Censorship And PayPal: UnConstitutional and WRONG

Edit: Here is the link to the official petition concerning this matter: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/7/stop-internet-censorship/

If you enjoy having the right to write and read what you choose as a law-abiding, consenting adult without interference from financiers, please consider taking time to sign this petition. It’s YOUR right.

As Yogi Berra would say: It’s deja vu all over again.

A while back, I spoke on this blog about my frustration and anger with PayPal. The issue at the time was that they unilaterally froze my account because I bought $6 worth of novellas from Astraea Press in aid of a charity drive. I later reviewed these books, only to learn to my chagrin that PayPal had denied the payment and frozen my account.

After this disagreeable incident, I finally decided I’d had quite enough of PayPal and their unreasonably restrictive clauses. After all, no one has the right to view my purchases and tell me which ones are acceptable and which are not. I’m an adult male in the United States of America, and as such I enjoy all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

Or do I?

PayPal doesn’t seem to think so. Bookstrand issued a warning to some of its authors and publishers earlier today, stating that if they didn’t take down content which conflicts with PayPal’s nebulous and ever-shifting (but always preachy) Terms of Service, PayPal would cease processing transactions.

As Bookstrand is one of the largest online vendors of erotic romance, this creates a very thorny and frightening atmosphere for authors of all stripes. Bookstrand specified in their statement (reprinted from Tessie L’Amour’s blog, which you can read here) :

Dear Publisher,

We were informed by PayPal, without notice, and by our credit card processing company, that we are required to remove all titles at BookStrand.com with content containing incest, pseudo incest, rape, and bestiality, effective immediately.

We request that you immediately log into your account and unpublish all titles that contain the restricted content. If you have uploaded titles containing restricted content and do not unpublish these titles as we are requesting, we will deactivate your entire publisher account, which will remove all your titles from sale.

Now, wait a minute here.

As Ms. L’Amour so astutely notes, this leaves a truly frightening amount of territory open. I can see people not wanting to read incest stories, but I also know a lot of people enjoy them when the people involved are consenting adults. The rape restriction is understandable, to a degree, but what about women and men who indulge in such fantasies as a means of relinquishing sexual control? Rape in itself is a horrible, violent, demeaning and cruel act which has little to do with sex as such and everything to do with asserting one’s power over another. Fantasy, however, is another matter entirely. Bestiality? Hey, I don’t get it myself, but if someone happens to be into horses in that way and I don’t have to see it, whatever cranks your motor.

The point I’m making here is that by PayPal flexing its muscles in such a heavy-handed manner, it is engaging in censorship and stifling the voices of authors everywhere. Will they next demand that John Sanford’s Prey series be pulled from the shelves, as these books contain depictions of pedophilia, rape, and acts of violence? How about Tom Sawyer, Catcher in the Rye, or any book containing the “N-bomb?”

Or, hey, I know! Let’s make sure that we as adults don’t have frank and honest discussions about human sexuality. Let’s go back to relegating GLBTQA fiction to the basement where certain mouthy members of the dwindling minority insist it belongs. Let’s not talk about pedophilia or child abuse in any form, even if we speak from first-hand experience, lest we offend someone who’d rather go through life with blinders on. (For the record, I DO NOT and HAVE NEVER supported depictions of child abuse or molestation for titillation as remotely acceptable. However, to refuse to acknowledge it at all strikes me as singularly short-sighted and a prime example of ostrich logic.)

A particularly blunt, forthright, and applause-worthy response to PayPal’s attempt to use its power as the leading Internet finance facilitator to censor its account holders’ activities was issued by No Boundaries Press some six hours before I began writing this blog:

We understand that Bookstrand has to follow guidelines given to them from the sources they take payment from. This also means that there will be certain books we have to remove from there…as well as certain books that we won’t be able to place there at all.

With that being said, it could be possible that our other vendor sites will have to follow in Bookstrand’s footsteps and update to the same requirements.

No Boundaries has researched today and we will be updating our storefront to a different payment source from PayPal. When/If the time comes that PayPal forces store fronts into the same thing, NBP will be ready with PayPal alternative for our readers and authors.

