Feb 27, 2012

PayPal forces Smashwords to ban certain erotica titles

PayPal has decided to play moral police to the eBook publishing world, although this is not the first time the company has decided to stick its nose into other people's business.

On Feb. 18., PayPal contacted Smashwords and told them them to lose the porn or its account would be deactivated, according to Dear Author, a blog on romance books.

According to a letter sent to Smashwords authors, the site's founder Mark Coker wrote: “I’ve had multiple conversations with PayPal over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the Smashwords mission. I appreciate their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best to delineate their policies, gray areas remain. Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica. “

Smashwords already deals with underage erotica. It doesn't allow underage characters in erotica even as bystanders. But these rest of the categories weren't as defined by Smashwords – but now they are.

Unfortunately, Smashwords is being strong-armed into complying with PayPal's demands. Without a mainstream alternative, sites such as Smashwords and Bookstrand (another place hit by PayPal's demands) have to agree. That doesn't mean they are happy about it or that they are going to just say “Sure, no problem.”

Also in the letter, Coker wrote: “Like many writers, censorship of any form greatly concerns me. It is with some reluctance that I have made the decision to prohibit incest-themed erotica at Smashwords. Regardless of your opinion on incest, it’s a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It unfolds in our imagination. I’ve always believed fiction writers and readers should have the freedom to explore diverse topics and situations in the privacy of their own mind.”

It seems for the foreseeable future this is the way it's going to be and it will not be changing. PayPal has taken a strong stand against sexually-explicit material in the past.

There are many who are not happy with the stance and have created a petition opposing the changes on Smashwords. You can find that petition by clicking here.

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