Wednesday, March 07, 2012

PayPal, Erotica, and Censorship

Warning: this blog post will probably offend more people than normal. You should stop reading right now.

No doubt you've heard that Paypal has given Smashwords an ultimatum, saying it must remove all ebook titles that involve bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest, and underage erotica.

Previously, several other online retailers also removed titles from their stores. Some didn't remove them, but made them harder to find by taking them off bestseller lists, keeping them out of various sales algorithms, etc.

Other bloggers have talked about this issue in-depth. I wanted to weigh in.

First of all, I think anyone who tells me what I can or can't do with my life, my body, or my mind is an asshole (as long as I'm not hurting anyone else) Keep your morals to yourself, or impose them on your defenseless children who will grow up feeling guilty and ashamed for good no reason.

Moral absolutism is silly. There is no black and white. There's always gray. And the gray keeps changing.

Throughout history, laws more or less coincided with the morals and values of the majority of any given population. Sometimes the ruling body of a country overrides what the people want, but this doesn't last forever.

Increasingly, the entities dictating morality are businesses. This is the current case with ebooks. Credit card companies pressure PayPal, who then pressures Smashwords. Ebook retailers don't like certain types of erotica, so they don't sell it.

This isn't censorship. It's businesses exercising their freedom to chose what they want to sell.

If you as an artist or consumer don't like that, too bad.

I don't like the fact that "In God We Trust" is written on my currency, but at least I have a legitimate gripe. The US Constitution grants freedom of religion, which includes freedom from religion. But the majority of my country is religious, so the phrase stays, unfair as it is.

It is not unfair if PayPal or Amazon doesn't want to be associated with "Daddy's BDSM Billy Goat Rape-A-Thon" (which, incidentally, I would probably buy, as long as the goat wasn't underage).

Though it isn't censorship, and it isn't unfair, I certainly do agree that it sucks. I'm not a fan of limiting choice. I dislike those who dictate morality. As a libertarian and a consumer, I should be able to get my smut where I want it, when I want it.

I also have other radical views. Gays should be able to marry. I should be able to buy liquor 24/7. Recreational drugs should be legal. Woman should be able to do whatever the hell they want to with their bodies (so should men.) If I want to die, I should be able to do so with dignity and without pain and get help if needed. I should be able to camp out in front of Wall Street for as long as I want to while protesting the wankers who screwed up my country's economy (and I say this as one of the hated 1%.) I shouldn't get fined for forgetting to wear my seatbelt. Victimless crimes should be abolished.

But these things aren't universally allowed in my country. That annoys me.

However, there are workarounds, and I'm still able to do the things I want to do. That's what I propose in this situation.

Porn is a billion dollar industry, and those smut-peddlers have found ways to make money online without PayPal.

Erotica authors should be able to do the same.

This isn't a set-back for authors. This is an opportunity to corner a huge market. If online retailers can't or won't sell "Spank My Donkey, Mommy: A Barely Legal Tale of Non-Consent" then artists need to stop complaining and figure out a way to sell it themselves.

There is an audience for this stuff. A big audience who is willing to pay. If the regular ebook outlets won't take their money, find a way to get it on your own. Hint: see what the porn sites are doing and copy them.

Authors aren't being censored. They aren't being treated unfairly. (If you want to know what being treated unfairly is like, sign a Big 6 contract.) So let's stop thinking in those terms.

Instead, think of how to exploit this situation for greater personal gain.

Supply and demand. There is a demand. Figure out how to supply it, without Amazon, B&N, Paypal, or Smashwords.

And when you do, contact me, so I have a place for my erotic masterpiece "Raped By Uncle Ostrich".

Here's the pitch:

Sexy Uncle Schlomo always made sixteen-year-old Betty Sue sopping wet with desire. So wet that she had to wear diapers.

But then a magic potion mix-up turns her hot uncle into a giant bird, and Betty's forbidden desire becomes even forbiddener.

When Uncle Ostrich gets high on marijuana and then marries Betty's own father (who then gets mangled in a car accident because he wasn't wearing his seatbelt, forcing Betty to smother Daddy to death in his hospital bed while riding his rock-hard manhood), devastated Uncle Ostrich begins raping everything in sight, and to poor Betty's delight she is next on the list.

This action is so hot it will melt your ereader! (Disclaimer: not responsible for melted ereaders.)

Also features spanking, abortion, toe-sucking, birding, elderly bondage, enema-play, cannibalism, erotic asphyxiation ending in murder, squirrel-play, injecting heroin into testicles, Pope-play, frotteurism, and irrumatio.

(Admit it, you had to Wikipedia those last two.)

So that's my take on the subject. Less complaining, more problem-solving. If some companies don't want to work with you, their loss.

All adult human beings are sluts. Figure out how to get our money.

Now I'm going to hop on Twitter and count the number of people who want to boycott or censor me. My current number followers is 8478. Let's see how many unfollow.

Addendum: The comments section is getting glutted with defining censorship. Allow me to clarify it here. If anyone disagrees with this definition, feel free to add to the comment thread.

Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.

(Since it came up in the comments: A media outlet is a publication or broadcast program that transmits feature stories and news to the public through various distribution channels.)

To suppress is to abolish, stop, put an end to, or withhold from disclosure or publication.

Is there any suppression going on by the government, media outlet, or a monopoly?

No. PayPal is not a monopoly, government, or media outlet.

PayPal is not preventing publication of erotica.

Hence PayPal's actions cannot be defined as censorship.

PayPal isn't infringing upon freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or human rights. They aren't censoring anything. They aren't suppressing anything. They're just refusing to sell certain titles.

Someone needs to point out a case where it is considered censorship when a retailer refuses to sell something.

313 comments:

1 – 200 of 313   Newer›   Newest»
Mark LaFlamme said...

Well, huh. I'm aligned politically with Joe Konrath. There's something I didn't know at the start of the day.
Nothing worse than sanctimony, and there's a lot of it in the world. Moral vanity is everywhere. It drives the political machine.
But enough of this. Looking forward to the Uncle Ostrich series. I'll buy it on the street if I have to.

Cyn Bagley said...

Well - I have been saying for the last two days that it wasn't censorship, just business. Plus, I really don't want to read Uncle Ostrich or Spank my donkey.

But if you want to read it - I am not the one to complain. Just keep that brown paper bag over it so I don't have to see it.

Cyn

Joe Konrath said...

Just keep that brown paper bag over it so I don't have to see it.

What exactly are you asking me to put a paper bag over, Cyn? ;)

AstroNerdBoy said...

What about the morality of Big Brother telling you how to live your life in lots of other areas? Food choices? Car choices? What kind of place you live in? The temperature you keep your home at? Etc.

I'm opposed to censorship on all levels, even though I personally would have nothing to do with this kind of publication. However, folks on both the LEFT and RIGHT have done things negative regarding Japanese manga, anime, games and doujinshi that are pornographic AND in areas like what you describe in your article.

By the way, what's your opinion on polygamy? ^_~

Joe Konrath said...

By the way, what's your opinion on polygamy? ^_~

Monogamy is unnatural. But I respect my wife's wishes.

Kai Wilson-Viola said...

Been arguing this for two weeks, since it started, and surprise surprise, people were actually beating me over the head with 'Joe Konrath' wouldn't agree. Funnily enough, I've said it was business too. And blow me down, we agree. Thanks for this - it might actually stop debates (which is hilarious - most of the time your posts start them on the group I moderate ;))
Thanks for writing, always - I don't *always* agree with your perspective, but I do - greatly - appreciate your view point.

Steve Umstead said...

I don't have a dog in the fight (the erotica one), but I jumped in a round of comments in an online writing group with "this isn't censorship" and got several poo-poos. It's business, plain and simple.

Good for you for speaking your mind, you carry a lot of weight in the industry. Well, probably less after the beer diet (how did that go anyway?)

Katie Cramer said...

"This isn't censorship. It's businesses exercising their freedom to chose what they want to sell."

Wrong. Smashwords had no problem selling erotica with these themes. They were forced into a corner by their payment processor, Paypal. Having that account frozen would have stopped thousands of authors getting paid and could potentially bankrupt a business.

Lisa Yarde said...

As much as I love this blog, skipping the donkey and ostrich erotica, but anyone who wants to read or write such stories is welcome. All a matter of taste. And I did have to look up frotteurism and irrumatio, purely for my interest in word derivations, of course.

Joe Konrath said...

They were forced into a corner by their payment processor, Paypal.

That's not censorship. That's a business decision.

Smashwords isn't a controlling body. Neither is PayPal. Incest ebooks can still be bought and sold.

If PayPal were able to suppress all incest ebooks, that would be censorship.

Valerie Douglas said...

I got the Joe Konrath wouldn't agree, too, 'because he's buds with Selena Kitt' argument. Thanks for weighing in. Now I can blow raspberries at them.
I've said all along it was business. Cripes, I'm an erotica author myself (under a pen name)although I don't write the stuff being complained about. But that's a 'to each his own' thing.
I also suggested that people find an alternative and quit the carping, but they're still yelling "CENSORSHIP" and it's not.
And with e-readers, who needs paper bags any more?

Michelle McCleod said...

Am I the only one who read up on the definition of censorship before I said this was censorship? Because it is censorship, an insidious form against which there is little legal protection. People with actual expertise in this area, such as the National Coalition Against Censorship have said Paypal is acting as a censor.

Business decisions are based on facts that make sense, not murky moral claims that result in banning books across the internet while continuing to sell them (and worse!) on Paypal's parent company site.

At the end of the day, this was a competitive strike that shrank the bookseller market for all indies, not just erotica writers. We all lost and, despite the calls for innovation, small start-ups may not be fast enough to outpace Amazon's ascent to the top of the food chain, at which point we all lose again.

If the answer were simply to innovate or adjust, no one would be complaining. We would all move on, but it's not so simple or easy. The barriers to market entry are significant.

Michelle

smober said...

Well said, I agree with pretty much everything that you've said here, with the exception of one thing: I seriously doubt you're part of the 1% that Occupy protests against, especially with the things you've mentioned in this post.

jtplayer said...

The censorship argument amuses me. When you are absolutely barred from peddling this kind of shit, then come back and gripe about censorship.

Until then...STFU.

Juli Monroe said...

Completely agree with you, Joe. Especially on the part about not crying censorship but using a little creativity to make money with this stuff.

And for the record, I did not have to Wikipedia "irrumatio." Reading the First Man in Rome series was good for something! :) Sadly, I did have to look up the other one.

Joe Konrath said...

Am I the only one who read up on the definition of censorship before I said this was censorship?

This isn't censorship. Nothing is being suppressed.

Forcing a retailer to sell something they don't want to sell is a violation of their freedom.

Retailers who want to sell certain items but are unable to because they will lose business isn't the definition of censorship, but that is the case with Smashwords. They prefer staying partners with PayPal over selling bestiality erotica.

PayPal isn't censoring bestiality. It is exercising its personal freedoms and choosing what types of materials it wants to represent.

The barriers to market entry are significant.

That isn't a censorship issue. That's complaining that life has gotten more difficult.

Look, I do sympathize. I think it sucks. But don't coach the argument in censorship terms.

What if I said to you, "Michelle, I demand you add a three headed monkey in your next story." Do I have any right to demand what you do creatively?

What if you owned a grocery store and stopped selling peanuts because your child had a life-threatening peanut allergy? Should you have to face an angry mob demanding that you sell peanuts?

Why should authors have the right to demand what PayPal, Smashwords, or Amazon sells?

Amanda said...

I didn't look up the definition of censorship. I looked up how it was defined legally. This is a business decision by the companies involved.

Lene Andersen said...

Had to follow you on Twitter after that pitch. Had to.

Danielle Meitiv said...

I had an inkling about frotteurism (former French major), but no clue about irrumatio.

Isn't it interesting that at some point in the past a holy father (who else spoke/wrote Latin?) saw the need to distinguish between irrumatio and fellatio?


Ah, the things that celibate men get up to... Today they can just buy porn on the web - AND pay for it without PayPal

Joe Konrath said...

If PayPal or Smashwords or Amazon were monopolies, then the "censorship" argument could apply.

But they aren't monopolies. They aren't controlling bodies, aren't media outlets (aka the news), and aren't the government.

Just saw this Tweet by Daniel O'Shea:

"Wouldn't be censorship if they didn't want to sell cigarettes, either."

Which is spot-on.

Again, I really do feel that Smashwords and its authors are getting screwed, and PayPal is wrong for doing this. But it isn't a censorship issue.

Michelle McCleod said...

Yes we have every right to access perfectly legal content that violates no laws and presents no danger of anaphylaxis.

Do you think censorship starts out wholesale or is it a slow creep, an erosion that no one sees until it's at their door? Where does it stop?

Do companies have a right to tell me what to do with my money? Do they have the authority to police morality of ideas? Should a corporation be allowed to twist the meaning of incest and bdsm to frighten the public into believing it's for their own good?

And when do we start talking about the hypocrisy of a corporate enforced morality directed only against certain companies, while the parent company continues unhindered? Delving into that might lead us to some answers.

This is a situation that has created clear winners and losers--that bears analysis as well, especially if the argument is that this was a business decision.

M

Amanda said...

I can do whatever I want with my money. I just can't use PP to purchase whatever I want with my money. I have a dog in this fight. I have several dogs in this fight but it isn't censorship.

Perhaps a better argument is made basing all of this on discrimination? Perhaps. IDK.

Only one thing is certain for me...I'll keep writing.

Bob Fleck said...

Michelle, PayPal has no write to tell you what you can do with your money. Only what you can do with their service. I'm with Joe that this is an idiotic move on the part of PayPal, but it is their decision to make.

Businesses have the right to base their decisions on any factors they chose to base them on, moral, economic, religious, psychic prediction. The market will tell them in the end whether it was a good or bad decision.

Bob Fleck said...

Not sure if that was autocorrect slip or Freudian slip. Meant "right" not "write". :)

Joe Konrath said...

I linked to your blog in my blog, Michelle, because you say some smart things and link to a lot of others saying smart things.

Again, I think the situation is lousy. But crying censorship isn't correct.

Do you think censorship starts out wholesale or is it a slow creep, an erosion that no one sees until it's at their door? Where does it stop?

In this country it stops where is begins, with the almighty dollar.