If you’re an author, you should be feeling a distinct chill right now. After all, being an author is all about freedom of speech and expression. This is a clear attempt by PayPal to censor authors and force them to write only what PayPal deems “acceptable” fare for its readers. Never mind that pesky First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Let’s review that. Congress, the duly appointed representative body (at least in theory) of the American people is prohibited by the nation’s highest law from passing any law abridging the freedom of speech or the press. If Congress can’t, then where does PayPal get off thinking they CAN?

If you’re a reader, you should be absolutely furious. This bold, big, bad move by PayPal will directly limit what your favorite authors can and cannot write, and hence what you can and cannot read. Ultimately, it paves the way for much harsher restrictions upon the content of fiction of all types.

So what can you do?

For starters, if at all possible, stop using PayPal immediately. Let them know that we, the people, are still the final arbiters of right and wrong. PayPal only has the power we give them. By closing your account and thus stripping them of their power as an entity until they cease this illegal activity, you can show them we mean business.

Next, write a letter to PayPal letting them know how you feel about this issue. Whether you’re a professional author or a reader, your voice needs to be heard. The greater an outcry we create, the more likely it is PayPal will be forced to understand they’re breaking the law and violating our First and Fourth Amendment rights.

(Oh! Did I forget to mention that one? Here you go:)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

See above, concerning PayPal’s unilaterally and without notice seizing funds from people who do things they don’t like. With no warrant and no probable cause, no oversight by a judge or justice of the peace, and no legal right to do so except their own Terms of Service, which are subordinate to the laws of the United States of America, and yes, that means the Constitution.

Here are a list of all the pertinent email addresses (I advise copying the list in its entirety into your email addressing bar). All email addresses here were obtained through http://screw-paypal.com/paypal_contact_information.html. The author makes no warranty as to the accuracy or currency of any address included herein.

mbarrett@paypal.com (Michael Barrett, Chief Information Security Officer)

executiveoffice@paypal.com

harbor1@paypal.com

ppelce@paypal.com

complaint-response@paypal.com

abuse@paypal.com

Europeanservices@paypal.com

resolutions@paypal.com

appeals@paypal.com

compliance@paypal.com

webform@paypal.com

service@paypal.com (Unmonitored)

spoof@paypal.com

aup@paypal.com

press@paypal.com (Let public relations know you are filing complaints)

apires@paypal.com (Amanda Pires — Media Relations Contact)

pending_reversal@paypal.com

global2@paypal.com

intl@paypal.com

ppe_courtesycredit@paypal.com

Finally, encourage your friends, family, and business associates (including your favorite book publishers) to seek out other methods of online payment, such as prepaid debit cards or other financial services in competition with PayPal.

We cannot remain a free society if anyone has or assumes the right to deprive us of our most basic freedoms under the law. Censorship hurts readers and authors alike. Don’t let this battle be lost because you didn’t believe your voice could make a difference.

One voice is all it takes. And if one doesn’t do it, we’ll find two, four, eight, as many as it takes. DO NOT ALLOW CENSORSHIP to destroy our freedom, not from our appointed representatives, and certainly not from people who are supposed to do one thing and one thing only: move money around.

If y’all will excuse me . . . I have a letter to write.

EDIT:

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to PayPal.

To Whom It Concerns:

        PayPal has sunk to a new low. By attempting to enforce a nebulous moral code upon your users, from personal to large businesses, you have violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution, to wit: freedom of speech and the press and the right to be secure in one’s person, home, effects, and papers. Your Terms of Service are still subject to the law, and no one is above the Constitution. I myself have been a victim of your violations of my Fourth Amendment rights on more than one occasion. I refuse to permit myself or any other individual to fall prey to your attack on authors’ and publishers’ freedom of speech and the press.

        For this reason, I am writing you to advise you that I and others have reported this matter in the blogosphere; that we are communicating our displeasure at your heavy-handed attempt to enforce morality through manipulation of interstate commerce; and that you can expect an onslaught of negative publicity and a torrent of letters such as mine. I am also remitting copies of this letter to the District Attorneys of the States of Nevada and Texas and to the Federal Circuit Courts having jurisdiction in these areas, as I am quite certain you have violated no less than two and in all likelihood more Constitutional Amendments by your actions. In addition, rest assured I will be forwarding this letter to local and national news outlets for their perusal.

