I received and email from Smashwords today. Apparently, they have been told by Paypal to remove works from their catalog that deal with fictionalized depictions of rape, incest, and bestiality. (Smashwords uses Paypal to process their credit card payments and to pay their authors.) Paypal’s reasoning behind this, is that the credit card companies and the banks are forcing them to do this if they want to stay compliant with them.
I can understand that, but I do not appreciate them telling people what they can and cannot read. In effect, telling me, and other writers, what can and cannot be written and published.
This behavior of Paypal’s financial partners smacks of SOPA/PIPA, which congress has since backed away from. (At least for the time being.) Like SOPA, these stipulations make it all too easy for the legal content to be branded as bad, and therefore punished.
Smashwords would like for everyone involved in this dispute to work together for a compromise of sorts. As it now stands, their options right now consist of:
- Do as Paypal commands, and “black list” the sales of certain genres; or
- Tell Paypal to “stick it” and then struggle to find an alternative means of getting payment to their authers.
Either way, the independent author suffers.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) among other organizations, are on-board with trying to challenge this new policy.
Statement: “NCAC, ABFFE Protest PayPal Ban on Erotic Material“
Smashwords also suggests contacting eBay (which owns Paypal) and Credit Card companies directly, and ask them to take it back. They suggest a full-on contact blitz, if you can manage it (phone, email, snailmail, etc). But PLEASE BE POLITE! You catch more flies with honey, than you do with vinegar. Contact info follows”
There is also a petition at Change.org addressing this particular censorship concern.
This is just the beginning. If this is allowed to go through, there is a strong chance that it will affect more than just Smashwords. Other publishing (and potentially even video) outlets may be effected! So good luck to all of us, whether the producer, or the consumer.