Monday, February 27, 2012

You're no buddy, your're no friend, and you sure as hell ain't my pal! ~ PayPal's Big Problem

PayPal would ban works by Anaïs Nin, Vladimir Nabokov, Henry Miller, Marquis de Sade and books like Caligula, The Sookie Stackhouse Novels (True Blood), The Story of O, Venus in Furs, Lolita…
    -- Violet Blue
Suddenly, PayPal has become the 800 pound gorilla in the room . . .

You are familiar with PayPal aren't you?

Almost certainly you've used the ubiquitous money transfer service called PayPal to make an online purchase, or donation?

Well, if you believe in freedom of speech / expression, or if you enjoy erotica, you may wish to reconsider doing business with PayPal in light of their most recent announcement.

Here's how I learned about this story, from Violet Blue:
On Saturday February 18, PayPal began threatening indie book publishers and distributors with immediate deactivation of the businesses’ accounts if they did not remove books containing certain sexual themes - namely, specific sexual fantasies that PayPal does not approve of.

PayPal told indie e-book publishers and retailers - such as AllRomance, Smashwords, Excessica and Bookstrand - that if they didn’t remove the offending literature from their catalogs within a few days of notification, PayPal would close their accounts.

Of course, the immediate termination of payment processing would devastate these businesses and all of their authors (not just the erotic writers) overnight.

In case you haven’t noticed, PayPal has a monopoly on the market of online payment processing. There are few alternatives, though none that are widely used by online shoppers.
When taking a few moments for consideration of this issue, I have to admit that I'd usually come down on the side of the business.  It's my usual opinion that allowing consumer choice to dictate the market will, in the end, deliver exactly what people want.  Isn't that how free markets work, at least in theory?

I'm not even sure that the free market won't eventually solve this problem too.  If enough people want to purchase erotica, somebody's going to find a way to facilitate it, and I can guarantee somebody's going to be there to sell it.

Problem solved, right?

Well, yes and no.  While I do believe that the lure of profit will attract enterprising individuals to step in and fill the gap left when our friends and buddies over at PayPal decided to wash their hands of what they perceived to be the taint of erotica, I'm not going to reward the business for getting all moralistic.

If PayPal was any kind of actual friend, I'd be over on Facebook using the "remove" button right now!  I personally resent PayPal's attempt to dictate how and where I spend my money.  That's not how my pals treat me, or at least I can say with certainty that they will only treat me that way once.

And there's something special, something truly sacrosanct about the written word.  Freedom of the press is an essential written into my rights as a citizen.  Attempts to reign in the press through commerce are just as abhorrent to me as any other form of censorship.  

And then there's that big gorilla I mentioned at the opening of this post . . .  

Censorship of the written word is almost always going to bring to mind images of Nazis and their ilk burning books.  PayPal has now invoked those images in the minds of all who remember history and hope to avoid repeating it's mistakes.

Nazis raid the Institute for Sex Research Library
I wonder if any of the corporate sycophants at PayPal noticed that particular 800 pound gorilla in the room during their corporate committee meetings.  Even the myopic and olfactory challenged should have been able to recognize the giant simian lurking . . .

When the Nazi's started burning books, one of their first targets was the "decadence" of places like the Institute for Sex Research Library.

Sadly, as my friend Cherub recently pointed out, our race is made up of individuals like John Muir, but also those like Joseph Goebbels.

Guess which model PayPal has decided to follow?


  1. It is very unfortunate.

    While I do not write erotica, I do write for publishers who publish it. There is a market for *everything* out there, and for PayPal to do this perpetuates censorship. :/

    It's very simple: if someone doesn't want to read something, then they don't need to buy it. The same principle applies to video games, movies, television, music, etc. All of us have every right to our preferences, so long as we don't impose them on others.

    It's also up to responsible parents to look after their children and make sure they aren't getting into inappropriate entertainment - it is *not* up to those who create or distribute that material to police every purchase.

    *sigh* Ridiculous. If I can say, "Nah, graphic violence isn't my cup of tea," and simply walk away from a book/movie/TV show, then others can do the same when it comes to other such things with content that they might find objectionable.

    PayPal should not be acting as ethics/censorship cops.

    1. I've written professionally, but it was all speeches, press releases, and op ed pieces, so I've never written "professionally" by the standard of selling my work on the open market.

      Of course my heart goes out to individuals who will be hurt financially by this decision, but I personally don't have any financial interest in this matter. To my eyes it really is about the sanctity of the written word and true free access to a real free press.

  2. We need an alternative to PayPal -- They're nothing but a bunch of bullies and always have been. Wonder which republican candidate they're supporting?


    1. Agreed about needing an alternative!

      A friend of a friend was once designing and coding a site as an alternative, I think it was called - but I heard he was bought out and then I never heard anything more . . .

      I call election years "silliness season" - you never know what idiocy will occur!

  3. This is ridiculous. It's rather like Visa telling Barnes & Noble what they can't sell, isn't it?

    Shouldn't it be the consumers' choice what they want to buy, not some payment processing company? FFS.

    1. A payment processing company has 1 job - IMHO - to process my payments.

      The only exception should be illegal activities - they don't have to process payment for illegal drugs or child porn.

      But if the commerce is legal, the processor should simply be a transparent part of the transaction!

  4. I did a quick look around and there are other than Paypal options, however there are some complications with any of them. . . but may be worth the effort considering the deal-breakers Paypal imposes. We have no experience with any of these, so if anyone does please share.

    Google Checkout--



    for USA residents
    Skrill becoming moneybookers--


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