         I should be very surprised if you do not also receive, at some point in the very near future, a class-action lawsuit against PayPal by those customers, present and former, whom you have mistreated and whose property and rights were misappropriated by PayPal in the past and present. I am personally and publicly urging my PayPal-using friends, family, and business associations to seek alternative methods of online payment. As a former customer, I can assure you this entire affair has not encouraged me to resume any form of business relationship with PayPal or its affiliate companies. As an author of material PayPal may find “objectionable,” I find your actions utterly beneath contempt.

Best,J.S. WayneWriter: (n) A supernatural creature with the ability to alchemically transform caffeine, nicotine, and a dictionary into literature.

Until next time,

Best,

J.S. Wayne

Author’s note: I encourage any reader of this blog to reblog, repost, Tweet and republish the content herein, with proper accreditation, and to feel free to use any portion of this blog, with proper accreditation, for your own blogs and other social media. Spread the word, folks.

106 thoughts on “Censorship And PayPal: UnConstitutional and WRONG”

  1. OK. Thats a bunch of bullshit! I cant believe paypal is being so heavy handed. Its not fair to you authors or us readers. Im so writing a letter. Im sorry you authors are having to go through this. Ill be posting this on facebook and twitter. Hopefully, if we cause enough of a uproar, theyll stop and quit all of this nonsense. Thanks J.S. for sharing! I better get writing a letter.

  2. Thank you, Shadow! :)
    I have a very dark sense of humor, as anyone who’s read my work knows. So I found this auto-reply from one Amanda Pires at PayPal grimly hilarious:

    Thank you for your email. I will be out the office until Monday, February 20th. For immediate assistance, please contanct Access Communications at teampaypal@accesspr.com.

    Thank you,

    Amanda

    At least we can be sure ONE of those addies is good! Thank you for your support of authors and readers everywhere. If you can, would you mind terribly keeping me appraised of any response you receive? :)

  3. Hmmmmm! I seem to remember a certain evil german fellow who banned books with unsavory content! It makes it even harder to fight when Pay Pal is the standard in finance transfer via the net. First thing my customers always ask is “Do you Pay Pal?” And all I can think is; God i miss cash transactions!

    1. LOL It’s funny you should bring up Uncle Adolf. I actually gave some serious thought to having him make a guest appearance, but I decided that might be a little much…
      The more I look at this, the more it seems like a test run. If they can bully Bookstrand into playing along, who’s next? All Romance E-books? Amazon? I’ve had more than a few people complain about the fact I refuse to do business any other way than a prepaid debit card or cold hard cash (or check, IF I’m reasonably sure it won’t bounce), but I absolutely refuse to deal with them anymore. After the Astraea fiasco, I lost my faith in Internet banking.
      But that, of course, isn’t the issue. The issue is, if it’s not stopped here, where will it end?

  4. Thank you for this, JS. I’ve shared this on FB and Twitter and hopefully the word gets around because, seriously, it seems like people are being pretty hush hush about it. I’m cringing a little at some people’s comments on other posts though. I’m wondering if this censorship will be deemed ‘okay’ because why in the world would anyone WANT to write about incest. Or child abuse. Or rape. We’re erotic authors, that stuff shouldn’t be in our books, right?

    The thing is, erotic romance still has a STORY to it. It’s not porn. If it’s horror or suspense, and there’s rape or torture, then it’s not there for people to get off–not that I’d judge someone who did get off, twisted fantasies can be fun! In forbidding these topics, they’re limiting our ability to tell a story. And that’s not okay on any level.

    1. Hi, Bianca!
      There’s another school of thought concerning this: Since PayPal is a private organization, theoretically they have the right to refuse to handle certain transactions. TeddyPig had a rant about it, and okay, even I have to admit he raised a couple of points. I included the link for anyone who’d like to see the “devil’s advocate” point of view.
      Overall, obviously, I disagree that PayPal should have the right to do this. If your money’s good enough to spend on A, B, and C, it should be good enough to spend on X, Y, and Z. The fact they’ve gone from bullying individual people to whole business entities is a telling and frightening commentary on the level of power they believe they possess.
      Right here and right now is the time to make our stand, before this gets any more out of control. If the traffic counter on my blog is to be believed, if this is hush-hush right now, I have a feeling it won’t be by the end of the day.