Mike Stackpole's blog, which you linked to, does a good job with the matter.

Again, it's business, not censorship. If enough people want something, they find ways to get what they want. And smart people profit from them.

Do companies have a right to tell me what to do with my money?

They certainly want your money. To get it they must earn it. If enough people vote with their wallets, companies fall in line.

And when do we start talking about the hypocrisy of a corporate enforced morality directed only against certain companies, while the parent company continues unhindered?

We should talk about it.

We just shouldn't call it censorship. It reeks of alarmism, and diminishes the meaning of true censorship, which many people in many countries must deal with.

Having your government arrest you for the things you say is not analogous to PayPal not wanting to be associated with books about step-sex.

jtplayer said...

The market will tell them in the end whether it was a good or bad decision.

I don't really see this one biting them in the ass too badly.

Joe Konrath said...

Businesses have the right to base their decisions on any factors they chose to base them on, moral, economic, religious, psychic prediction.

Exactly. A Chik-Fil-A just opened in town. I wanted to visit on a Sunday, but couldn't, because the owner mandates they aren't open Sundays (he's a devout Baptist.)

His loss, and my loss, but it's his business.

Michelle McCleod said...

@ Bob: But a business decision based on a morality that still sells porn all over the internet, just not at booksellers, smells.

There is a discordance between what is said and what is done here. Companies that truly have a moral platform don't cherry pick which porn they target. I can still buy all sorts of hard core stuff with Paypal, things even more offensive than words on a screen as they involve actual, real people.

I can accept a consistently applied policy as a business decision, but I can't reconcile Paypal's actions as a bona fide business practice.

I would characterize it as a market share grab, one that primarily censors and constrains indies. Especially with publishers such as Siren still hawking their 'Twincest' books (have you seen the disclaimer on those? They had to change it twice. The twins having sex with the same woman at the same time are "not for titillation" and yet it's classified as erotica. That, Paypal gives a pass to. For now.)

There's a lot of dirty business going on and I suspect the indie landscape will change markedly as a result and not in our favor.

If you want the ability to widely disseminate your books, now is not the time to sit down and be quiet, not matter what you think is or isn't censorship.

M

Bob Fleck said...

Michelle, Just as nothing mandates that business make rational decisions, nothing mandates that they make consistent decisions.

That said, you can and should make your decisions based on your own beliefs. You're speaking out against PayPal's decision. You should probably also opt never to use them as your payment processor in the future, either for outgoing or incoming payments. If you have a PayPal account and want to make a point to them, then withdraw all the money from it, close the account, and let them know why.

That's how the system works. Calling them censors is not only an error of fact, it's useless.

Joe Konrath said...

If you want the ability to widely disseminate your books, now is not the time to sit down and be quiet, not matter what you think is or isn't censorship.

I agree that PayPal is wrong, and should be publicly trounced.

I don't agree it is a censorship issue.

I believe that censorship is a hot button issue, and using it gets more publicity for the cause, but at the same time righteous indignation is often cloaked with half-truths and poor definitions. Surely you don't want that.

We should be deliberate in what we say and how we present our unhappiness with situations, or we water them down and deflect their true intent.

This isn't about censorship or the freedom of speech. This is about a company imposing its morality.

It is allowed to impose its morality. But it should be taken to task for doing so. As I said, I can't stand holier-than-thou folks.

Michelle McCleod said...

Joe: I appreciate your link and the fact you read my blog posts on the issue.

I think we should be alarmed. Forget arguing over censorship, the ground is shifting under our feet and I don't think indies are going to like the new landscape. It will not be to our benefit. Not for the small folks.

As a woman, I am alarmed because, on one level, erotica is a gender issue. Women primarily read and write it. Attacking it becomes an extension of the broader cultural effort to contain female sexuality. Just look at the situation with Fluke and Rush Limbaugh this past week. OMG a woman has sex! Let's ridicule her with advice to hold aspirin between her knees!

As a consumer, I am alarmed because I can figure out what I want and don't want to read all by myself. I don't need anyone else acting as a censor. I especially dislike it when companies without much viable competition start throwing their weight around. Further, I detest the poor logic Paypal uses to justify action and the inconsistencies of its application.

As a writer, I am alarmed because a diverse marketplace is to my benefit and Paypal limits my options, both artistically and economically. And I don't believe it is going to stop with erotica, especially if we don't put up a good defense and cause corporations to reconsider their actions.

M

Hughes. said...

Japan has free access to stories with rape, incest, tentacle penetration and sexual exploitation and violence of pretty much every colour (except unpixelated pubes).

Japan also has significantly lower rates of sexual crimes than countries with moral guardians trying to suppress entertainment outlets for these predilections.

I may not much care for what goes on the heads of people who'd write or create that stuff, but there is no kind of mind I'd less like to see inside of than the fucked up brain of anyone who'd be a censor.

Alessia Brio said...

Only the last one, re Wiki. ;)

As an erotica author (and one who does from time to time push the boundaries PayPal has arbitrarily imposed), I agree that this is an opportunity in the long term. In the short term, however, it's a huge pain in the ass, sucking time away from writing that donkey porn.

And any limiting of choice is a very slippery slope.

Dan Tice said...

Hard to believe, but I agreed with Joe on a political topic. I feel the need to go take a shower.

More generally, why is it that so many folks that support civil liberties generally, ignore them when applied to someone who runs a business? Is this simply a case of liberty for me and not for thee?

Bob Fleck said...

Quick question, Michelle, as you brought up the fat, obnoxious talk-radio mouth: Do you support the fight to get him off the air and deprive his loyal listeners of their right to listen to obnoxious, vile, disgusting misogyny with little or no redeeming social value?

Dan DeWitt said...

"(Admit it, you had to Wikipedia those last two."

Not from my work computer, I won't.

Also, I couldn't find one point in this that I disagreed with. I don't know whether to be relieved or disturbed. :)

Dan

Liz/moth said...

I agree with Michelle that this is not going to stop at the further reaches of erotica. This is the first step in an attempt to gain control over self-publishing. They have used ideas that don't interest the vast majority of writers and readers to establish their right to act as arbiters of what should or shouldn't be sold. They are a financial service and their only interest should be in facilitating financial transactions. There are legal 'safeguards' against the publication of anything that the democratically elected political forum has decided is against the law (e.g. exhortation to crime). If Paypal get away with this, what's next? Are they planning to ask Smashwords to stop publishing some perfectly legitimate political material? Versions of history they dislike? Novels that contain accounts of abortion? I think they're highly unlikely, by the way, to clamp down on violence, particularly violence against women in mainstream books and films. We should be worried. And whilst this is not official censorship and it is Smashwords who will do the rejection part, it is still effectively censorship because it means destroying some books that have already been published, and reducing the current market within which fledgling writers can try to publish things.

I believe it's business, certainly, but the business of the big financial institutions who want and need to control the current upsurge in people power. It is also censorship, in much the same way that the Catholic Church list of proscribed books is censorship.Anything that threatens the freedom to publish is censorship of a kind, and to say that the writers of erotica should get together and find another way is simply ignoring not only their situation as individuals but the possibility that writers of many other genres might soon have to join them.

Dan DeWitt said...

Ummm, why's everyone coming down on PayPal because of this? Last I checked, they're catching heat from the credit card companies, and PayPal stands to lose far more by losing the credit card companies than Smashwords does by losing PayPal.

Liz/Moth said: "This is the first step in an attempt to gain control over self-publishing."

An attempt by whom? MasterCard?

Joe Konrath said...

If Paypal get away with this, what's next?

Easy. More liberal competition arises.

In a free market system, the consumer's needs get met by somebody. Capitalism doesn't leave money on the table.

PayPal is only hurting itself by allowing others to pick up the scraps it is leaving behind.

But is there any difference between fighting PayPal, or Chik-fil-A, for making moral decisions, or telling someone they can't follow their own religious beliefs?

Joe Konrath said...

An attempt by whom? MasterCard?

Don't joke, Mastercard once killed my father, then burned down my house.

Dan DeWitt said...

Joe, I apologize for dredging up painful memories. I still can't talk about what Diner's Club did to my cats.

Eric Christopherson said...

Correct me if wrong, Joe, but you seem to reserve the term "censorship" for cases of complete and total restriction. But even within totalitarian regimes governments fail to censor everything (there is always a black market), so one might conclude, following your use of the term, that there has never been censorship anywhere at any time in history.

I think "corporate censorship" is a useful term. Obviously, it's a milder form of censorship than the type imposed by governments.

Michelle McCleod said...

Joe: I think the difference between Chick-Fil-A and Paypal is that there are many options for consumers--so much easier to vote with your feet by going someplace else. There aren't viable options outside of Paypal, this is an aspect of the story I have followed very closely. It's just not so simple and any competition will struggle.

Paypal operates in a unique environment. They aren't even a bank. Their TOS essentially establish a financial dictatorship.

Bob: I don't care enough about Rush Limbaugh to censor him.

Also, given that you've had so much advice for me, I wonder, what have actions have you taken on this issue?

Dan: The thing with the credit card argument, it doesn't hold water. Paypal continues to sell all sorts of obscene content, the laser focus on only certain companies and certain topics does not jive with a broad effort by credit companies to police the internet. I think any corporate statements blaming Visa or MC are suspect given what Ebay sells and what Paypal continues to sell elsewhere.

M

Robert Szeles said...

Joe,
I agree that the best way to circumvent oppressive institutions of this type is by creative solutions that bypass the need for these institutions. However, your solution is not a solution for people like me, who have a book that may end up being banned by someone like Paypal (for explicit sex, not for any of the so-far mentioned taboo subjects) but which I do not consider erotica and do not want to be sold alongside "Spank My Donkey."

It's good that most people are starting to see that this isn't about morality, it's about financial institutions having too much power.

But to say they're just private institutions and they can do whatever they want: Well, NO, they can't.
These huge financial institutions have become the primary controllers of the money flow. Financial institutions were once actually regulated so that they didn't become too big and gain too much power over the economic system and our society in general. When they reach the level these companies have, there are few realistic alternatives to using their services, unless one wants to commit business suicide (or create a financial processing company yourself as you suggest). The Founding Fathers would be appalled at the size and power of these institutions.

The huge financial institutions that control (and stole) our money now want to dictate what we read. I think it's about time these financial institutions were broken apart into smaller entities.

And it's all fun and games to talk about Spank My Donkey and such (and yes, I do think it's funny and I laughed and thanks for that), but it's a bit misleading because it encourages people to think they're safe cause they don't write incestual donkey porn. It's NOT so funny when you read of Tess Harding's book recently being rejected for distribution for showing a very tame photo of a women with one breast exposed in the INSIDE of the book.

http://jt-harding.com/i-ought-to-laugh-but-im-not-sure-i-can/#comment-242

Like Tess, I can't laugh that off either. I think we should look into creative solutions as you suggest. But I also think we should refuse to give in to what is surely a minority of people trying to banish free thinkers to the Donkey Porn section of the online book world. I, for one, will not go gently into that gross night.

Contact Paypal and the financial institutions and tell them you don't want them deciding what you read.

Thanks for your insightful thoughts,
Robert
www.robertszeles.com
http://robertszeles.blogspot.com/

Bob Fleck said...

To answer your question, Michelle, I have done absolutely nothing about either situation and I don't plan to. Any statements regarding the radio moron only serve as free promotion for him. As with any other content, I have chosen the route of not consuming that which I don't like.

For the other, I don't use Smashwords anyway, and I believe that the market will provide a solution for those interested in the content under discussion.

Dan DeWitt said...

Michelle:

So, the credit card companies, the catalyst for this whole debacle, shouldn't be blamed. And Smashwords, the final authority on what, if anything, gets removed, is also blameless, even though they're going to cave. But PayPal, the company in the middle, is the great censoring evil.

To quote the great thinker Ron Burgundy: "That doesn't make any sense." :)

Dustin Scott Wood said...

Also features spanking, abortion, toe-sucking, birding, elderly bondage, enema-play, cannibalism, erotic asphyxiation ending in murder, squirrel-play, injecting heroin into testicles, Pope-play, frotteurism, and irrumatio.

I only had to google the last one. Not sure what that says about me...

Anonymous said...

No matter if this is censorship or not, does no one else find any problem with Smashwords' hypocrisy in accusing Paypal of censorship?

Go to the Waybackmachine and look at Smashwords' old terms of service. Take a gander at all the types of books Mr. Coker did not allow.

Is he censoring these products, or did he perhaps not want his business associated with these products? So either he is a censor complaining about another censor, or he thinks he can make a business decision about what products with which he does not want his business associated, but he wants to complain about another business that uses this same liberty.

Pot and Kettle, anyone?

Anonymous said...

Sorry for this bit of Off-Topic stuff...

1st of all, great thanks go to Joe for enlightening us on the self-publishing phenomenon. My humble request is that in some future blog post can you, Joe, please comment on Kindle eBooks vs. Apple eBooks? Their respective strategies and who do you think is going to win the eBook war? Thanks.

Jim said...

"This isn't censorship."

Technically, you're right. But do you know what the difference between government censorship and corporate censorship is, in terms of the end-user (readers)?

Answer: There is no difference.

We have fewer choices no matter who is doing the censoring.

The fact that anyone, especially a writer, would lean on this flimsy technicality is kind of disappointing.

Robert Szeles said...

Here are a couple sites if people want to make their opinion known. Yes, I know the sites and petitions use the word censorship. Whatever. Let's get past the word debate and do something. Thanks.

http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-censorship-2

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/7/stop-internet-censorship/

Vicki said...

People should check out this hilarious parody on corporate censors.

Missionary Possible

I think it just was published yesterday. There's another one but I don't have the name off the top of my head. It's funny stuff and cuts right to the point.

Hope Welsh said...

There's a big difference between erotica and porn, first.

I write romance. I write erotica under a pen name. I also write YA.

Companies can decide what to put on their site--as long as they are consistent.

Therein lies part of the complaints, I believe. There are those that don't feel those sites removing books are removing ALL the books that seem to be within the realm of what PayPal has decided shouldn't be sold.

If anyone loses out here--it'll be PayPal, I think. Not authors.

Mr. Konrath is correct--readers will find their smut somewhere.

Shrug. So far, Amazon hasn't removed any of my work, nor has Smashwords.

