Sunday, March 04, 2012

PayPal and the First Amendment

I received this e-mail from Smashwords, the venue through which I published Rock Bound.

In case you haven't heard, about two weeks ago, PayPal contacted Smashwords and gave us a surprise ultimatum:  Remove all titles containing bestiality, rape or incest, otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal account.  We engaged them in discussions and on Monday they gave us a temporary reprieve as we continue to work in good faith to find a suitable solution.

PayPal tells us that their crackdown is necessary so that they can remain in
compliance with the requirements of the banks and credit card associations."

This pronouncement seems to be aimed specifically toward erotica authors and publishers.  The violence in some of the horror and even cop books out-squicks me far more than rape or incest in erotica.  I haven’t read anything with bestiality in it, unless they consider shape shifters having sex in when they’re both in their beast form to be bestiality.  I’ve read many rape scenes in mysteries.  Will they be pulling those books?

Robert A. Heinlein is one of the most respected authors in science fiction.  In some of his later books, incest takes place between consenting adults and is controlled by geneticists so any children born will be healthy, and in one case a man has sex with his female clones, but you don't see the actual sex.  I wonder whether PayPal will pull those books?  They’re considered to be classics within the sci-fi community.

Admittedly, when reviewing I'll pan a book that has a rape scene that goes "No! No! No! Oooooh!" I don't like it when the book ends with an HEA with the rapist.  I'm a survivor of date rape.  It's not fun to be pinned by a man and I did not fall in love with him.   

However, this country has a Constitution with a Bill of Rights and the first Amendment in that Bill of Rights is Freedom of Speech and of the Press.  I may not like what you say or what you write, but I will defend your right to say or write it.  I can vote with my money.  If I don’t like the blurb of a book, I don’t have to buy it.  I don’t need PayPal or a credit card company or anyone else telling me what to read or watch or write.

Finally, how can they tell whether or not a book has such content?  Do they plan to hire people to read every book in their inventory to find out?  Sounds like a cushy job with a subjective rating system.  When one judge was asked the definition of pornography, he said, "I don't have one, but I know it when I see it."  Maybe erotica authors should apply.

Don’t forget—the temperature at which paper ignites is 451 degrees Farenheit.  Seems a guy named Bradbury wrote a book about that once.  Now there’s a case of rape on a really wide scale.  But I don’t suppose PayPal and the credit card companies would see it that way.

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