      1. I wanted to correct something. JS I have looked up the ownership of Paypal. They are private company yes,, but they are publicly owned. By this I mean. Ebay is the owner of Paypal. Payal is a subsidary of Ebay. Paypal is a privately owned subsidary of a publicly traded company, which therefore makes Paypal a public as it’s revenues and profits go back to its parent company. After finding out that Paypal is owned by Ebay, I feel I must withdraw by business from Ebay and any of Ebay’s private subsidaries any where. Thanks and I hope this information is helpful to you. I appreciate you bringing Paypal’s activities to my attention.

        Sincerly
        Kathy Holtsclaw

      2. Hi, Kathy!
        I would expect a publicly traded company to have more regard for its customers. Interesting. VERY interesting.
        Thank you so much for your support of authors’ rights. I hope your withdrawal from Ebay et al doesn’t cause you too much hardship, either short or long term. I appreciate you coming by!

  5. I shared this on FB too. I’ll be researching and writing letters later today against this bullshit. What gives PP the right to tell anyone what to buy or sell…if someone’s doing something illegal that’s for the cops to take care of, not the fucking billing jockies. That’s like the bank telling me that they’re going to close my account because they don’t agree with me eating pork or working on Sunday. Though I agree with them in the theme of wanting to make the world a better place, restricting people talking about it is NOT the way to go about doing it. Their blanket restrictions also apply to those bringing awareness to and speaking out against those topics.

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It seems that Paypal has gotten too big for their britches.

    Thank you for bringing this important topic to light, J.S.

    1. Hi, Renee!
      Funny. You echo my exact concerns about this issue. If we let this go, the next works on the chopping block could easily become our own. And what about the Writing Out Child Abuse anthology? It’s kinda hard to create a project like that without talking about the topical matter, isn’t it? But if PayPal has their way, A Light In The Darkness will wind up on the banned list before it ever sees daylight.
      And that’s unacceptable.

  6. Excellent blog on what Paypal is trying to do. I certainly don’t write stories that would be banned but what is to stop Paypal from saying stories on gays, stories where murder occurs and terrorist plots are also banned?
    As a Canadian I get ripped off by Paypal when they convert US$ to C$, charging about 10% per transaction even though the currency is usually at par.
    I have no doubt another company will take over from Paypal in the near future. As both a consumer and a seller, I take offence that a company thinks it can pass moral judgement on what I do. When the opportunity to use another source of Internet banking arrives, I shall leave Paypal and never return.

    1. Hi, Jack!
      Thanks so much for stopping by and weighing in. I’ve heard about PayPal shafting international clients for a long time now, and this is a dangerous new low. As I mentioned in the post, what’s to stop them from pitching a fit about John Sanford’s Prey series et al?
      In my fumblings about the Net yesterday while researching this, I heard about a company called Square that handles Internet transactions as well. How they stack up against PayPal is a matter of conjecture to me, but they may at least give you a starting point. At the same time, as a current customer, you may have a certain amount of clout that I don’t as a FORMER customer. Or…you could be playing Russian roulette with your money.
      Either way, I wish you luck and thank you for coming over!

    1. Thank YOU, Kelly! The only way PayPal is going to realize they’re wrong is by applying heat and keeping it on regardless of other factors. If we keep kicking it up a notch at a time, people are going to sit up and take notice.

    1. Thank you so much, Brandie! The more matches we throw, the less likely it is we’ll be ignored. Remember the RWA/RWI mess a couple weeks back? This is even more frightening, even if (or perhaps BECAUSE) it’s less direct. Keeping it to ourselves isn’t the answer.
      As an author, I take censorship VERY seriously. There are very few works out there I look at and say “This shouldn’t exist.” And even if I do (one famous exception being that whole flap at E-book Eros in October about someone wanting to put up a guide on how to be a better PEDOPHILE), I’ll say it doesn’t need to be there by taking my money and buying something else instead. But that’s for me to say, NOT PayPal.

      1. Happy to help. This has the potential to be the biggest setback to authors I’ve ever seen, but I know we can make a difference. I was disappointed yesterday with the lack of public outcry, but maybe everyone was in denial or shock. Hopefully today, we can make some bigger waves.

