Sunday, March 25, 2012

People CAN Make a Difference!

March 13, 2012

Smashwords author/publisher update: PayPal Reverses Proposed Censorship

Great news. Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction.

Effective last night, we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state.

It's been a tumultuous, nerve-wracking few weeks as we worked to protect the right of writers to write and publish legal fiction.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers. You stood up and made your voice known. Thank you to every Smashwords author and publisher who wrote me to express opinions, even if we disagreed, and even if you were angry with me. You inspired me to carry your cause forward.  

Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference. Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated. We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership…

I would like to thank our friends at PayPal. They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies.

This is a big, bold move by PayPal. It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction. It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction.

Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors. Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies?  Finally, thanks to Selena Kitt of Excessica and Remittance Girl for helping me to understand and respect all fiction more than I ever have before.

This is a bright day for indie publishing. In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit. Today, thanks to the rise of indie e-books, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish. Merit is decided by your readers. Just as it should be.


Mark Coker

The above announcement came from the Smashwords Press Room.  I published Rock Bound through Smashwords, and I’m proud to have been one of those bloggers.  We made a difference!

At the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition (EPIC) awards, Mark Coker beat my other publisher, Lea Shizas of MuseItUp Publishing, Inc., winning a special award for which they were both nominated.  I forgive you, Mark, as even The Muse wouldn’t be able to sell anything if PayPal had continued its censorship policy.

But, about The Muse:  Lea has long been a mentor and teacher of new writers with her MuseItUp free annual on-line writers conference.  And in less than a year and a half since The Muse released its first book, our books and cover art have won awards from Preditors and Editors as well as EPIC and others.

One of our Muse authors won an EPIC in the suspense thriller category.  Cyrus Keith won for his incredible book, Becoming NADIA.  Cyrus is easily as good an author as Tom Clancy in his early days and Becoming NADIA is a real page-burner.  Congratulations, Cyrus!  Here’s the buy link to Becoming NADIA.

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.