PayPal sent an email on Feb 18 to Mark Coker, founder of e-book publisher and distributor Smashwords, saying it would “limit” the company’s PayPal account unless Smashwords removed from its website e-books “containing themes of rape, incest, beastiality and underage subjects.”
PayPal sent similar warnings to online publishers and booksellers including BookStrand.com and eXcessica, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit that supports free speech, privacy and other individual rights in the digital world.
EFF and other groups including the Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the Association of American Publishers are planning to send a letter to PayPal on Wednesday asking the company to reverse its policy.
PayPal “is now holding free speech hostage by clamping down on sales of certain types of erotica,” the groups said. “We strongly object to PayPal functioning as an enforcer of public morality and inhibiting the right to buy and sell constitutionally protected material.”
PayPal said it was acting in part because banks and credit card companies it works with restrict such content, according to an email PayPal sent to Smashwords on February 24.
The move has caused an uproar in the publishing world, which is concerned that banks and credit card companies may be exerting too much control over what books can be written, published and read.
A PayPal spokesman said the company allows its service to be used for the sale of “erotic” books but added that the company has to draw the line “on certain adult content that is extreme or potentially illegal.”
PayPal’s decision is based solely on business factors, one of which is the company’s agreements with card associations and banks, the spokesman added.
Still, Smashwords founder Coker said that the rise of e-books has shifted more power in the book world to payment processors and banks.
In the past, readers walked into a physical bookstore and could purchase a book with cash, leaving such companies out of the equation.
“Electronic payments have become the oxygen of e-commerce and e-books, so PayPal, banks and credit card companies have enormous power,” Coker said. “What right does a financial institution have to censor legal content? Authors are being caught in the middle.”
The “amusing” part that nobody seems to mention is that the adult industry has always been in the forefront of free speech movements and has been the biggest customer to these credit card companies.
Thanks to Alistair Barr and Reuters, and
thanks for “listening”
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