But then, I don't write incest, rape, or bestiality in any way, shape or form. Nor do I write stories with children involved in sexual situations.

We all have opinions, though. I'm certainly not going to stop following someone--even if I might disagree with something they write.

There will always be sites that make erotic and porn available. Always. There are other shopping carts besides PayPal.

Ty Johnston said...

Paypal, Smashwords, credit card companies, none of them have a moral reason to publish any of our books or e-books. None.

They don't tell me what to write, I don't tell them what to sell, or not sell, or whatever they do or don't do.

It's that simple.

Does it suck in this situation? Yes, of course it does.

It amazes me that more people prefer to bitch up a storm about all of this than do something about it. I've mentioned this elsewhere, and Joe has definitely shown the way ... stop the complaining and start doing something about it.

According to a variety of sources (http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html), in 2006 the online porn industry made more than $97 billion. That was six years ago, so my guess would be that number has gone up. That's $97 billion made without Smashwords, and mostly probably without Paypal and Amazon.

There are other options out there. It just takes someone getting off their ass to do it.

Robert Szeles said...

I agree people need to take action in some kind of creative way. But that's far more difficult to do than suggest. It's like saying to someone: "Stop whining and form your own bank."

And, speaking out against injustice is not whining. It's speaking out against injustice. It is not only allowed in a democracy, it is an obligation. And that's how awareness is created, consensus is formed and possible community actions can be implemented.

T. B. Back said...

Online business opportunity: Monetary go-between.

You transfer some of that Moral High Ground Mastercard cash into an independent, politically, morally, separate, kind of Switzerland, account and pay from there.

See Flattr.com for the general idea.

Archangel said...

Szeles, Robert and Michelle McCleod offer many of my own thoughts better than I could, not even counting that Robert appears to be a venerable Hungarian (üdvözlet Robi). I think understanding social justice issues of silencing and other social justice issues of putting barriers in place to obstruct a business, but not placing barriers across all 'like' 'businesses' (re paypal and other's ideas of cutting off funds to those in businesses having to do with sex, licit or unlicit, actual --which is especially egregious in real time contact with minors who have been 'lured' into the 'trade'... and fictitious-- is reason to question the underlayment of suc so-called 'business' decisions by those who hold huge sway.

IF one doesnt want to call it censorship, which most certainly can ALSO be a "business" decision, they are not on the face of each mutually exclusive at all.... then call it and investigate it in legal terms. From my brush with law school, it is called 'interference of business advantage, and is a serious potential torts issue.

As a former advisory Board member of National Coalition Against Censorship and in touch with this stalwart oversight group again in past weeks over the sudden banning of books in the Tucson public school district by 5 school board members--books by Latino and Native American authors inside the 'business' decision to do away with those study programs in a state where the population of Latinos and native tribal people, is huge... I can just say this again, that blocking a person's business for any other than religious reasons in keeping with separation of Church and State, may have many shades of intention, above board and covert.

I appreciate you bringing the subject to the fore Joe. And I think also, looking farther, is important. It is so that often other means will flow forward to fill gaps left by others, whether by the giant Kodak who fumbled the ball so dearly, or whether paypal and others. However, for those most affected by sudden cessation of the business itself, there is often ready remedy, But for those affected by the blocking for whatever reason of the flow of coin, the gap between is often huge, for there is nothing in place.

Not saying it is the same, but embargoes and economic sanctions toward 'enemy' countries work very similarly throughout all of history, whether at Chapultepec Castle, or in mundane commerce. Suddenly starve others of what they have nothing in place to compensate with. Shut them down. Do not mourn the losses.

I also Joe think you are wicked funny with your new uncle series.

Thanks
drcpe

Michelle McCleod said...

Hope just proves the point that the smoke screen of emotional buzzwords, obfuscates the issue.

She wrote: "But then, I don't write incest, rape, or bestiality in any way, shape or form. Nor do I write stories with children involved in sexual situations."

Guess, what? I don't write those stories either. But see, Paypal considers Woody Allen to be incest even though, in real life, he can't go to jail for marrying his adoptive daughter. They say BDSM is rape. They aren't talking about children but, rather, of age, 18, 19, 20 year old, adults.

See how insidiously the conversation is shaped by Paypal's choice of terms? No one digs deep enough to see how they made up new definitions.

M

Renee Mimms said...

"Supply and demand. There is a demand. Figure out how to supply it, without Amazon, B&N, Paypal, or Smashwords."


WePay maybe? I'm looking into selling my book through them right now.

PhilipCohen said...

"When Do We Start Calling eBay A Payments Company?"
A tale of two clunky, unprofessional and utterly unscrupulous commercial entities: eBay and PayPal

http://bit.ly/wpl5DT

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking

E.B. Mazza said...

I only clicked on your post because it said it would piss a bunch of people off. Forgive me for being an asshole, but that kind of stuff always amuses me. And now I am left chuckling to myself as I think about how many people want to comment about something you've said and don't have the balls. *sighs* Thanks for the smile you just put on my face.

E.B. Mazza said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John M said...

I almost couldn't stop laughing long enough to type this.

Michelle McCleod said...

Dan: That's my whole point, nothing here makes sense. Is it CC companies? If so why is Paypal willing to revisit their policy under pressure? Why won't Visa and Mastercard et. al. make a public statement on their alleged policy? Reuters contacted them, they didn't respond.

It's all WTF BBQ to me.

I don't underestimate the limits of corporate stupidity, but this is beyond stupidity and irrational as well as inconsistent.

M

Selena Kitt said...

I have to say that Robert Szeles is just Mr. Awesomesauce - and he and Michelle and Archangel have said it far better than I.

And frankly, I'm kind of tired.

I'm tired of hearing the "sit up and shut down" comments or the "put up or shut up" ones.

But I do want to make this clear, as I've made clear elsewhere - the brilliant "solutions" that people have come up with in light of this turn of events aren't real solutions at all.

Because while some of you have been spouting off about "solutions" that you haven't researched yourself - some of us have actually been working on them.

So you can't sell your stuff on these other sites? Big deal. Create your own store to sell your work...

Already did that back in 2008, thanks for the suggestion though.

Oh stop whining, just go find an alternate payment source!

If you're honest with the processor about what you're selling, THERE ISN'T ONE.

That's right, there's no viable alternative. And I've not been sitting on my ass doing nothing, trust me.

I have had, literally, dozens of conversations with CC processors in the past two weeks and I have a colleague who has talked to at least that many herself and we have both run into the same thing from every single one – NO CC processor will allow anything related to incest, pseudo incest, bestiality or rape for titillation. Period. Including all those processors that normally take extreme adult material like CCBill and Verotel. (Those places that normally process "porn" payments...)

My recent foray into high risk and adult merchant processors (including those offshore - the ones that process the really, really, REALLY hardcore porn stuff) has proven even further that this is the CC processors and not just PP who is behind this, that this is a new mandate, and it's being enforced and will continue to be enforced across the board.

I was referred, through several channels, to a guy who could get an account for *anyone.* He told me personally that his company dealt with some of the most “fringe” and risky Internet businesses out there.

He turned my application in to his underwriter who came back with an immediate NO due to “illegal activity.”.

That’s right, apparently writing FICTION about sex between two consenting adults is “illegal” now? It's okay for Woody Allen to DO it... but it's not okay for an author to write FICTION about it?

As a matter of fact, between you and me - he said that he hadn't seen a crackdown like this since the one against online gaming (i.e. gambling) and that came, ultimately, from the senate. He told me that, in that case, the CC processors were getting their ducks in a row prior to legislation they knew would be passed. Perhaps they are doing so again?

Fine, then just capitalize on this, see it as an opportunity and create your own payment processor!

Create my own bank. Right. Should I create my own religion too? Maybe I should invent teleportation while I'm at it...

As to the censorship thing - calling it or not calling it "censorship." Yes, this is a first world problem. No one is shooting us down in the streets for speaking our thoughts or writing manifestos.

So no, it isn't government censorship (and I've acknowledged this elsewhere as well) - but as Robert so brilliantly pointed out, it IS a form of economic censorship, and it's just as important to stand up against it. Not just important. Imperative.

I would go to the wall for an author's right to write and sell torture-porn (ala Hostel, Saw etc etc) but when it comes to sex and the edgy subject of incest or pseudoincest, no one wants to stand up for it?

Even Neil Gaiman said we have to defend those things we find reprehensible if we want to protect our rights.

We have to protect icky speech too.

wannabuy said...

opdmThis will put at least one major competitor on the map. Interesting times...


Neil

J.T. Dunsmere said...

"They were forced into a corner by their payment processor, Paypal."
If the frotteurists were forced into a corner they'd be loving it, a broom closet would be even better.

Erica Sloane said...

Oh, wow! Thanks for the recommendations! I am going to read the erotic story "Daddy's BDSM Billy Goat Rape-A-Thon" right after I finish reading this horror story called "Chopping Off Heads And Ripping The Spleens Out Of Live Innocent Humans For No Reason Other Than Making Readers Go 'Ewwww' (A Novel)".

Thanks, Joe!

Woelf2.0 said...

Yep, had to look up those two...and Birding. Although, I can imagine what Pope play is...or can I?

Censorship, generally, is about taking way choice and/or preventing you from exercising choice. It's about being told what to do, what to like, and what not to like. Something that I personally abhor. I've never liked being told what to do. I'm stubborn that way.

Smashwords have a contractual arrangement with PayPal which dictates the terms and conditions of use. As a service provider PayPal has that right just as we have a right to choose what we want to read or with whom we want to conduct business. It comes down to freedom of choice. The only difference here is that PayPal's decision to exercise its right will result in collateral damage to the readers and writers who are interested in a specific genre of literature.

PayPal's reason for exercising its right in such a forcible manner certainly stems from its own agreement with the Credit card companies and banks who have their own masters pulling the strings. I think, if you follow the money long enough, you will find a wrinkly old man with lots of money, who is in love with his dog, but feels guilty about it, and now wants to force his moral dilemma on everyone else.

In the present case, Paypal's decision doesn't take away choice, only limits it. In that sense, the ordinary meaning of censorship doesn't apply, but the reason for the decision goes higher up, and is not about money, although money is used to impose the limitation. Thus I believe it is a form of censorship, albeit thinly veiled by a legitimate business arrangement. In the end, you will always find that it started with someone somewhere who objected to something and now wants to force his opinion on everyone else. The existence of censorship is therefore dependant on the motivation behind the limitation, not the actual limitation.

As a side note, I have to add something else here, seeing as no one else mentioned it. It is one thing to champion freedom of choice, but if incest, beastiality and rape is illegal (and it's illegal because it's violent, abusive and damaging), how can we advocate freedom to enjoy fictionalised accounts of it? I'm specifically not talking about sub-plots here, but erotica aimed at those categories. What about phedophilia? Do we then include this category too? Where do we draw a line?

Somewhere down the road we will have to act responsibly. It is selfish to advocate absolute freedom of choice for the sake of personal gratification if it can hurt someone else, direct or indirect. It sounds like I'm preachy, but I'm not. I'm just thinking out loud here. The concept of morality is still worth something and is not a totally useless thing, plus it's part of the very fabric of society. Laws generally reflect the morals of a society (and of very rich people and corporations), but it is also the only thing that keeps a society from imploding.

As much as I hate people telling me what to do, I hate it more when children, women and animals are abused. Am I an asshole for thinking that any story that eroticise such abuse, should be censored?

fannyfae said...

"also have other radical views. Gays should be able to marry. I should be able to buy liquor 24/7. Recreational drugs should be legal. Woman should be able to do whatever the hell they want to with their bodies (so should men.) If I want to die, I should be able to do so with dignity and without pain and get help if needed. I should be able to camp out in front of Wall Street for as long as I want to while protesting the wankers who screwed up my country's economy (and I say this as one of the hated 1%.)"


1% or the other 99%, Suffice it to say, Joe, I love you and your blog and this post just underscores all of the reasons why. ;)

But as they say, love is love and business is business.e

Anonymous said...

@Woelf2.0

The vast majority of titles removed were pseudo-incest, i.e. non-blood-related sex between consensual adults of legal age.

Step-siblings. Legal. Like Woody Allen.

The last time I checked murder, mutilation and sadistic violence were also illegal acts, yet there's plenty of fiction depicting those. Joe's books included.

Jim said...

How much longer will Paypal process payments for people who want to read books about people being impaled through the anus with a stake, and having the stake move a little, hour by hour, until it comes out of the guy's mouth?

I know that compared to sex, being impaled through the anus is like a warm sunny day at the park, but what if Paypal decides that people being impaled through their anuses is, I don't know, somewhat objectionable?

Hmmmmmmm.

Jim said...

Woelf2.0 said..."Am I an asshole for thinking that any story that eroticise such abuse, should be censored?"

No! You're an asshole because you probably couldn't name one book in which those things happen. Instead, you're relying on other people's exaggerations of the genre.

But, hey, don't bother yourself with facts. You've already made up your mind.

S.Wolf said...

Of course this is censorship. It exactly matches the definition of the word. When material is supressed because it's found objectionable, that's censorship. And if one can argue that something isn't censored if it can be found somewhere else, then the U.S. government can stop the publication of any book and not be accused of censorship, since you can buy it in other countries.

One thing I think Joe is confused about, is that he thinks that censorship has to be illegal for it to be censorship. That's simply not true. Schools censor books to keep certain ones out of student's hands. Libraries censor books for the same reason. Parent censor books to protect their children. No one is claiming that that kind of censorship is illegal.

Just as no one is claiming that the censorship PayPal recently inflicted is illegal. They had every legal right to do what they did. But that doesn't mean it wasn't censorship.

But just because it's legal, doesn't mean we, as writers, should support it. As a matter of fact, I believe we have a duty to oppose censorship when it prevents adults for reading what they choose to read. But of course, the attitude by many is that since this censorship doesn't affect them, they're not concerned about it. But when PayPal comes after their books, perhaps for violence next time, they'll probably finally understand.

Remittance Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle McCleod said...

Woeb: See my comment above re: what Paypal actually means when they say those buzzwords you bring up. It's bait and switch.

Secondly, I think sub plots count. I don't like the idea that rape is no big deal unless it's in erotica. That sex isn't titillating unless it carries an erotica tag. If it's of no significance in other genres then why even include it in the story? Why write sex at all unless you're writing erotica?