      2. I first got wind of this about noon my time yesterday. Before I posted anything or started ringing the bell, I wanted to make sure there was some steak to the sizzle. That lack of outcry yesterday was just the backwash of a tsunami building.
        On Tessie L’Amour’s thread, one commentator suggested writing Mark Coker at Smashwords and asking him to pull his business from PayPal. That’s on my to-do list for later today.
        In the meantime, I’d say we’re doing a pretty damn good job. This has been the single highest-hitting day on this blog EVER, by a factor of almost three. And it’s not even noon yet. If only one-tenth of those who’ve peeked in so far wrote a letter to PayPal, that’s 30 VERY angry people. Now add to that all the people hearing about this from other sources, and the numbers get scary quick. :)
        And I’m all for that.

      3. Obviously there are some books we as a society can agree should not published, such as books about how to molest, kill, make bombs… But corporations making decisions about morality and mandating what consenting adults may or may not purchase is like something from The Twilight Zone.

      4. That’s good news. At least they spell out more clearly what is and isn’t allowed. This is progress, and I’m happy with that for now.

        To sum this whole thing up: Bookstrand can say “We’re not carrying this.” The publisher can say “We’re not publishing this.” The reader can say “I’m not reading this.” And the writer can say “I’ll write it anyway.” But PayPal should not be allowed to dictate what can and cannot be purchased with a customer’s own money.

  7. Dealing with paypal is a monopoly of mazes used to get you nowhere. They (paypal) froze my husband’s account years ago and it took over three months to unfreeze the money- his main source of income. The recipients at paypal will direct you to another person/extension and on and on.

    To have a money transaction company (owned by ebay) telling me what I can and cannot purchase with my hard-earned money is ridiculous.

    Anyone up against paypal, I wish you luck. I recently received a $112.00 check from a class action lawsuit against paypal and ebay that dated back to 2006…sigh-

    1. Hi, Dawne!
      Thank you so much for stopping by. Your experiences with PayPal echo my own. Which is one of many reasons I threw my hands up in disgust back when and said I wasn’t going to play ball with them anymore. My current employer would like to pay me via PayPal, but I have flatly refused to allow them any further opportunities to mess with me or my money.
      As Renee pointed out, PayPal’s gotten too big for their britches. It’s time we took them down a peg. Or several.

  8. Thank you for this JS…I posted it on my publisher staff loop and am facebooking the link to your post as well.

    This is more than alittle worrisome since most of my purchases for my ebooks I enjoy are through Pay Pal.

    1. Thank you so much, Raine! I appreciate you stopping by.
      I wanted to apologize, BTW. I had no idea I was going to kick off such a, well, spirited, debate on your loop. *blushes* I’d hoped if there was going to be a blast, it would be confined to HERE. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
      Again, thanks for coming buy and helping me spread the word! :)

  9. I spoke with a nice lady with PayPal CS and she claimed she could find no evidence of the BookStrand debacle (who only makes up about 4% of our sales… certainly not a majority). But she did indicate that contacting aupviolations@paypal.com might help clear things up.

    I clearly described what pseudo-incest entails (thank you Woody & Soon-Yi Allen fir being such a glaring public example), and how vampire tales (includiing the Morman Mom Stephanie Meier’s Twilight) are included in such broad strikes. I also described how shapeshifting stories can be lumped into beastiality by narrow-minded marms, as well as how any erotic work (including Lady Chatterly’s Lover) could be considered obscene by Puritanistic isolationism. Not to mention safewords meaning no in certain circles where no means “yes please, may I have another.”

    Has anyone considered a class action suit, the ACLU, or Larry Flynt? Heck, he fought this battle decades ago and has the “tshirt” to prove it.

    And I’m a conservative… Where is the liberal outrage?

    1. Howdy, DJM!
      I don’t usually get into my politics here, but I’m a social liberal and a fiscal and military conservative. (No, that should not be taken to mean I have an issue with gays in the military.) So I guess you could say the liberal outrage is right here. :D
      As to a class-action lawsuit, it’s early days yet. But I can very easily see this debacle spiraling into that realm. Nice list of books to point out the absurdity of this stance, BTW. Love it!
      Thanks so much for coming by!

