In an email today, MasterCard echoed Visa’s denial that credit card companies are behind PayPal’s censorship of certain erotic fiction. (The email was sent to Banned Writers, a group hastily formed to combat PayPal’s outrageous actions.)
From: Monteiro, Chris
Date: Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 3:24 AM
Subject: RE: An Open Letter to Mastercard Incorporated Regarding the Censorship of E-Books
Dear Ms. Morris,
Thank you for your inquiry as to whether MasterCard played a role in the recent decision by PayPal to limit certain content belonging to your members. We appreciate the opportunity to explain our policies and hope to provide clarity regarding this matter. To be clear, MasterCard had no involvement in the decision made by PayPal to refuse to process payments for certain books.
MasterCard maintains a set of standards that prohibit the use of MasterCard-branded cards and systems for illegal activities. These standards require MasterCard’s customers to comply with all applicable laws and not to engage in illegal behavior, or in behavior that would cause MasterCard to violate any laws. In this particular scenario, MasterCard would not take action regarding the use of its cards and systems for the sale of lawful materials that seek to explore erotica content of this nature.
We appreciate the opportunity to address this important issue and hope we have addressed your inquiry.
Looks like holding PayPal’s feet to the fire may be working. Smashwords founder Mark Coker posted this cryptic note to authors today:
March 12, 2012 – PayPal update: I met with PayPal this afternoon at their office in San Jose. They will soon announce revised content policies that I expect will please the Smashwords community. Effective immediately, we are returning our Terms of Service to back to its pre-February 24 state. Beyond that, our friends at PayPal have asked me to hold off sharing additional details until they’ve had a chance to finalize their new policies. Thank you for your patience and support during this crazy last few weeks.
A shout out to everyone who wrote letters, tweets and emails calling PayPal out on their censorship attempts. Let’s hope more good news is forthcoming soon.
On behalf of The(ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), we write to express concern over recent reports that PayPal is refusing to process sales of books and other written materials containing some types of sexual content. As organizations representing the interests of booksellers, publishers,authors, scholars, readers, and others who have a strong stake in a culture that values and promotes intellectual and artistic freedom and a free Internet, we urge you to revise this policy, which threatens to turn your company into a morality police.
Did you see yesterday’s news release from Smashwords founder Mark Coker? Smashwords continues negotiations with PayPal and has extended the deadline for authors/publishers/agents to voluntarily remove the books PayPal has deemed objectionable and obscene.
Coker says there’s a “glimmer of hope” and PayPal may allow certain themes as long as they are incidental to the plot and not major themes. O-kay. And who’s going to judge that? PayPal?
According to Coker, “PayPal is trying to implement the requirements of credit card companies, banks and credit unions. This is where it’s all originating. These same requirements will eventually rain down upon every other payment processor.”
Who knows what to believe. I think we’ve all received enough porn spam to know there is any manner of adult content out there – DVDs, toys, bondage gear and much more – that is readily available to anyone with a credit card. Google “barely-legal” and you’ll come up with all sorts of sites willing to take your money and hook you up with a DVD or even an online “chat.” With a REAL GIRL. But FICTION along the same lines is not going to be allowed. WTF?
This smacks to me of passing the buck and obfuscating the truth.
Coker does encourage everyone to keep blogging and tweeting and drawing attention to this issue—as long as you’re not pointing fingers at Smashwords and the other retailers that are caving to PayPal’s pressure. (Bookstrand has already pulled ALL indie published titles, not just erotica, rather than fight this battle.)
Here’s what he says—this at least I agree with:
“Even if you don’t publish in the categories directly impacted by this crackdown, this campaign matters to you. What can you do to move things forward? First, direct your attention where it matters most. Contact your credit card company or congressperson and tell them you want financial services companies out of the business of censoring what writers and readers are free to imagine with fiction. Blog about it. Tweet about it. Contact your favorite blogger and encourage them to raise awareness. Start petitions and tell financial institutions you want their censors out of your head. Contact the media. The media, with your urging, has the power to shine a bright light on the dangerous slippery slope of censorship by financial institutions.”
Still bugs me that it’s always sex in everyone’s cross-hairs. Meanwhile I can read or view any manner of content that showcases sadistic violence. Dexter anyone?
This post by Raymond Frazee is another great argument against PayPal’s censorship efforts. Check out all the great novels cited by Raymond and his commenters that would never pass PayPal’s morality test.
First off, just to let you know, I’m going to get rude. I’m going to use bad language. You know what that means: if you don’t want to see the nastiness that’s coming, then you don’t want to go beyond this paragraph. But, hey . . . before you leave, here’s something on Lauren Faust’s Super Best Friends Forever! It’s really cute–trust me!
That said, onward . . .
I gotta tell you, the thing with PayPal getting all medieval on some of the ebook publishers, in particular Smashwords. I don’t know if I should say “medieval”, because this is the 21st Century, and you’d think by now people would actually be intelligent enough not to keep bringing up things like birth control, women’s sexuality, and erotica as things in need of control by others . . . oh, what? Sorry, I must have set the controls to the…
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I’m glad to see more authors speaking out against PayPal’s attempts at censorship. Erotica writer Remittance Girl had this to say today on Dear Author’s PayPal Fiction Crackdown Roundup:
You need to grasp this, all of you. Fictional representations of crimes are NOT illegal. The only possible exception to this are fictional representations of underage sex. And even THIS is not illegal in as much as there is no law on the books that includes textual depictions. Otherwise, there goes Lolita and The Tin Drum, and The Lover, by Marguerite Duras.
This is about a plutocracy who have decided that they have the power to impose their moral code onto the literature sold under their purview. If they could refuse to process sales of Lolita, or The Lover or Equus, they would. But those texts are sold under Classic or literary fiction. And that would make them look like philistines; the press would screech about it.
But they know that no one is going to stand up in defense of ‘Debbie Does Daddy’. This is not about the law. It is about a moral agenda and the people with the money and the power to push it through.
Hear, hear, Remittance Girl. Read what else she has to say on her own blog.
Will you add your voice to the chorus?