No means no, right? To me, rape is rape. If you ban one, you have to ban them all--there's no out of 'it's just a subplot'. If it's subordinate to the main plot, then you don't need it.

I also dislike the argument I hear a lot that 'well, it's not titillating, so it's okay.' The combination of sex and violence is titillating to rapists and other sadists. Someone is always getting off.

And really who decides what's sexual or not? Paypal? On what expertise?

It's an arbitrary line that's hard to defend, and it can shift oh so easily to wipe out fiction in other genres.

Selena is right, you have to defend it all, even if you don't like it yourself.

M

Remittance Girl said...

"Increasingly, the entities dictating morality are businesses. This is the current case with ebooks. Credit card companies pressure PayPal, who then pressures Smashwords. Ebook retailers don't like certain types of erotica, so they don't sell it.

This isn't censorship. It's businesses exercising their freedom to chose what they want to sell."

There is a fine, but significant difference.

If Smashwords or Amazon did not want to carry the book for sale, that would be one thing. It would be fine. You are right, business should be able to sell what they wish.

But PayPal is not in the business of selling books but transferring money for a fee.

What has happened here is very much like your bank teller demanding to know what you want to spend your money on before allowing you to make a withdrawal.

THAT is different. Not as simple as what you have described. It is a subtle difference, but a significant one.

Carl246 said...

Well said Swolf, they won't be against this type of interference until it happens to them, and then suddenly they will be rightous.

Give me a break.

Carl

Woelf2.0 said...

Jim said: "No! You're an asshole because you probably couldn't name one book in which those things happen. Instead, you're relying on other people's exaggerations of the genre.

But, hey, don't bother yourself with facts. You've already made up your mind."

Did I accuse anyone? Did I shoot down any publication? The last I checked this was a debate about what constitute censorship. I gave my opinion and shared my thoughts. Now I have you jumping down my throat. If you want to be aggressive about something, at least get a proper reason. Oh, and read the letter from PayPal addressed to Smashwords. My comment addressed the idea of censorship generally and what may or may not be censored. I hope this clarifies matters, unless you want me to draw pictures too. Don't worry, you don't have to apologise.

S.Wolf said...

Woelf2.0 said... As a side note, I have to add something else here, seeing as no one else mentioned it. It is one thing to champion freedom of choice, but if incest, beastiality and rape is illegal (and it's illegal because it's violent, abusive and damaging), how can we advocate freedom to enjoy fictionalised accounts of it? I'm specifically not talking about sub-plots here, but erotica aimed at those categories. What about phedophilia? Do we then include this category too? Where do we draw a line?

Wow. That's a scary statement. How can we advocate freedom to enjoy fictionalized accounts of illegal activity?

Seriously?

Are you even aware of the type of fiction the author of this blog writes? Obviously not, if you're making statements like that.

People like you scare me.

Woelf2.0 said...

Anonymous said:
"The last time I checked murder, mutilation and sadistic violence were also illegal acts, yet there's plenty of fiction depicting those. Joe's books included."

Sure, but I did not include those categories as they are part of the plot and not the main focus. In my opinion there is a difference. Besides, I commented on the contents of the article only.

C. L. Freire said...

Amazing post! I'm also infuriated by the notion that people want to impose their stick-up-their-butt beliefs on everyone. But I do agree that it's not censorship. Honestly though, I'm sick of these holier-then-thou a**holes who think we should bend over and take it when they tell us how bad we are, how we should live how they deem "appropriate" and how we should thank them because they know what's best for us and our "souls". Please! Most of the people preaching that crap are closet-sickos with pictures of little kids and animals doing the ring-around-the-rosey somewhere.

Vicky Foxxe said...

"What has happened here is very much like your bank teller demanding to know what you want to spend your money on before allowing you to make a withdrawal..."

I think many people are missing the exact point you're making R.G.! What erotica writers are concerned about is do private businesses have a right, to tell you how you can spend your money.

Now I'm a Konrath fan and I've bought quite a few of his books. I'd hate to think one day, some moralist would decide that his books contain "questionable content" and I'm not allowed to read them.

Couldn't happen? Wait.. it just did to a whole plethora of Erotica writers.

What makes everyone you all think it couldn't happen to you?

What should be on every indie author's mind is.. "What will I do if my access to sell my work is cut off?"

Do you have a plan B? I bet you don't.

I will say this. From seeing this on the inside, most erotica writers handled this well. Were proactive and made up for lost sales in various ways. Quite a few of us are already planning ahead. In fact we will be ready if this goes further.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't sound the alarm and warn the rest of the indie community. So that you too can be prepared.

Woelf2.0 said...

S.Wolf said:
"Are you even aware of the type of fiction the author of this blog writes? Obviously not, if you're making statements like that.

People like you scare me."

Wow!. It is amazing how quickly you guys judge and condemn. If you reread my comment you will find that I focussed only on erotica, specifically the areas spoken about in the article. Not the general enjoyment of fiction.

And yes I have read some of Joe's work, not all though. I only recently discovered his work, but I like what I have read so far.

Guys like me scare you? Please don't be so overly dramatic. You don't even know me.

Darlene Underdahl said...

Yeah, we’re all (sluts?), sexy; even the kid watching the animals in the barnyard.

How about beast on beast; I was raised on a farm and wrote quite an intense scene about animal sex.

Where does this ignorant (sheltered) BS end?
Threadbare:

www.VermillionRoadPress.com

Ozma said...

"This is so hot it will melt your ereader! (Disclaimer: Not responsible for melted ereaders.)"

Joe, I really need this quote for my upcoming book ;)

Still Following

~Ozma from Twitter

S.Wolf said...

Woelf2.0 said... Wow!. It is amazing how quickly you guys judge and condemn. If you reread my comment you will find that I focussed only on erotica, specifically the areas spoken about in the article. Not the general enjoyment of fiction.

Yes, and we're pointing out the hypocrisy of you focusing on erotica, by claiming it's illegal activity, when you completely ignore the illegal violence going on in other books.

And yes, you're scary because you believe certain books shouldn't be allowed because they provide fictional accounts of illegal activity. But of course, only illegal activity you personally have a problem with.

Joe Konrath said...

The fact that anyone, especially a writer, would lean on this flimsy technicality is kind of disappointing.

Exactly.

Writers, or all people, shouldn't fret about the meanings of words.

Anonymous said...

Joe said: "Writers, or all people, shouldn't fret about the meanings of words."

Okay, let's look at the meaning of the word "censorship."

Meriam-Webster: ": to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable (censor the news); also : to suppress or delete as objectionable (censor out indecent passages)."

Uh oh! Hey, Joe? Do you see anything in there that DOESN'T fit what Paypal, ARe, etc. are doing? Look again, if you have to!

Wiki: "Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body."

You know what "media outlet" means, right? And I assume you're familiar with a list containing the word "or"? Good. Next?

Lastly, how about a Google search "define:censorship": "The practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts."

Awww. That one doesn't help your argument, either, does it?

Face it. This is censorship.

But you're right. A writer should know the meaning of a word. You clearly do not.

Nighty, night!

Woelf2.0 said...

S.Wolf said...
"Yes, and we're pointing out the hypocrisy of you focusing on erotica, by claiming it's illegal activity, when you completely ignore the illegal violence going on in other books."

Well, um, the article dealt with specific categories of erotica, not generalised violence, and so I focussed on THOSE SPECIFIC CATEGORIES.

"And yes, you're scary because you believe certain books shouldn't be allowed because they provide fictional accounts of illegal activity. But of course, only illegal activity you personally have a problem with."

Again, I never said books should not be allowed because they provide fictional accounts of illegal activity. Seriously, do you have tunnel vision? I was abundantly clear. How is it possible that you can read my comment so out of context?

Besides, I shared my opinion and asked questions, not to invite attack, but to invite discussion. I'm not perfect. Never said I was and I don't judge people, but Joe's article was interesting and I wanted to comment which I did.

So how about focussing on what I actually said and not your version of it: Do you think we should ever draw a line or should there be absolute freedom to publish anything?

Adam Pepper said...

Are there viable alternatives to PayPal? It's not so simple as "let's just take our business elsewhere." there's nowhere to go. A vibrant artistic community and the free exchange of ideas are very important to me. When corporations use their financial muscle to restrict access to material, all who care about art should be concerned.

S.Wolf said...

Woelf2.0 said... Well, um, the article dealt with specific categories of erotica, not generalised violence, and so I focussed on THOSE SPECIFIC CATEGORIES.

Not sure why this is so hard for you to understand. If you're going to make a logical argument for suppressing erotica concerning illegal activity, then that same logic must be applied to other genres too. If it's wrong to write about illegal sexual activity, then why would it be ok to write about other types of illegal activity? Just because you say so?


Woelf2.0 said... Again, I never said books should not be allowed because they provide fictional accounts of illegal activity.

Huh? Then what were you saying here?:

Woelf2.0 said... It is one thing to champion freedom of choice, but if incest, beastiality and rape is illegal (and it's illegal because it's violent, abusive and damaging), how can we advocate freedom to enjoy fictionalised accounts of it?

That's you, saying we shouldn't advocate the freedom to enjoy fictionalized accounts of illegal activity.

I'm not making anything up. I'm just quoting you. Try to keep up.

Delilah Fawkes said...

Selena Kitt wrote: "If you're honest with the processor about what you're selling, THERE ISN'T ONE.

That's right, there's no viable alternative. And I've not been sitting on my ass doing nothing, trust me.

I have had, literally, dozens of conversations with CC processors in the past two weeks and I have a colleague who has talked to at least that many herself and we have both run into the same thing from every single one – NO CC processor will allow anything related to incest, pseudo incest, bestiality or rape for titillation. Period. Including all those processors that normally take extreme adult material like CCBill and Verotel. (Those places that normally process "porn" payments...)"

This is absolutely true.

Before this PayPal crackdown even started, Carl East, Jade K. Scott and I (all erotica writers) started planning our own site to sell erotica.

We've had a major issue finding any payment processor that would allow "taboo" fantasies, such as incest or rape fantasies (which have been around forever in mainstream romances.)

We finally found one that will allow us to publish "pseudo incest," which is where consenting adults that are in no way related have sex (step-siblings, etc).

It's amazing the hoops you have to go through to publish *fiction* about legal, consensual acts.

It's impossible to sell stories about other legal acts, like cousins having sex, etc (acts that are LEGAL in many, many states in real life, much less fiction.)

I don't judge people by their fantasies because that's all they are. Fantasies.

Hell, Taboo 2 was one of the best selling pornos of all time, and it has incest (real incest, not pseudo) as a main plot point.

Since there is no payment processor that will sell erotic works in taboo subjects, it is a matter of censorship and suppression.

Since indies were kicked off Bookstrand for having 20 year olds having sex (barely legal is a no-no apparently), and non-related people having sex, it's a definite censorship issue.

It's become absurd.

Satire stories are springing up all over Amazon protesting this. Check them out, and keep yourselves informed.

This kind of suppression effects all indies, not just those that are "distasteful."

Let's stick together.

Samantha said...

First off let me say that I am a strong believer in the First Amendment - free speech, anti-censorship and all that jazz...and this ISN'T censorship.

How often do we whine that businesses make decisions based purely on profit and not on what should be their ethics? I say kudos to PayPal and Smashwords for making a decision that will negatively impact their profits solely based on values, whether I believe in those values or not.

Cyn Bagley said...

Just keep that brown paper bag over it so I don't have to see it.

What exactly are you asking me to put a paper bag over, Cyn? ;)


lol Should we be having this conversation Joe? My hubby is computer literate. smooch

Delilah Fawkes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Delilah Fawkes said...

Lots of authors have stated how they think it is censorship based on the definition, but no one saying "it is NOT censorship" has defined how.

How is it *not* censorship based on the definition given?

It's being suppressed by a virtual monopoly controlling the market. Also, it's not a retailer saying they won't sell a certain thing, it's a payment processor forcing a retailer to do so.

How is it *not* censorship? I'm genuinely interested.

Even Joe said if it's close to a monopoly, it's a different thing altogether.

Adam Pepper said...

Samantha, do you really believe this was a moral decision where profits were sacrificed? It's more likely a decision made out of fear and pressure. The Internet poker comparison is a good one. I suspect there is fear of government crackdowns and they are taking a scorched earth approach.

Kali Lowe said...

A truth about corporations: they are neither moral nor immoral. They are amoral. Corporations always act in a way which will maximize their profits. They are obliged by their shareholders to do so.

PayPal's censorship is not about morals or family values. They see something in this crackdown that provides more value to them than losing the processing fees they collect whenever someone buys an erotica story. If they didn't, they wouldn't be doing this. That's just how businesses operate.

What that value might be is up for debate, I suppose, though it'll be useless speculation unless we get some insider info from somewhere.

Allowing censorship allegedly based on values, even if you happen to agree with those values, is a dangerous road to go down. Always remember: the next set of values that are held up as justification may not be your own.

And is this really censorship? Yes, of course. The definition isn't as complicated as people seem to think. PayPal, with its near-monopoly on internet finances, has the power to prevent businesses from selling what they wish, and consumers from buying what they wish. They are choosing to exercise that power based on arbitrary standards. That is censorship.

PayPal's role is "online payment processor." That's what they claim to do. Their role is not to decide what people can read, what businesses can sell, or whose individual, unique set of morals gets to be enforced across the entire internet.

And again, even if you don't like the pseudo-incest and "dubious consent" stories being held up as strawmen and you want them to go away forever, remember that it doesn't stop there. It is always a slow and gradual process. It might be horror porn that's banned next. Then onto writing about evolution. Who knows? That's why it's best to draw the line right when it starts.

Every step toward complete control of the media is justified by the last. I propose a simple rule, a right and a freedom: anyone can write about whatever the hell they want. It sounds good to me.

Woelf2.0 said...

S.Wolf said...

"...If you're going to make a logical argument for suppressing erotica concerning illegal activity, then that same logic must be applied to other genres too. If it's wrong to write about illegal sexual activity, then why would it be ok to write about other types of illegal activity? Just because you say so?"

I don't agree. Why is it a logical argument to categorise all illegal activity under one group? Even criminal law doesn't do that. Besides, I never said it is wrong to write about illegal sexual activity. I repeat, I NEVER said it is wrong to write about illegal sexual activity.

