as not a simple business decision that they neither could, nor should do anything about, but instead as a violation of their rights, the ban on the supposed “obscene” content would still be in place and erotica writers would have been forced to find another way to sell their work, or to write in another genre.

Mark Coker added another thank you to his email as well—to PayPal. Why? Because, he says, PayPal worked with Smashwords in good faith, engaged in dialogue and made an effort to understand why Smashwords fought the ultimatum. And in the end, PayPal “went to bat” for authors with the credit card companies and the banks by revising its policies. Coker is right in saying that this is a bold move by PayPal, and indeed, thanks deserves to be given for PayPal’s final decision. As Coker says, “It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction. It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction.”

PayPal, according to Coker, will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of all the major payment processors once it implements these new policies regarding obscene content.

The nasty, unforgiving woman in me wonders why it ever came down to this, and why PayPal didn’t go to bat for its clients to begin with, but that is petty and not productive. (You know that some of you wondered the same thing.) But that woman is irrational and mean, and the point is that this is a good day for all authors, independent and traditionally published. The power to determine literary merit and what is or is not acceptable is given to the reader. And yes, thank you PayPal for hearing the voice of reason and doing what is right.

To those of you who felt the ultimatum was not censorship, but rather a business decision that PayPal and the credit card companies were within their rights to make, you’re welcome. Because the authors, readers, and publishers around you stood up and said they would not be censored, you too can write what you wish to write. Because of the voices of all of those people who you felt jumped on bandwagons and overreacted, you won’t have worry about “choosing” another genre should the axe of that proposed censorship have made it around to your novels.

Post Comments
No Comment Found.

Post Comment

Your comment (Required)
Security Code (Required)