PayPal Tells E-Book Distributor To Remove Sexually Taboo Titles

The nice thing about cash is that it doesn’t care what you use it to buy. But the folks at PayPal apparently don’t want their service to be used for the purpose of buying e-books that reference certain sexual acts or behavior.

According to e-book distributor Smashwords.com, PayPal has told the company to remove all titles that contain bestiality, rape and incest, or PayPal will no longer be available as a payment option to customers.

Smashwords has given authors whose content falls under that umbrella until today to remove their titles from the platform.

Company founder Mark Coker explains Smashwords’ decision to go along with the PayPal order:

We do not want to see PayPal clamp down further against erotica. We think our authors should be allowed to publish erotica. Erotica, despite the attacks it faces from moralists, is a category worthy of protection. Erotica allows readers to safely explore aspects of sexuality that they might never want to explore in the real world.

The moralists forget that we humans are all sexual creatures, and the biggest sex organ is the brain. If it were not the case, none of us would be here. Erotica authors are facing discrimination, plain and simple. Topics that are perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction are verboten in erotica. That’s not fair. Our decisions today are imperfect. Please, act responsibly, don’t try to game the system or publish content that pushes the limits of legality. Help us continue to help indie authors around the world to continue to publish and distribute with freedom…

You might wonder if Smashwords should simply switch to a different payment provider. It’s not so easy. PayPal is designed into the wiring of the Smashwords platform. They run the credit card processing for our retail store, and they’re how we pay our authors and publishers. PayPal is also an extremely popular, trusted payment option for our customers. It is not feasible for us to simply switch to another provider, should such a suitable provider even exist, especially with so few days notice.

PayPal As Moral Police? Forces E-Book Sellers To Remove Certain Erotica Content [TechCrunch.com]

Comments

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  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Because, y’know… what other bank-like service dictates how you conduct your business and what merchandise you can sell?

  2. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    I hope PayPal gets handcuffed and [censored] up the [censored] by its sister company eBay while wearing a furry costume.

  3. Marlin says:

    “PayPal apparently don’t want their service to be used for the purpose of buying e-books that reference certain sexual acts or behavior.”

    So no bible sales then I guess.

    • Skeptic says:

      No, fortunately for the bible the ban only applies to erotica for some reason. Books that feature rape and incest for the violence are just fine. So folks will still be able to buy bibles, and torture porn like Saw II and The Passion of the Christ. :-p

      (I think Smashwords will regret this decision to give editorial content control over to their payments processor in the long run. Today, incest, tomorrow, who knows what they will decide to censor. )

      • Coyoty says:

        The Bible contains erotica, such as the Song of Solomon, so it should still apply.

      • mikedt says:

        Not only that, but they open the door to future lawsuits. As soon as you start censoring, you’re claiming responsibility. So it’s only a matter of time that somebody, somewhere, finds somthing in their store offensive enough to sue over.

  4. RandomHookup says:

    Did they also ban Steal This Book?

  5. AngryK9 says:

    I am so glad that we have Big Business to protect us from all that nasty freedom of choice stuff.

  6. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Well, they better stop publishing the Bible then, because it has all those elements.

  7. MutantMonkey says:

    My “connect-the-dots” feature is a bit broken this morning. Why do e-book titles have any sort of business impact on PayPal?

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      They don’t. PayPal just gets its panties in a bunch in regards to dealing with ‘adult material’. And thus, they dictate the terms of business to business owners, because hey, we’ll pull the plug on you if you don’t co-operate!

      PayPal – Just like a Big Bank, but without all those pesky ‘regulations’.

  8. history_theatrestudent says:

    While I personally don’t see myself buying any of these materials I do find it concerning that a financial institution is in essence practicing a form of censorship. It may be understandable if a loan that involves their actual monies were taking place, but they are a money transmitter handling other people’s money. They do not even have any religious affiliation which may make such a policy allowable if say the Knights Templar were still in existence. However, they are not and their business requires licenses in the states that they practice since they are a money transmitter. If enough key states especially larger ones threaten to strip their license that may provide a solution, but given the rhetorical situation I doubt this will occur.

    • CubeRat says:

      Pay Pal is not considered a financial institution. And I’m sure they will fight like hell not to be classed as one, because if they are, they will need to be regulated like one.

    • GrandizerGo says:

      The first person to say “they don’t see themselves buying these sorts of books” is usually their biggest buyer…
      Just saying you know.
      :)

  9. Blueskylaw says:

    So PayPal didn’t charge them a fee and shipping and handling charges for having to remove said content and then didn’t hold the money for 21 days due to safety concerns for the buyer?

  10. Cat says:

    On the face of it, this makes no sense.

    But when a man crashes his car while listening to “Peterotica On Cassette” and Ebay is sued for every penny they have, and forced to move in with the Griffins, you’ll understand.

    • Ben says:

      I would think people would’ve learned this lesson decades ago from the lawsuits that resulted from the audio version of Hey, There’s a Spider on your Back.

  11. twritersf says:

    When PayPal was under the helm of “Porn Queen” Meg Whitman, way back before she became a right-wing politician, she had no problem with a division of the company taking money for some really, really hardcore European porn to keep the company profitable.

  12. Cat says:

    “I’ll take ‘Sexually Taboo Titties’ for $500, Alex.”