I said EROTICISING rape, beastiality and incest for the sake of sexual gratification is wrong and that, to me, makes all the difference and is why I differentiated. I am not convinced that it deserves to be protected from censorship. Unless of course you are of the opinion that the quest for absolute freedom is so important that it cannot survive without the inclusion of this type of erotica.

If that is so, it is sad.

Anonymous said...

Samantha said..."First off let me say that I am a strong believer in the First Amendment - free speech, anti-censorship and all that jazz...and this ISN'T censorship."

Well, I guess since you put "ISN'T" in all caps, you win!

Jesus. This blog is full of writers, and we have a few who don't give a shit about what words mean.

Super.

Joe Konrath said...

so one might conclude, following your use of the term, that there has never been censorship anywhere at any time in history.

When ruling powers restrict the freedom of speech, it is censorship.

Are you stating that PayPal is a ruling power?

If not, describe the difference between censorship and the right for companies to decide for themselves what they want to sell.

chris said...

Release your erotic ebooks for free.

Ie, host the files yourself and monetise the web page around the file download links.

Chris said...

I should just add to my previous comment that Literotica has been monetising their page for years through porn affiliate commissions.

And I think I recall many years ago that one of the big porn site/forum operators used to own Literotica.

Delilah Fawkes said...

J. A. Konrath said "When ruling powers restrict the freedom of speech, it is censorship.

Are you stating that PayPal is a ruling power?"

It is a ruling power in that we don't have another payment processor willing to sell these titles.

There is a monopoly, Joe, which you seem to be ignoring.

It's censorship because we have no way to sell titles like this, depicting perfectly legal acts between consenting adults (or even, to go further, fictional accounts of illegal acts.)

It's frustrating because of the double standard. Incest, rape, and legal teens having sex is rampant in other works in other genres (even for titillation), but if it's erotica, it's under attack.

Christian K said...

Here's the thing:

This isn't about PayPal. They are just applying the rules they were given by VISA etc.

This is about the credit card companies.

VISA and the others have rules about what is "acceptable" adult material. For some (AMEX) it's zero tolerance. Other's follow the no "Incest, Rape, Bestiality" rules. The only interesting part of the PayPal debacle is that they are rather late to the game.

These rules are not unreasonable. In the USA you cannot sell adult material containing incest, rape or bestiality. Usually "adult material" is defined as "visual deceptions". However text can be considered to be obscene, tho it is rare.

Unknown said...

Paypal has a lot of money to pay lobbyists to convince the government to look the other way about being a monopoly and not a bank. Poor people have sucky lobbyists.
Properly regulated financial institutions cannot tell you what you can or cannot buy, especially in literature. It's why you don't see VISA declining transactions for Playboy mags at the gas station. This is do in part because of regulation, part because of competition, but mostly because it just won't fly in this modern society.
Paypal doesn't have to worry about any of that (thanks lobbyists!) and they are testing their powers. Competition pops up? They can pay off or buy out with back room deals. They have the money and power to do it. Look at who owns Paypal? Didn't a powerful certain person from Ebay recently get into politics? Interesting.
I do not believe for a second that this is just business. They have nothing to worry about except a few indie authors and small indie press.
"Pull yourself up by your bootstraps?" Convenience of adaption is a luxury for the well off. Struggling small businesses have no other option but to follow Paypal. Indie authors that depend on these small indie press get screwed out of their small margins.
Why? Because a financial (unregulated) institution is restricting what genre of fiction you read.
When corporations rule what we can read and write, you fight back. And although this won't go anywhere because it's so small the media doesn't care, this... this is something that we as indie authors have the right to complain, yell, and damn well fight for.

And no dictionary discussion of semantics is going to take that away from us.

Archangel said...

@Unknown

very interesting. I'd have to agree that looking into these matters you name, far more than MSM has, would be useful. As far as I know, there is no investigative reporting on this issue. Yet. But your point about being a financial road without being regulated is the most poignant of all. Thanks

dr.cpe

Atiya Townes said...

Payoneer.com caters to the adult industry. Please don't ask why I know this. But if erotica authors are being tossed into the same smutty category as porn we might as well use the same tactics. I love your insight by the way. I have you marked on my blog as someone to follow

Eric Christopherson said...

When ruling powers restrict the freedom of speech, it is censorship.

And when entities with power restrict freedom of speech it is also censorship. (Ruling powers are usually better at it, more comprehensive, that's all.)

Are you stating that PayPal is a ruling power?

No, it's an organization with power.

If not, describe the difference between censorship and the right for companies to decide for themselves what they want to sell.

Companies have a right to decide for themselves what they want to sell, i.e., they have a right to engage in, or contribute to, censorship.

I don't think censorship is a categorical variable, it's a matter of degree, given that complete censorship is impossible. "To what extent is erotica being censored by Paypal?" is a more appropriate question than "Is Paypal censoring erotica?"

Christian K said...

Re: Payoneer.com

There are no companies that process credit cards that also do not have rules similar to PayPal. Again, no companies that process credit cards will let you have Adult Material that includes incest, rape or bestiality and use their service.

Gaspode said...

You are a seriously funny man. I have a question: I remember reading something either on your blog or in your e-book for Newbies guide about you getting audiobooks made. How did that work out? Are they as successful as the e-books? Who did you use and would you recomend this for other authors?

S.Wolf said...

Woelf2.0 said... I don't agree. Why is it a logical argument to categorise all illegal activity under one group? Even criminal law doesn't do that. Besides, I never said it is wrong to write about illegal sexual activity. I repeat, I NEVER said it is wrong to write about illegal sexual activity.

Because you were using the illegality of it to make your case. And logically, if the argument of illegality can be made for one genre, it can be made for all genres.

Woelf2.0 said... I said EROTICISING rape, beastiality and incest for the sake of sexual gratification is wrong and that, to me, makes all the difference and is why I differentiated. I am not convinced that it deserves to be protected from censorship. Unless of course you are of the opinion that the quest for absolute freedom is so important that it cannot survive without the inclusion of this type of erotica.

Actually, this is what you said:

Woelf2.0 said... It is one thing to champion freedom of choice, but if incest, beastiality and rape is illegal (and it's illegal because it's violent, abusive and damaging), how can we advocate freedom to enjoy fictionalised accounts of it?

So, what this comes down to is you being ok with the censorship of material that YOU personally find objectionable, but you don't agree with the same logic you're using to censor being applied to genres you enjoy.

Typical.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... When ruling powers restrict the freedom of speech, it is censorship.

If, by 'ruling powers', you mean those with the authority, then I agree.

For example, schools, libraries, and parents are 'ruling powers' when it comes to what they will or will not allow those under thier authority to read. That is censorship. And it is perfectly legal censorship.


Joe said... If not, describe the difference between censorship and the right for companies to decide for themselves what they want to sell.

Once again, you're making the false assumption that there is a difference. Companies have the right to decide for themselves what they sell. If they decide not to sell something because they deem it objectionable, that's censorship. It's the definition of the word. And it's legal.

Walmart and Barnes & Noble, for example, practice censorship when they don't put porn on their shelves. When they drop a book because it's not selling well, that's not censorship. Both are business decisions, but only one is censorship.

I believe what's happening here, is that so many authors don't want to be seen as pro-censorship, they are denying the definition of the word just so they don't have to admit they're ok with it.

Christopher John Chater said...

It's definitely not censorship, just like how Netflix doesn't rent out porn as well as blockbuster, but its not for moral reasons. They don't want to get sued because some kid went into the back room and rented a 'Tale of Two Titties' and his soccer mom claims he suffered irreparable mental damage. Nor does Paypal want to be known as paypimp for internet porn peddlers. But because Mark Coker had taken on Abraham Lincoln-like status for me, its disappointing that he's bending over for the credit card companies. Had he resisted and made a big media blitz over it--that he was going to stand up to them and protect author's rights, Paypal probably would have backed down and we would all be chipping away a Coker bust on mount Rushmore. Why blaze a trail then puss out on Paypal?

Joe Konrath said...

Paypal operates in a unique environment. They aren't even a bank. Their TOS essentially establish a financial dictatorship.

That they themselves built. As such, they can do what they want.

And as I said in the original post, somehow billions of dollars of porn gets sold every year without them. So there has to be a way to get readers' money without PayPal.

Joe Konrath said...

The Founding Fathers would be appalled at the size and power of these institutions.

So, go forth and prosper, but don't prosper too much?

That seems silly. We need organizations to limit the growth and subsequent power of organizations?

PayPal isn't a Ma Bell monopoly. It simply isn't. It doesn't control an industry, and the Internet abounds with choice.

It does happen to be an increasingly popular way to pay for things. It worked hard to become that. And it is allowed to decide which goods and services it wants to align itself with.

The whole point of freedom is to protect those with unpopular opinions, and allow all of us to do as we please. So we have certain inalienable rights, but corporate entities don't? Just by complaining about some perceived injustice we can force retailers to sell things they don't want to sell? How is that fair?

Joe Konrath said...

Contact Paypal and the financial institutions and tell them you don't want them deciding what you read.

I 100% agree.

Joe Konrath said...

We have fewer choices no matter who is doing the censoring.

Wrong. We have fewer payment choices, and fewer distribution choices.

But if I'm determined to find incest erotica on the internet, I can find it. It may be tougher to find and pay for than it was last month, but it hasn't been censored.

Joe Konrath said...

Create my own bank. Right. Should I create my own religion too? Maybe I should invent teleportation while I'm at it...

First of all, good on you for trying to find a workable solution.

If you really can't find a CC company to play ball, fuck them and think outside the box.

You don't need a credit card for YouTube. Yet YouTube makes money.

You didn't need a credit card for Megaupload. (Which is a situation I find much scarier than the current one with PayPal.) But the same can be said about Pirate Bay, Rapidshare, and a host of other file-sharing sites that make up some of the most visited places on the world wide web.

If a pompous ass like Rush Limbaugh can find corporate sponsors (I think he still has a few left) then there must be a way to monetize a website that offers free erotica ebooks. In fact, I have a business plan to do just that, one I've been sitting on for years.

Here's something to consider.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Football_League

If the big kids don't want you playing in their sandbox, you go and build your own sandbox.

It doesn't mean you have to build your own bank. But you can rethink how ebooks are monetized. I've been preaching for years that they're all going to be free someday. We can make them free this much sooner.

Joe Konrath said...

In the end, you will always find that it started with someone somewhere who objected to something and now wants to force his opinion on everyone else. The existence of censorship is therefore dependant on the motivation behind the limitation, not the actual limitation.

This is a very well-drawn argument.

I'd say that the right to morally object to something is within the boundaries of free speech.

Creating a business and selling what you want also falls under free speech.

I've made it well known how I feel about those who want to force their morality on me. If I had my way, I'd tax all churches into oblivion. And that radical view of mine is protected under free speech. Hopefully, within my lifetime, enough voters will agree with me and make it so.

But that doesn't mean I want to force people to stop believing in God, even though I believe it would be a boon to the world if religion was abolished.

If I created a company based on my values, and some group was pressuring me to include a morning prayer in every board meeting, I'd be pretty upset with that. And I believe that is analogous to this PayPal situation.

Joe Konrath said...

The last time I checked murder, mutilation and sadistic violence were also illegal acts, yet there's plenty of fiction depicting those. Joe's books included.

Funny, ain't it? That's what happens when Puritans create their own country. :(

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... But if I'm determined to find incest erotica on the internet, I can find it. It may be tougher to find and pay for than it was last month, but it hasn't been censored.

The FCC regulates and censors what's on American broadcast television, but according to the logic you just presented, that's not censorship because we can see nudity and people swearing on cable television.

No, the FCC wasn't censoring CBS when they fined them $550,000 for showing Janet Jackson's boob, because, hey, we can see boobs in other places, right?

Unbelievable.

Joe Konrath said...

Just as no one is claiming that the censorship PayPal recently inflicted is illegal. They had every legal right to do what they did. But that doesn't mean it wasn't censorship.

It isn't illegal. And it doesn't fit the definition of censorship.

I said earlier in this thread, PayPal isn't a government, a media outlet (the news), or a controlling body (they aren't a monopoly.) Those are the entities who can censor.

If a school that I fund with my tax dollars says students can't read Judy Blume, that is censorship.

If a private school that I pay for independently says students can't read Judy Blume, that is freedom of choice.

Walmart doesn't sell CDs with explicit lyrics. Artists who want to sell their music in Walmart have to have clean versions. This isn't censorship.

North Korea has total control over its citizens' internet access. This is censorship.

Pyapal isn't infringing upon freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or human rights. They aren't censoring anything. They're just refusing to sell certain titles.

Joe Konrath said...

The FCC regulates and censors what's on American broadcast television, but according to the logic you just presented, that's not censorship because we can see nudity and people swearing on cable television.

I'm not saying that. You're comparing apples and oranges. I'm comparing apples and apples.

American broadcast television is free, and can be seen by anyone. As such, groups were set up to impose their values on viewers.

Cable TV is paid for.

The analogy I'm making is if HBO, which I paid for, suddenly stopped showing boobs. That's not censorship. And HBO would no longer get my money. Instead I'd switch to Cinemax.

Joe Konrath said...

You know what "media outlet" means, right?

Yes, I do. But you don't.

A media outlet is the press. The news.

Not a retailer.

Joe Konrath said...

"The practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts."


So that's what PayPal is doing! They're turning "Mr. Toad's Wild Gangbang" into "Mr. Toad's Wild Vacation" by cutting out all the sex and still allowing it to be sold!

Uh, no. They aren't censoring. They aren't deleting passages, or putting black bars or pixelations over them. PayPal isn't the MPAA. And it could be argued that the MPAA doesn't censor either. They simply rate according to their very skewed criteria, and because NC-17 doesn't fly in theaters, the filmmakers are forced to play ball or not get a nationwide release.

But there's a workaround. Look how many DVDs and Blu-Rays are uncut. The consumer can still get the content deemed objectionable.

Joe Konrath said...

Companies have a right to decide for themselves what they want to sell, i.e., they have a right to engage in, or contribute to, censorship.

We're arguing the definition, not the principle.

Companies deciding what they want to sell doesn't mean they are suppressing what they don't sell. They aren't oppressing people by not selling certain items.

