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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Interesting bit of online literary censorship

   
Author Topic: Interesting bit of online literary censorship
rcmann
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http://www.zdnet.com/blog/violetblue/paypal-strong-arms-indie-ebook-publishers-over-erotic-content/1097

Full Disclosure: I do not write erotica. However, I have read some things that would not pass muster by the standards listed in this article. Like the Bible. And Romeo and Juliet. And several of the ancient Viking Sagas. Come to think of it, I have read quite a few things that would not pass muster by Pay Pal's new standards.

Heck, Plutarch's "Lives of the Noble Romans" might be a squeaker.

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MartinV
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Wow. And I was just thinking I need to get a PayPal account before I publish my first story.

What are the alternatives to PayPal, especially in Europe?

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Meredith
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I don't buy the "Smashwords had no choice" argument. There are, in fact, alternatives to PayPal. Both other similar services and old fashioned paper checks.

I personally, hate PayPal anyway.

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Crank
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I don't write erotica, in any form. But, I despise being told by a business partner (I have a PayPal account, and I sell on Smashwords) what I can and can't write at any point in the future, under penalty of losing my association with them.

Fixing the problem with Smashwords will be easy: I'll take the paper check, per favore.

Convincing PayPal the error of their ways will be a bit more challenging...

S!

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MattLeo
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What's interesting is what is behind this: chargebacks.

You know how you can tell your credit card company not to pay a charge that's on your bill? That's the problem. It turns out raunchy erotica has a high rate of people wanting their money back.

Now the theory goes like this: people buy erotica, and then after they read it feel so bad about themselves they demand their money back. Frankly, I think it's a *stupid* theory.

Smashwords TOS already precluded incest stories, but the new TOS precludes stories with sex between non-related, consenting results who *act out* incest fantasies. That's supposed to cut chargeback rates? I don't think so. That's a notion so idiotic only a committee could have produced it.

I suspect that the problem with really raunchy erotica is that a lot of it is horribly, amateurishly written. If so, the people who buy erotica aren't clamoring for their money back because they feel *dirty*, but because they feel *cheated*.

There's a kernel of truth I think in the banks' position. Porn *sites* have an unusually high chargeback rate, so there are specialized payment processors who charge higher rates and up front fees to handle Internet porn. But again I think this is an issue of perceived value. People expect stuff on the Internet to be free, and there's plenty of free porn. So when the customer forks over his money for his download, and compares it to what he can get for free, I wouldn't be surprised if he feels ripped off an wants his money back.

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pdblake
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Odd, I sell on Smashwords and this is the first I've heard of this. Are they only informing erotica writers?
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rcmann
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Interesting also, to me, is how they are going to define proscribed material.

For instance, Incest is a slippery term. I some parts of the US sex between first cousins is incest, in some places it is not. In Mexico and Canada it is not. In fact, I think that we are the only developed country that even partly defines incest that way. But in some countries, or some regions, marriage between some cousins is legal and others is not. Some cultures allow marriage between nieces and uncles, or between nephews and aunts. Then there are siblings. At least two European countries allow marriage between siblings I think, if I recall what the BBC said correctly. SO is it incest if the story takes place in one of the countries where the activity is legal?

Then there is the BDSM. Just what constitutes BDSM? A playful smack on the bottom? A slap on the arm while giggling? Pinning somebody for a tickle? Shackles and horsewhip? A playful smack is ok, but not when the pants are off? How do you define it?

Then we have the biggie. Homosexuality. How many people in the world would ban homosexual erotica if they had the power? Does that mean that Pay Pal should have the authority to do that?

Where is the line, and who decides? Some bean counter in Pay Pal's office?

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Foste
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@Martin

Try Paxum.

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MJNL
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And this is why it's a good idea to understand the difference between morals, ethics, and law. Ethics govern business. What they're trying to police as a business is morality. Trying to force your customers to possess the same morality you do--and refusing them business if they do not--boarders on unethical.

I hope paypal gets some backlash for this. Not wanting to do business with a certain type of company is one thing. Trying to force the people you choose to do business with to change their product is quite another.

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extrinsic
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PayPal's arbitrary, whimsical, capricious discretion in areas other than censorship is legend. The online payment processor has a legal department to advise it of properly legal practices; however, as is often the case with corporate giants, they inherit incindiary issues from their acquistions. They also inherit the baggage that comes with every employee's and business jurisdiction's belief systems. And every one messing with the practice of business from his or her or its own petty dominion.

It should be no surprise that an organization doing global let alone interstate traffic would be accountable to a diverse array of restrictions. PayPal's anti-obscenity policy was instituted at roughly the same time the company extended operations into China. Coincidence? Probably not.

Fact of the matter, what's obscene is open to broad interpretation. And what's acceptable. The end result is a homogenous, watery green pea soup.

But, have no worries on PayPal's account. One company's, or a ring of companies', restrictive business model opens up opportunities for competitors waiting in the wings. Where there's a will there's a way.

As recently as the '60s, entreprenurial underground publications published all the content that wasn't fit to print or film or record. Online marketplaces took up the slack not long after censorship relaxed to its least limitations in the West, about the time home audio and video recording and desktop publishing technologies became widely accessible, device and cost-wise and skill set learning curve-wise. The pendulums of the cosmos swing back and forth.

Right now, now that the Internet has become the global social networking and cultural diffusuion powerhouse that it is and will continue to be, and grow as more consumers join the global digital age, checks to growth and access, no matter how successful or ineffective they may be, will also grow. It's human nature to do what one can, or not do as one sees fit, or prohibit others from doing, or choke off competitors or violators of social decorums, or chisel off a portion of revenues, or exploit, or abuse, or profit from, or invest heavily in and lose.

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rcmann
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Would have been interesting if they had been doing this, and Game of Thrones had been self-published via Smashwords.
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walexander
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Are they nuts! it must be a china - or a big market connection. because right now well written erotica is at an all time high with the big successes of cable shows like Trueblood, Game of thrones, Camalot, and Spartacus.

Its absolutely nuts... Read any myth of any culture and all of that and worse are present.

Censorship, I hate it. History is filled with sex and violence would they have us turn a blind eye to that also.

Who died and made PayPal lord of Morality.
It will serve them right if this breaks there monopoly.

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MartinV
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Thanks for the info, Foste. Looks good.

I think this particular ban will not break PayPal's monopoly but after this one it is only a matter of time before they try another, even more f***ed up censoring. If they do it a couple of times, they will get a snowball effect. Some other companies might bring out competitive offers and one day PayPal will realize they are not at liberty to demand anything from their clients anymore.

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Robert Nowall
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I've come to realize that a lot of people have morals and ethics, and it is unreasonable to expect somebody who has moral / ethical objections to, as they say, "grin and bear it" and abet somebody else's moral / ethical lapses. I don't think some of thes things metioned here are immoral or unethical per se---I, personally, have a fondness for a lot of questionable things---but I can hardly force someone to support or go along with something they object to even if I don't.

(You may have seen a recent public debate involving aspects of health care and the Catholic Church. I won't go into detail---we agreed not to have lengthy angry debates about politics, and that's one of the things I like about these boards---but it falls right into this category.)

But I don't think these kind of morals and ethics are the case with PayPal, though. They're businessmen. Another range of morals and ethics come into play. They're looking on their bottom line, and how it would be hurt.

I think it's likely somebody has been pressuring them---threatening them with legal action, and being held responsible, say, in legal and financial ways---and, like a lot of these businessmen, they caved in to the pressure.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Yeah. Okay. I think Robert gets the last word on this.
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