  13. Guppy06 says:

    Fewer people will boycott PayPal for banning this material than if they didn’t.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      I just don’t see people boycotting pay-pal because they offer financial services to a bookseller that sells erotica.
      Are there people who boycott BofA because a pornographer has a checking account there?

      • Guppy06 says:

        By their nature, PayPal is far more exposed than other financial institutions. Do you know what credit card processor your corner gas station uses?

    • Misha says:

      …do you REALLY think people would boycott a cash-handler for NOT interfering in legal business? Do you really think the publisher’s or their relationship with Paypal would have become common enough knowledge to sustain a boycott if Paypal had not demanded the publisher self-censor? Really?

      • Guppy06 says:

        All you need is one social conservative expos√© blog to publish it and every online store that sells overpriced, sweatshop-made, Christian-themed kitsch would pull up stake. About five minutes after that, someone would register JesusPal.com, charge triple PayPal’s rates, and make an absolute killing.

        One way or the other, PayPal stands to lose money. They chose the option that loses less money.

  14. Zelgadis says:

    Oh, I wish I wish I wish there were an alternative to Paypal. Sadly, for many of the businesses with which I work, it’s the only option.

    • zantafio says:

      Google checkout
      Amazon
      Paymate

      • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

        All of which are lacking in market penetration with your potential customers, and all of which are also imposing further restrictions, such as terms relating to pre-orders, which are seriously problematic for many businesses.

  15. dolemite says:

    From the article: ‘PayPal is also an extremely popular, trusted payment option for our customers.’ True, but only because they are ignorant of the problems with PayPal. There really needs to be more alternative payment companies it seems.

    • Cat says:

      “trusted payment option “

      I really thought someone was being sarcastic.

      • MikeVx says:

        Sarcastic, or psychotic?

        After hearing all the horror stories about PayPal,. I am automatically wary of any site that uses them at all, and with one exception due to having promised a friend who can’t use web-order that I would order things on his behalf from a certain site, I don’t use any site where PayPal is the only option, routing credit cards through them counts.

        This does mean that a number of E-Book sites do not exist in any practical sense.

  16. friendlynerd says:

    Haha, PayPal as a moral compass. That’s hilarious.

    • SteveHolt says:

      I know, I just about died when reading this. Paypal does its fair share of fucking people in the ass, so why can’t we read about other people fucking people in the ass?

  17. kenj0418 says:

    Paypal: If its legal, why do they care?

    This website seems to be full of bad business decisions though: 1) Having only a single payment processor, particularly when that one is known for shenanigans and the business in question is more likely than most to have issues 2) Closely coupling their internal system with said payment provider. 3) Caving in to paypal and censoring their authors, (And encouraging them to self-censor beyond that). Authors in general a pretty twitchy about anything that seems like censorship — I can only imaging how much worse authors of freaky internet ‘erotica’ are. This is sure to backfire on them.

  18. Brontide says:

    I feel a lot less sympathy for smashwords after reading the whole letter. The founder goes to great length to *justify* these new changes under the umbrella of “well, we really don’t support *that* kind of writing and are clarifying our ToS to say so”. It appears as though they don’t want to support a specific type of erotica, but as they are finding out, it’s really hard to define objective standards of censorship that do not wipe out lots of “legitimate” artistic works.

  19. yabdor says:

    Odd. Paypal appears to have no problem with people in the Yahoo forums using their services to assist in their solicitation of prostitution. Need an escourt? No problem… here’s the paypal account you can transfer money to. Why is that ok?

  20. GrandizerGo says:

    PayPal “Trusted” ? Really?
    Tell PayPal to take their hand out of your butt, you should not be their puppet.
    I understand the need to use them, but please do not try to tell us how good and trustworthy they are. It cheapens everything you say after.

  21. smo0 says:

    Uh that would be 90% of literature. GLWT. lol

  22. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Ridiculous. Time to regulate PayPal.

    I’m half tempted to write an incestuous tale of twin sheep separated at birth who meet at a livestock auction and fall in love, while simultaneously dating farmers and one of them has a secret identity as the “Woolly Rapist.” And publish it in e-book form and send a copy to PayPal as a gift.

  23. Kuri says:

    Then they need to tell Paypal to piss off and find another company to handle payments.

  24. amuro98 says:

    With warmer weather approaching, I think we should all thank PayPal for generating our summer reading list.

    Banned books are great. If someone hates it that much, that usually means it’s worth reading.

  25. Heresy Of Truth says:

    This has been going on for years. My husband and I were told by Paypal that we could not charge for adult related content because of Paypal’s regulations. Seriously, it wasn’t even bad adult content. No incest, no beastiality, no underage. All models were 18 and up, with paperwork to prove it. Just cheesecake photos. Nothing too graphic even. However, because it was adult content, they refused to work with us. There are work arounds, but they are cumbersome, and not as generally accepted.

    If I could find a paypal substitute that was as generally accepted I would jump ship in a heart beat.

  26. maxamus2 says:

    So? If you have a business you can do with it as you want as well. I see no problem here.

  27. BigSlowTarget says:

    So no Twilight then? I’ve heard that has animal/humans and dead people harassing young girls in it.

  28. blueman says:

    So are you all saying that my private corporation can’t decide whom I want to do business with?

  29. kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

    The Rape of the Lock would be banned? Nice …

  30. unohoo says:

    As a Smashwords author, I find this extremely upsetting. While my books are erotic, they do contain some mild language and “leave to the reader’s imagination” sexual content. Will books like mine be next?