I don't see any suppression or oppression here.

Joe Konrath said...

When corporations rule what we can read and write, you fight back. And although this won't go anywhere because it's so small the media doesn't care, this... this is something that we as indie authors have the right to complain, yell, and damn well fight for.

I agree. But let's not call it censorship.

Semantics do matter. Ultimately every disagreement comes down to semantics, coupled with the inability to empathize.

Woelf2.0 said...

S. Wolf said: "Because you were using the illegality of it to make your case. And logically, if the argument of illegality can be made for one genre, it can be made for all genres."

No it can't because I referred to a specific category only which the majority of sound minded people find morally reprehensible and for good reason. Its illegality stems from that as a consequence. I also qualified my statement, which you continue to neglect. The problem with your argument, apart from the fact that you keep reading things out of context and/or ignore the rest of my comment, is that you group incest, rape and bestiality under a blanket category of illegality, and then you argue that any other illegal act should also apply for my argument to hold any water. Your argument is fundamentally flawed: It ignores the real implications of these acts of sexual violence. You're trying to convince me that they form part of a greater ideal in the fight against censorship. That they can be used as peons without an afterthought for the depravity that each represent. I don't accept that. You say that "guys like me" scare you because we don't think it is acceptable to read or write "erotic fantasies" about raping women, children and animals. Seriously? So you don't think you have a moral obligation to fight against anything that would aim to cultivate such behaviour? Or are we as a society too desensitised to care?

"So, what this comes down to is you being ok with the censorship of material that YOU personally find objectionable, but you don't agree with the same logic you're using to censor being applied to genres you enjoy."

I actually qualified my statement by adding that "I'm specifically not talking about sub-plots here, but erotica aimed at those categories. What about phedophilia? Do we then include this category too? Where do we draw a line?" You ignored this part of my statement and my question. Anyway, it is not only me that finds it morally objectionable. It is universally abhorred.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... I said earlier in this thread, PayPal isn't a government, a media outlet (the news), or a controlling body (they aren't a monopoly.) Those are the entities who can censor.

There's nothing in the definition of 'controlling body' that says it has to be a monopoly. It has to be a body that controls, and anyone who thinks PayPal isn't controlling the actions of Smashwords and others, hasn't been paying attention.

By your own examples, your logic doesn't make sense. You claim that a public school is practicing censorship if they say students can't read Judy Blume, but it's obvious that public schools aren't a monopoly, proven by the existence of private schools. And it's also proven by the fact that a parent could buy Judy Blume for their own child if they desired. So, according to your logic, where's the censorship? The public school is not allowing the book, but the book is still available to the child through other means. If it's availble by other means, according to you, it isn't censorship.

And actually, PayPal isn't "just refusing to sell certain titles." PayPal doesn't sell books. They are forcing other companies, against their wishes, not to sell certain titles.

That's censorship. It's the definition of the word, no matter how many times the ostriches here deny that it isn't.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... American broadcast television is free, and can be seen by anyone. As such, groups were set up to impose their values on viewers.

You're missing the point. I'm trying to define what censorship it. The FCC IS practicing censorship. There's no doubt about it. And the fact that what they're censoring is available elsewhere doesnt' change the fact that they ARE censoring.

Which is the argument that you were trying to make: that since incest erotica is still available elsewhere on the internet, this wasn't censorship.

Joe Konrath said...

It has to be a body that controls, and anyone who thinks PayPal isn't controlling the actions of Smashwords and others, hasn't been paying attention.

I've been paying attention. Smashwords isn't being controlled. It is being manipulated. That is a subtle, but profound, difference.

You allow yourself to be manipulated. When you are being controlled, you have no choice in the matter.

In an S/m relationship, the sub has the real power, because he or she sets the boundaries and has the safe word.

The PayPal situation sucks, but I think Coker made the right decision. The needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few.

But the few should complain. And the few should explore alternatives.

Just don't call it censorship.

but it's obvious that public schools aren't a monopoly, proven by the existence of private schools

Apples and oranges again. You're missing the point.

Public schools are run by the government. If my government bans a book, it is censorship. The poor don't have a choice when it comes to school. It's a law that children must attend school.

But if I do have money, I can pay to send my child to any crazy school with any crazy moral outlook that a choose. The key word here is "choose."

And actually, PayPal isn't "just refusing to sell certain titles." PayPal doesn't sell books. They are forcing other companies, against their wishes, not to sell certain titles.

No they aren't. Smashwords still has a choice. They aren't being forced or controlled. They are being manipulated.

India Drummond said...

This made me chuckle. I made this same argument, Joe, when an erotica author rencently posted on Facebook that Paypal's decision would be the "death of the first amendment" and was "unamerican."

I pointed out that it had nothing to do with free speech and nothing to do with censorship, and that just because she had the right to write this stuff doesn't mean she had a right to use Paypal. This author deleted my reply and blocked me as her Facebook "friend". =)

Like you, I'm a grown-up who thinks people should be able to buy whatever legal products they want. After all, this is FICTION. No actual donkeys were spanked in the creation of these books. But I also acknowledge Paypal and the CC companies ALSO have the right to choose with whom they'll do business.

Brilliant idea about alternate monetisation. I wonder if authors who create this type of erotica could get the CC companies to allow them to process payments for membership to a website (in which they would offer file sharing of legal books.) I'm all for creative solutions, and I hope they are able to find one.

S.Wolf said...

Woelf2.0 said... No it can't because I referred to a specific category only which the majority of sound minded people find morally reprehensible and for good reason. Its illegality stems from that as a consequence.

Yeah, I get it now. You and your fellow moral 'sound minded people' will decide for all of us what's proper to write and read.

You're dismissed. I'm done discussing this with you. Fortunately, this country was founded by folks who protected us from people like you.

Joe Konrath said...

What about phedophilia? Do we then include this category too? Where do we draw a line?

I thought about bringing this up, but it's such a slippery slope.

Fiction isn't real. As long as no one is being hurt, people should be able to write whatever they want to write, and sell whatever they want to sell.

I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of the world finds pedophilia as unforgivable and abhorrent as I do. I say we should castrate all child molesters.

But I know I'm not the only one who had sexual thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and desires at age 13--well below the age of consent. And if I could have gotten laid at 13, I would have jumped at the chance and wouldn't have felt victimized at all. It would have been a welcome relief from all the constant masturbation.

Does that mean we shouldn't have sexualized 13 year olds in fiction?

But if we say yeah, it's okay to have a teen sex scene, do we then say it's okay to start raping 6 year olds in fiction?

Slippery slope. But if you defend some erotic fiction, you should defend all erotic fiction.

And before this turns into a debate about fictional media feeding deviant real-life behavior, that's a myth. Psychotics are going to act psychotically because they are psychos, not because they watched a violent movie or played a violent video game. I've seen studies about pornography. When porn is suppressed, there are more sex crimes. The advent of the internet--and access to porn--led to a reduction in sex crimes.

Selena Kitt said...

Monetizing free content. It's a workaround I considered until I remembered Amazon's pesky price matching. It will only work if Amazon drops pseudo incest. And they may still.

I also considered selling "credits" (like ebook bucks) instead of the actual titles as a workaround. That I may still do. Although we all realize people are going to be less likely to use a more inconvenient service like that than a well known payment processor like PP.

It's an interim period right now. When I know more clearly what else, if anything, all the retailers are going to do, I'll be better able to assess what I need to do to adapt and change.

I've done it before, I'll do it again.

You can't keep me down for long.

I'm a little disappointed you seemed to put more emphasis on the "this isn't ACTUAL censorship" argument than the "people should complain about this" one. But you don't have a dog in this race.

PP only cares if it matters to their bottom line. People only care if it makes a personal difference in their own wallets.

It's reality. I'm just not sure it says very much for us as a society.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... I've been paying attention. Smashwords isn't being controlled. It is being manipulated. That is a subtle, but profound, difference.

Yeah, it was 'do what we say, or we'll freeze your account and drive you out of business.' I'm sure that if your bank decided that they didn't like what you wrote, and decided to freeze your account, you would call that manipulation, not control. Right.

Of course, Smashwords had a choice in the matter. They could have stood up for their beliefs, and faced the consequences of not paying their bills, and having the company collapse, and everyone who works for them losing their job. But yeah, they were just being manipulated, not controlled.

It's real easy to say that when you're not the one facing the consequences.

Joe said... Just don't call it censorship.

The dictionary calls it censorship. I'm just agreeing with it.

Joe said... Public schools are run by the government. If my government bans a book, it is censorship. The poor don't have a choice when it comes to school. It's a law that children must attend school.

There's nothing in the defintion of censorship that's contingent on there being an alternative choice.

Joe Konrath said...

@ Selena - I just emailed you.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm a little disappointed you seemed to put more emphasis on the "this isn't ACTUAL censorship" argument than the "people should complain about this" one. But you don't have a dog in this race.

As I said earlier in the thread, righteous indignation is often cloaked in half-truths and incorrect definitions.

For this issue to be directly confronted, it is important to define what the issue is. Calling is censorship weakens the argument, because it makes it about something else. It also gives the opponent, PayPal, an easy way to defend its actions.

Don't give PayPal a chance to defend itself. PayPal needs to learn that fiction isn't real, and that its customers are grown ups who can makes responsible choices about what they want to read.

But if you call it censorship, they can respond, "No it ain't! We're just exercising our freedom to sell what we want! Nyaa nyaa nyaa!"

Joe Konrath said...

I'm sure that if your bank decided that they didn't like what you wrote, and decided to freeze your account, you would call that manipulation, not control. Right.

I'd call it unfair. Then I'd find another bank.

If there were no other banks, I'd come up with some other way. I've been known to do that from time to time.
There's nothing in the defintion of censorship that's contingent on there being an alternative choice.

Are you trolling here? Being purposely obtuse to provoke a reaction? Or simply not responding to my actual words?

If the government suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.

If the news suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.

If a monopoly suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.

PayPal is not the government, the press, or a monopoly.

A public school is not analogous to a private school. Public television is not analogous to cable TV.

I don't think I can say it clearer than that.

PayPal is choosing what it wants to sell. It has that right. It is not suppressing erotica. It simply isn't facilitating its sales. It is not oppressing authors. It is simply treating them unfairly.

Life is unfair. Find a work around.

Katie Elle said...

Of course it's censorship, it's just not government censorship, but it is still censorship. This is America and we don't like the government, so we privatize our oppression.

The lunch counter at Woolworth's was not a government edicts. The Hollywood blacklists were not government edicts. The Hayes Code and Comics Code and MPAA are not government controlled. These were all corporate decisions, just as paypal's censorship is.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... Slippery slope. But if you defend some erotic fiction, you should defend all erotic fiction.


I agree, but I would expand that to all fiction, erotic or not.

You don't need me to tell you that the morality police would love to stop you from writing what you write just as much as they would love to stop me.

Joe, all bickering aside, I respect you and what you've done. But can you honestly say that if Amazon did to you tomorrow what PayPal did to some erotica writers, you wouldn't be claiming censorship? Which, by the way, would be disagreeing with Amazon themselves, since they have stated that their removal of books because they're objectionable is censorship.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... I'd call it unfair. Then I'd find another bank.

No, you'd do what they aay to get your money back first, and then you'd get another bank. Because the first bank would still have your money.

Joe said... Are you trolling here? Being purposely obtuse to provoke a reaction? Or simply not responding to my actual words?
If the government suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.
If the news suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.
If a monopoly suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.
PayPal is not the government, the press, or a monopoly.
A public school is not analogous to a private school. Public television is not analogous to cable TV.
I don't think I can say it clearer than that.

So wait, I'm trolling because you can't seem to understand the definition of censorship, and choose to make up your own?

Joe Konrath said...

The lunch counter at Woolworth's was not a government edicts.

Are we really equating racism with a company who doesn't want to sell bestiality erotica?

And I believe segregation actually was a government issue, and many state and local governments were racist fools.

The Hollywood blacklists were not government edicts.

Are we really equating McCarthyism with a company that doesn't want to sell incest erotica?

And actually the HCUA was the government putting pressure on Hollywood.

The Hayes Code and Comics Code and MPAA are not government controlled.

Nor are they censorship. They are side-effects of a free market system--a system that chose to police itself and set up its own guidelines and standards.

I don't like what PayPal is doing. I don't like the MPAA, either.

But it isn't censorship.

Joe Konrath said...

So wait, I'm trolling because you can't seem to understand the definition of censorship, and choose to make up your own?

I believe I've clearly defined censorship, and it aligns with the assorted definitions of censorship found online.

Is there any suppression or oppression going on by the government, press, or a monopoly?

No. Hence PayPal's actions cannot be defined as censorship.

But can you honestly say that if Amazon did to you tomorrow what PayPal did to some erotica writers, you wouldn't be claiming censorship?

Yes. I'd call it unfair. I think the agency model, forced upon Amazon, was very unfair.

The agency model was a case of companies trying to control a retailer. A retailer should be allowed to set its own prices, and it should be allowed to sell what it wants to sell.

Which, by the way, would be disagreeing with Amazon themselves, since they have stated that their removal of books because they're objectionable is censorship.

You'd have to point out where they admit that. I haven't seen that statement made.

Phil Hall said...

Joe sez: "If a monopoly suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship."

How does the term change, Joe, if instead of a monopoly we have a small, integrated, group that's doing the suppressing or oppression? PayPal says it's the CC companies that are behind it...companies like Amex, Visa, Discover, and MC...just to name a few. Just because there's a handful acting in concert, that doesn't make it any different. They're acting in a unified manner--that makes them a de facto monopoly. And thereby, using your own words ("If a monopoly suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.") then it's censorship, plain and simple.

I don't like it one bit. It's insulting. I don't write erotica, but I think people should be able to write to their market, whatever that is, without some monetary douchebags stepping in saying "Hey, we find that content offensive to our shareholders, so we're not going to pay you."

You say, paraphrasing, find another outlet...like what the porn companies are doing. Fine and dandy, but do you realize the startup cost involved with doing just that? Also, keep in mind that most people would buy using....yep, you guessed it...a CC. Now what if those same CC companies who put the kibosh on PayPal do the same thing again, just this time once an author's set up his own "pornsite inspired" payment kiosk?

Will you call a "spade" a "spade" then, Joe?

I'm sorry, but this is one time I think you missed the bus entirely.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... Nor are they censorship. They are side-effects of a free market system--a system that chose to police itself and set up its own guidelines and standards.

From Wiki: The Motion Picture Production Code was the set of industry moral censorship guidelines that governed the production of most United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. It is also popularly known as the Hays Code, after Hollywood's chief censor of the time, Will H. Hays.

Also from Wiki: The Comics Code Authority was a body created as part of the Comics Magazine Association of America, as a tool for the comics-publishing industry to self-regulate the content of comic books in the United States. Member publishers submitted comic books to the CCA, which screened them for adherence to its Comics Code, and authorized the use of their seal on the cover if the books complied. At the height of its influence, it was a de facto censor for the U.S. comic book industry. The last publishers discontinued their participation in 2011.

(bolding added by me)

Once again, you're definition of what is censorship is proven wrong.

Joe Konrath said...

They're acting in a unified manner--that makes them a de facto monopoly. And thereby, using your own words ("If a monopoly suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.") then it's censorship, plain and simple.

Credit card companies don't have a monopoly on currency. They aren't the only way to pay for goods and services.

If the government said "The people of the united states can no longer use money to buy incest erotica" that would qualify as censorship.

If the government banned incest erotica from being downloaded, that would be censorship.

If Ma Bell, when she was the only phone company in the US, cut your service if you discussed incest erotica during a call, that would be censorship.

As someone said earlier in the thread, why do private citizens have the right to have foolish prejudices, but private companies aren't allowed to?

Fine and dandy, but do you realize the startup cost involved with doing just that?

Do you realize the revenue it would generate if it was the only place in the world to get verboten erotica?

I don't like it one bit. It's insulting. I don't write erotica, but I think people should be able to write to their market, whatever that is, without some monetary douchebags stepping in saying "Hey, we find that content offensive to our shareholders, so we're not going to pay you."

I agree.

But it isn't censorship. ;)

Anonymous said...

Joe says: "You know what "media outlet" means, right?

Yes, I do. But you don't.

A media outlet is the press. The news.

Not a retailer."


Wow. Just wow. Hey, Joe, you really shouldn't be talking about this issue. Seriously. A "media outlet" defined by the courts, includes anyone who distributes media in various forms. That includes book stores, music stores, online and brick-n-mortar.

You're just trying to stir people up with your hard-headedness. You can't really be this dumb.

Joe Konrath said...

A private entity censoring its own content, ala the MPAA or Comics Code, is not the de facto definition of censorship.

The MPAA and Comics Code were self-policing. They didn't have standards or moral forced upon them. They embraced those standards, just like a church does, or a private school does.

These also gave rise to underground films and comics that appeared outside those organizations. The Comics Code couldn't censor comics. They simply wouldn't allow certain comic books into their distribution network. Ditto the MPAA.

So neither was a case of true censorship. They were private clubs that no one was forced to join. Private clubs, private companies, private churches--they can make their own rules and police themselves and those who choose to join. But they can't censor those who don't want to play ball with them.

It isn't censorship if I join a club that forbids me from reading Lolita. I'm doing that to myself, not having it forced upon me.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... I believe I've clearly defined censorship, and it aligns with the assorted definitions of censorship found online.
Is there any suppression or oppression going on by the government, press, or a monopoly?

The definition doesn't limit it to those entities. That's you trying to twist it to your purposes.

Joe said... You'd have to point out where they admit that. I haven't seen that statement made.

From here:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40112145/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/amazon-defends-pedophiles-guide/

Amazon issued a statement that will no doubt fuel the outraged comments multiplying on the "Pedophile's Guide" Amazon page. "Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable," it reads. "Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

Jim said...

Ah, and now we get to the heart of the matter. If you disagree with Joe, you're a troll. And why? Because he doesn't understand the definition of the word "censorship." He's talked himself into a corner but is too stubborn to admit he's wrong about something as easily verifiable as the definition of a word.

There's a plot for you, Konrath. Guy says something kind of dumb. Won't admit he was ignorant. Gets mad. Decides to get even. (That should cover about six pages, but I'm not a horror writer so I'm just guessing at the next part.) Next, 235 pages of dismembered bodies, decapitations, involuntary organ removal via chainsaw and/or grilling tongs...

How am I doing?

Joe Konrath said...

This is the definition I found.

Media Outlet : A publication or broadcast program that transmits feature stories and news to the public through various distribution channels.

A retailer does not fit into this definition. Media outlets are newspapers, radio, and TV. Not bookstores.

You're welcome to post your court definition. Here's the one I found:

“Bona fide media outlet” is defined as an organization that reports the news and whose news reports are made available to the general public by being published or broadcast on a regular schedule by television, radio, retail sales, or by subscription where there is no membership or dues requirement to subscribe.

You said: You can't really be this dumb.

Apparently I'm not as dumb as you perceive. ;)

Joe Konrath said...

He's talked himself into a corner but is too stubborn to admit he's wrong about something as easily verifiable as the definition of a word.

I've defined it. How about you tell me how my definition is wrong, or how my logic is flawed?

Here it is again:



If the government suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.

If a media outlet suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.

If a monopoly suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.

PayPal is none of the above.

Prove I'm wrong.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... A private entity censoring its own content, ala the MPAA or Comics Code, is not the de facto definition of censorship.

Now I need to ask you, are you just trolling here?

It's obvious you're not willing to admit you're wrong, despite being provided multiple definitions of the word, and it being used properly by reference material. De facto definition? What is that? What Joe decides what censorship is? Joe decides that censorship must be performed by a monopoly, so that's the defintion now? Joe decides that the MPAA and Comics Code aren't really censoring, so we can't provide them as examples of non-government censorship?

Joe Konrath said...

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable,"

Then Amazon needs a better definition of censorship.

Find me an example where a company refusing to sell something is considered to be a censor.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... If the government suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.
If a media outlet suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.
If a monopoly suppresses or oppresses, it is censorship.
PayPal is none of the above.
Prove I'm wrong.

Easy. You give three examples of censorship, and claim that PayPal isn't any of them. That doesn't prove that PayPal isn't censoring.

For example.

Murder is a crime.
Arson is a crime.
Kidnapping is a crime.
A bank robbery is none of the above.

Does that mean a bank robbery isn't a crime?

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... Then Amazon needs a better definition of censorship.
Find me an example where a company refusing to sell something is considered to be a censor.

Allow me to use your words again. Are you being purposely obtuse?

Amazon's statement clearly said that it's censorship not to sell certain books simply because they or others believe their message is objectionable.

You choose to cut off the end and make it merely 'a company refusing to sell something.'

Come on, let's try to keep it honest here.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe decides that the MPAA and Comics Code aren't really censoring, so we can't provide them as examples of non-government censorship?

Are you really equating a company that decides what type of work it wants to sell or distribute with a government, media outlet, or monopoly that suppresses words or images?

The Comics Code made up its own rules for those comic book publishers who wanted to be included in its organization. In return for complying with those rules, it offered a stamp of approval, which aided in distribution. It didn't suppress all comics.

As a private organization, it is allowed to do that. Just as PayPal is allowed to sell whatever it wants.

In both cases, artists can choose to work outside these companies. Their work isn't being suppressed. They aren't being personally oppressed.

Don't you see the difference? North Korea censors the Internet. That's suppression and oppression. The MPAA slapping an NC-17 rating on a movie isn't suppression.

sup·press   [suh-pres] Show IPA
verb (used with object)

1. to put an end to the activities of (a person, body of persons, etc.): to suppress the Communist party.

2. to do away with by or as by authority; abolish; stop (a practice, custom, etc.).

3. to keep in or repress (a feeling, smile, groan, etc.).

4. to withhold from disclosure or publication (truth, evidence, a book, names, etc.).

5. to stop or arrest (a flow, hemorrhage, cough, etc.).

Adam Pepper said...

Joe,

I'm with Selena in her disappointment in your focus here. We don't need a sementics debate on censorship. We need some healthy indignation. Someone is using the power of their fat wallet to impose their morality on us. We all agree the slope is slippery and those who believe in free expression need to be heard rather than acquiesce.

I'd also like to know what's behind this sudden crackdown by PayPal? Where's the heat coming from?

Joe Konrath said...

Amazon's statement clearly said that it's censorship not to sell certain books simply because they or others believe their message is objectionable.

Amazon can misuse the word "censorship" the same as anyone else.

Why would you think the definition of censorship changes because someone misuses it?

Joe Konrath said...

You give three examples of censorship, and claim that PayPal isn't any of them

Those aren't examples. That's the definition of censorship: A government, media outlet, or monopoly that suppresses.

PayPal does not fit that definition.

Mike Dennis said...

I get very nervous when someone says that "something should be done" about material they consider "offensive". These people are the professionally-offended class.

We as writers have the ABSOLUTE right to create anything our imaginations can construct and the readers have an ABSOLUTE right not to buy it or read it as they see fit.

Rather than come down on people who write and publish "offensive" material, we should celebrate the fact that we live in a society where such material CAN be sold.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... Are you really equating a company that decides what type of work it wants to sell or distribute with a government, media outlet, or monopoly that suppresses words or images?

Here comes the straw man. I'm not 'equating' anything. I'm telling you that what the MPAA and the Comics Code did was censorship, based upon the definition of the word. (The real definition, not yours.) That's why people refer to them as censoring bodies.

Whether someone wants to argue if government or private censorship is worse, that's a valid discussion, but doesn't change the meaning of the word.

Anonymous said...

I guess I have to figure out what exactly has been pulled down.

My books haven't. One was approved just this last month for distribution to their outlets and it's BDSM. Definitely consenting adults.

I think when bookstores decide not to sell fictionalized things that are illegal--they are perhaps just trying to save themselves from legal issues down the road?

Those are my erotic titles--so I'm a bit confused.

But, back to the main point--a company deciding what a BOOK SELLER should sell--is blackmailing them, not censoring.

I find it kind of funny in a twisted way. PayPal, an Ebay company. Ebay sells erotica. And they sell BDSM items. I used eBay for research on some items in a book. Floggers, anyone? Here's their eBay page for today:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p5197.m570.l1313&_nkw=flogger&_sacat=See-All-Categories

Not quite sure how they can not allow books, but will allow the items used in BDSM.

Oh, eBay BDSM page (including books):

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=BDSM&_sacat=0&_odkw=flogger&_osacat=0&_from=R40

Gimme a break...there's more to this that we obviously just don't know.

Consistent. There is nothing consistent right now.

Here is what Smahwords says:

'Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.'

Nowhere does it say BDSM in this...or am I missing something?

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... Amazon can misuse the word "censorship" the same as anyone else.
Why would you think the definition of censorship changes because someone misuses it?

First off, you're weasling away from my point, which was that you attempted to change 'not selling objectional material' to 'not selling something'.

Secondly, I've shown you Amazon (properly) using the word, and Wiki (properly) using the word (twice), and yet you claim that they're all wrong, and you're right.

S.Wolf said...

Joe said... Those aren't examples. That's the definition of censorship: A government, media outlet, or monopoly that suppresses.

Really? Where'd you get that definition from?

Joe Konrath said...

(The real definition, not yours.)

Via Wikipedia:

Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.

To suppress is to abolish, stop, put an end to, or withhold from disclosure or publication.

Is there any suppression going on by the government, a media outlet, or a monopoly?

No. PayPal is not a monopoly, government, or media outlet.

PayPal is not preventing publication of erotica.

Hence PayPal's actions cannot be defined as censorship.

Joe Konrath said...

Whether someone wants to argue if government or private censorship is worse, that's a valid discussion, but doesn't change the meaning of the word.

By definition, censorship can't be private. An organization setting and adhering to its own rules, morals, and standards is not suppressing anything. Its members are deciding for themselves what they approve of and disapprove of.

Censorship is about public communication, not private communication.

Private communication involves choice. The examples you've provided--the MPAA and the Comics Code--involved artists who chose to work within the rules those organizations set up for themselves. The MPAA wasn't forced to create its own rules. It did so on its own. And some filmmakers made films and chose not to be involved with the MPAA at all. The MPAA didn't repress those filmmakers. They simply didn't allow them access to the distribution system they created.

That might not be fair. But it isn't censorship.

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phil Hall said...

Another thought occurred to me... Isn't self-censorship under duress still censorship?

You mention the CCA (Comics Code Authority), something I'm familiar with, and the CCA came into being because if they didn't self-censor, the government (thanks to Wertham, et. al.) were going to do it for them. That's duress.

It's been likened to admitting to a crime under torture: You didn't do it, but that doesn't matter because you admitted you did it, so you might have well just did it in the first place.

Also you mentioned to my previous utterance (about the way porn sites get their payments via CC kiosks), that people could find another way to get paid if the CC companies don't let you set up a private kiosk.

To that I ask: How? All debit cards are underwritten by one of the big CC companies. Sure, it's still your money, but if they're willing to say "no credit to be used for erotica," it's not much of a stretch to say "you can't use your debit card either."

We haven't another way on the Internet short of having people send checks via USPS to an address...which slows down the process to a damn near stop. That's not progress at all, that's backwards.

And to answer your question that I glossed over by mistake ("As someone said earlier in the thread, why do private citizens have the right to have foolish prejudices, but private companies aren't allowed to?") -- because they're in the business of making a profit, not being the moral compass against which people or their product is measured. The greenback that comes from the sale of Harry Potter is the same dollar that could be from the sale of Penthouse or Hustler. A dollar is agnostic: it doesn't care a crap where it's going or from whom or for what. That's the job of the buyer to care. And if the buyer says "I'm offended by such-and-such, so I won't buy that," that's ok; but it's not ok for someone else to say "I don't like that, so you can't buy it." CC companies are supposed to act mercenary, not in the manner they're dictating.

Jude Hardin said...

If Joe deletes my previous comment, for whatever reason, is that an example of censorship?

Anonymous said...

I'm confused a little. What is off limits? I've read many books, recent ones, in the suspense or thriller or crime genres that have a rape or childhood abuse as part of the backstory or plot. Is that what is being discussed here? Or is it the way such things are portrayed that makes it off limits?

Joe Konrath said...

If Joe deletes my previous comment, for whatever reason, is that an example of censorship?

You mean the comment you made that I just deleted? :)

That isn't censorship. It's my blog, and I can decide what appears in the comments. I can't prevent you from posting that comment elsewhere. Nor can I force you to keep commenting.

Selena Kitt said...

Are we really equating racism with a company who doesn't want to sell bestiality erotica?

Oh wait a minute. Back the truck up here. I remember certain writers comparing the negro baseball league to the indie writer ghetto. And something about comparing legacy authors to house slaves?

Pot, meet kettle? ;)

I'm with Selena in her disappointment in your focus here. We don't need a sementics debate on censorship. We need some healthy indignation. Someone is using the power of their fat wallet to impose their morality on us. We all agree the slope is slippery and those who believe in free expression need to be heard rather than acquiesce.

Thanks, Adam. I think the focus needs to shift entirely. And I think Joe made that point but didn't go far enough. Let's take censorship out of this altogether.

Censorship or not - this is wrong. If you believe it's wrong, you have the right - and the obligation - to complain about it. Loudly. Vehemently. And don't stop complaining. Don't let it die.

I agree with the idea that we shouldn't give Paypal and the CC companies any wiggle room. Okay, so don't call it censorship (even if it fits some definitions of it) if they can just point to their own definitions of it and say, "No it's not." Makes some sort of logical sense.

I honestly don't care what you call it. Censorship, repression, morality policing. You can call it "Donkey-Spank Porn Rights" for all I care.

Just call it SOMETHING - and then please, DO complain about it. The focus and effort needs to be on the action, and less on the definition.

I'd also like to know what's behind this sudden crackdown by PayPal? Where's the heat coming from?

So would I. It is a US election year. Lots of morality being bandied about lately. Rush Limbaugh and the birth control thing. Fifty Shades of Gray is a BDSM novel that knocked Hunger Games out of the top spot on Amazon for a while there - and people were all up in arms about women reading "porn." There is a great deal happening right now in terms of slowly eroding American freedom and liberties, in many different areas, in the name of "safety."

As far as I'm concerned, THAT'S what we need to be talking about. I could care less about who's right in their definition of censorship - because the result is the same. Less choice, less freedom.

That's a big problem.

Jude Hardin said...

;)

Joe Konrath said...

You mention the CCA (Comics Code Authority), something I'm familiar with, and the CCA came into being because if they didn't self-censor, the government (thanks to Wertham, et. al.) were going to do it for them.

If the govt did, would it have been upheld in court? Sounds like a serious first amendment issue.

Bob Fleck said...

Two quick points: One, people keep saying that PayPal and the credit card companies are telling you what you can do with your money, like a teller asking you what you want the cash for before letting you withdraw from your account. The fact is, that's wrong. It's like a bank asking you what you want the LOAN for before they'll grant it, and they do that every day. That's what the word "credit" means in credit card. MC, Visa, etc are lending you money, and they have the right to set the terms of that loan (which is based mostly on what sorts of things are likely to cause them not to get repaid).

A few years ago, when online poker was booming, the major credit card companies refused to allow you to put money in your online poker accounts using them because they had a reasonable fear that most of that money wouldn't be repaid (not just because of gambling losses but because there was a reasonable expectation that the government would seize the money). Payment processors sprang up who would allow you to transfer money directly from your bank account to their intermediary account in order to then transfer it to the online casino. Their intermediary account was, in effect, an offshore bank account in your name. It was your money, and you could decide to blow it any way you wanted as long as they got their transfer fees.

Eric Christopherson said...

What if every corporate entity in America followed PayPal's lead and suddenly it was impossible to buy erotica in America (other than via the black market).

What would you call that, Joe, and how does it differ from censorship for the American people?

Vicky Foxxe said...

Arguing about whether or not this is censorship is a straw man. I also think it's part of the plan.

Here's the gist.. Credit Card companies and banks have the power to shut indies down.

I'm not wearing my tin-foil cap yet.

* But I'm getting close. Bookstrand took down their entire self-publishing suite after the PayPal debacle.

* Selena Kitt was told by PayPal that BDSM was considered rape. Meaning they were trying to strong arm her into removing perfectly legal BDSM titles from her online store!

* Other writers have been told that characters between the ages of 18-20 were off limits in written Erotica.

* Indie erotica was specifically targeted. Books backed by established publishers were left alone.. yup books with the same content.

All of this really happened.... So while we giggle like idiots because scary words like "rape, incest, and bestiality" were used.. some heavy hitting financial companies have learned they can control what people read.

What happens if some big six publisher get's cozy with his buddies at Visa, MC, and AMEX? Or what if they decide Amazon is a threat that must be crushed...

Will you be prepared?

Joe Konrath said...

Oh wait a minute. Back the truck up here. I remember certain writers comparing the negro baseball league to the indie writer ghetto. And something about comparing legacy authors to house slaves?

Tongue meet cheek. ;)

Joe Konrath said...

What would you call that, Joe, and how does it differ from censorship for the American people?

I'd call that "Joe moves to Canada."

But if it were all companies working together, that would qualify as a "controlling body" and indeed be censorship.

Selena Kitt said...

BDSM is being targeted if it is "rape for titillation." Meaning that many non-consent and dubious consent fantasies are being taken down. Of course, that's a slippery slope. Many of the 70's romance bodice rippers contain lots of rape. But later, the heroine decides her "no" really didn't mean "no" because she's now fallen in love with the hero and everything. Even though he forced himself on her 100 pages or so ago.

I have a short story where the heroine is raped by a cop. In the end, you come to find out he was a ghost. It didn't really happen. It's a "safe" rape fantasy. But that's considered "rape for titillation" and that's not okay by Paypal.

Of course, they're happy to continue to pay for Jack Ketchum's "The Woman" - and a sicker display of rape for titillation in mainstream fiction I haven't yet read. (But if you have, go ahead and point it out to me - all in the name of research, of course! ;)

Believe me, there are lots and lots of women who have rape fantasies. Incest fantasies too. Go back and read Nancy Friday's Secret Garden if you don't believe me.

Fiction is not reality.

Writing is not action.

Joe Konrath said...

some heavy hitting financial companies have learned they can control what people read.

No, they've learned the don't want certain customers.

Someone else will pick up that slack and cater to those customers. That's how capitalism works.

Amazon and PayPal are powerhouses because they saw consumer need, and filled that need.

I bet someone can do that with erotica.

Adam Pepper said...

Come on, Bob. If I have an 800 credit score and a 20 year history with Amex, they can't deny me the purchase of a 3 dollar book based on credit worthiness

Selena Kitt said...

Come on, Bob. If I have an 800 credit score and a 20 year history with Amex, they can't deny me the purchase of a 3 dollar book based on credit worthiness

They just did.

What are you going to do about it?

Joe Konrath said...

Believe me, there are lots and lots of women who have rape fantasies. Incest fantasies too. Go back and read Nancy Friday's Secret Garden if you don't believe me.

I read that book so many times I remember many of the fantasies specifically. Ditto Forbidden Flowers. Nancy Friday is terrific.

Of course, they're happy to continue to pay for Jack Ketchum's "The Woman" - and a sicker display of rape for titillation in mainstream fiction I haven't yet read.

I don't think Ketchum titillates. I think he goes for shock and gross. Anyone aroused by The Woman, or Girl Next Door, or Right to Life, is probably psychotic.

That said, I don't find incest erotic at all, but I have read some incest erotica and did become aroused.

Adam Pepper said...

No Selena. They didn't deny me based on
Y credit worthiness or their expectation of repayment. If they did I'd be ok with it.

Why did the credit cards stop funding Internet poker sites? It certainly wasn't because of the credit worthiness of their customers . It was political pressure.

Selena Kitt said...

I don't think Ketchum titillates. I think he goes for shock and gross. Anyone aroused by The Woman, or Girl Next Door, or Right to Life, is probably psychotic.

He walks a fine line between "this is really wrong and I shouldn't get off on this, but I secretly am anyway..."

There are lots of ways to get off - and in fiction, horror and erotica are very closely linked, actually. At least, psychologically.

Of course, no one would admit it. Whether they technically could be diagnosed psychotic or not. ;)

But there are lots of books about locking a girl in a basement as a sex slave. Mainstream and erotica. The difference is, in mainstream, the woman is truly raped and tortured in horrible, shocking and really really sick and twisted ways, and the killer usually gets caught and punished. In erotica, the woman being "forced" isn't really being raped, per se - at least not in the same sick n twisted way she is in mainstream stuff - and in the end, turns out... she actually enjoys herself. God forbid.

And that's something else interesting that's going on here. Statistically, most erotic fiction is written by AND read by women. Horror, on the other hand, is known to be a male dominated genre.

Joe Konrath said...

Men are scared of female sexuality.

Objectifying women is considered okay, but I think they're threatened by women who are empowered because it challenges status, which is synonymous with masculinity. It flips on some caveman gene.

Todd Trumpet said...

Wow, now THIS is the kind of Konrant I've been waiting for!

And a bonus:

Joe said: "As a libertarian..."

I knew it!

And I knew there was a reason I liked this blog beyond the spectacle of the ePubderdome.

Welcome back, Mad Joe.

Todd
www.ToddTrumpet.com

Bob Fleck said...

Come on, Bob. If I have an 800 credit score and a 20 year history with Amex, they can't deny me the purchase of a 3 dollar book based on credit worthiness
I never said it was because of your credit rating, just as credit rating is not the only basis any bank uses for deciding whether or not to fund any loan. There are many factors that they take into account to decide whether they think the risk is higher than the reward. If they fund loans (or allow credit card transactions, which are each mini-loans) for things that they have an expectation the government could call an illegal enterprise, then they risk the government not only seizing those funds, but the entire business as part of a criminal enterprise (and if you don't think federal prosecutors have made that threat, I think you're kidding yourself), even if it would be overturned in the courts it would cost much more than they could make on the fees and interest of the charges.

They're making a business decision, and as with the companies that came into existence to facilitate online gambling financing, it can be done for any other kind of material.

Understand, I'm not saying I agree with the decisions that PayPal, Smashwords, or the credit card companies have made. Just that they have the legal right to make those decisions and a bunch of bitchy writers aren't going to change that when it's a question of giving up a couple million dollars to save billions.

Understand that indie publishing is currently flourishing because the financial risks and foibles of trade publishing left a lot of very good writers out of the system until a company and a system came along (e-publishing and Amazon) that lowered the barrier to entry. That's what Joe is saying here. Find a way to lower the barrier.

Michelle McCleod said...

Call my cynical, Adam, but I doubt those online poker sites were owned and operated by brick and mortar casinos. I would hypothesize the 'big business' of gambling moved against an online competitor draining their customers before they could.

I think Selena raises an excellent point about the psychological relationship of erotica and horror. If Paypal is dumb enough to think BDSM is rape, where else will they go with their warped definitions?

And if people who get off on violence are psychotic as pointed out by previous commenter, why should we continue to feed their disease? Psychotic people are much more dangerous to society than anyone masturbating to erotica.

So let's stop feeding them with violent fiction.

To be honest, if Paypal had targeted the book with Joe's anus scene, as a consumer, I would have thought they were perfectly right to do so. This is the danger we face, a corporation can come along and twist our words against us, showcase things in a light that was never intended and silence us.

I agree with Vicky, set aside the argument over censorship because it's not the most important debate. The ebook industry is changing, power is shifting away from the individual toward corporate interests, and we need to focus on how we will guarantee our voices will still be allowed in the choir.

M

Mira said...

First, as sort of an aside, I enjoyed your writing in this post, Joe. Not the Ostrich rape content, per se, (bleh) but the whippercraker writing style. Fun.

I've been reading the comments here, and I agree, disagree and then sort of agree/disagree.

Agree: businesses should have the right to sell or not sell, unless they are a monopoly.

I agree about the censorship issue.

As another aside, it's interesting to note that legacy publishers DID have a monopoly, and absolutely practiced censorship, but got very little flack about it, either when it was happening, or now, when they defend it as an essential part of 'gatekeeping'.

Disagree: I think an argument could be made that Paypal IS a monopoly.

It is the only really trusted on-line pay site, and the fact that Smashwords can not survive well without Paypal points to this. PayPal is in a monopoly position as a SERVICE PROVIDER to Smashwords. Smashwords is a customer to Paypal.

It's one thing to dictate how you conduct your business. It's quite another to dictate how SOMEONE ELSE conducts their business, and if you can make it stick, that means you have too much power, ie. you have cornered that market.

Sort of agree/disagree: I think you are absolutely right that erotica writers can find another solution.

But I pretty much disagree that this isn't a big deal.

I think it likely that this as one of the opening tactics of the coming war to stop the transition from legacy control to writer control.

Smashwords is under attack, and I think I see the shadowy hand of the multi-billionaires who own legacy publishing puppeteering behind the scenes.

The most important impact here is the possible effect on public perception.

This tactic is trying to create an association between independent publisher/writers with the peddling of decadent smut (not my opinion (!!), I'm talking public relations here), and obviously, someone needs to be guarding the gates.

If immoral CREDIT CARD companies have a problem with what an independent publisher is doing, then my goodness, me, we really can't have all those immoral independent writers and publishers running around publishing smut all willy nilly.

That's the tactic, and although I wouldn't label it brilliant, it's pretty darn smart. And I suspect it's just the start. I'd expect more of these sorts of tactics down the pipeline. I don't think it will stop self-publishing, which is the result of a technolgical shift, but I sure thing they will try. Should keep things really interested (and irritating) for awhile.

Walter Knight said...

I think you should pay for my melted eReader, and will boycott Joe until compensated.

Adam Pepper said...

My problem with your position, Bob, is that you are suggesting it's a free market issue while admitting it's government pressure and fear that's the impetus.

Bob Fleck said...

Actually, Adam, I'm saying that even in the face of governmental pressure and fear (which was the case in online gambling, not necessarily with the issue of what books PayPal wants Smashwords to stop selling), the free market will find a way to fulfill a demand.

The best example, of course, is the case of illegal drugs. Billions of government dollars spent on a "war on drugs" all over the globe, and anybody who wants can find whatever drug they're looking for. They just don't bitch that Mastercard won't let them put it on their card.

Joe Konrath said...

had targeted the book with Joe's anus scene

I've got a book with an anus scene?

Bob Fleck said...

"had targeted the book with Joe's anus scene

I've got a book with an anus scene?"

I think maybe that's someone else's book with a scene about your anus.

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