      1. Well, to be honest, I am a social moderate and fiscal, national security, and military conservative.

        Have they never read Hamlet? It is a prime example of PI. A man, related by marriage -not blood- severs the marital bond (kills his brother) and then marries (and presumably screws) the cuckholded corpse’s widow. It also includes abusing the mentally ill (Hamlet gets a lively visit from his dead father).

        Not to even bring up the graphic detail that psych and criminal justice TEXTBOOKS go into concerning ACTUAL incest.

        This is clearly a violation of the 1st (free speech) and 4th (unreasonable search and seizure) amendments as well as banking AND privacy laws.

        Hello? Larry Flynt? Are you there?

      2. I forgot… I guess medical textbooks are forbidden, too.

        Oh, and LEGAL texts…..

        I’ll be back. I live in the fourth largest city in the US. I wonder how the news media might react to the fact that they can’t report on these topics if their papers are sold by anyplace that takes PP……,…,.,,

      3. I’m still waiting to hear back from my local media. I have the strangest feeling the national news will pick this up before the local outlets do. Call me a cynic. If you DO hear back, let us know what they said, if you wouldn’t mind?
        BTW: Great point about Hamlet! But that’s “literature.” As opposed to what I write, which according to them is something VERY different. Funny, ain’t it?

      4. and I sell sex toys on eBay….. or I still have some to put out when I’ not writing and editing and publishing “smut”.

  10. This is outrageous but hardly unprecedented. There have always been both private individuals and commercial corporations, not to mention governments, seeking to infringe rights like free speech. Being a Finnish author of gay erotic romance I need PayPal for royalties and such. It’s sickening that they can do this and expect me and other writers and readers to cave in to their demands of what is appropriate and inappropriate. What right do they have to tell me how I should spend my money or my time reading and writing? I re-posted this on FB and Twitter, hoping to get the message out. Thank you for posting this, J.S. It is so very important to remember we’re not out of the Dark Ages yet, it would seem.

    1. Thank you for spreading the word, Susan.
      By applying pressure, we can make PayPal see reason. If they won’t see reason, there are other ways to facilitate payment that don’t involve PayPal at all. If they choose to attempt to influence authors’ speech, then I say we return the favor. The surest way to influence a company whose entire raison d’etrae is finance is by DEPRIVING them of their reason for being. If enough people boycott PayPal (and make no mistake, this is gaining critical mass fast) they won’t have any choice but to remember they work for US, not the other way around.

  11. You say: “PayPal will be forced to understand they’re breaking the law” I don’t think there is a law anywhere that says a private business must provide service that facilitates the purchase of something they find offensive.

    The first amendment applies to Congress and the government only. Not to private businesses. Bookstores don’t have to carry/sell Bibles, Kurans, erotica, GBLT or any other book if they don’t want to. PayPal doesn’t have to provide service to bookstores. Period. And if they want provide services only to bookstores or other businesses they find “acceptable,” they can do that, too. As long as they are not discriminating on the basis of race or something made illegal in the Civil Rights Act, they can set their own terms.

    Yes, it’s obviously unfair for such a powerful business like PayPal to flex their muscles like this. But there is nothing at all illegal about it. You can bet your last nickel that PayPal checked with the legal department before implementing the change.

    A boycott of PayPal and letters/emails are a good idea to pressure PayPal to mind it’s own business regarding what is purchased buy customers. But even implying that they are in violation of the Bill of Rights is erroneous, and the accusations will likely be ignored.

    1. Hi, Nita!
      Whether or not PayPal’s practices are technically legal under state or federal law, I stand by my assertion that they are unconstitutional. There are a number of such laws on the books, and regardless of what individuals may think of those laws in theory, in practice they are in themselves illegal under the Constitution. “Legal” does not automatically equate to “right.”
      America was based on the freedom to speak and to be heard so long as your speech did not harm others or deprive them of their basic rights. Whether or not PayPal acknowledges the potential long-term ramifications of their stance (and they in all likelihood will not; they’ve proven themselves to be masters of the denial and confusion game) the fact remains that until such time as they are called out in open court, boycotting and negative publicity remain the best way to agitate for change, as you said.
      Thank you so much for stopping by and weighing in!

      1. You are entitled to your opinion, JS, but the Constitution protects the rights of citizens. It also protects the rights of citizens who own businesses. And it is a business owner’s right to decide with whom they conduct business.

        It is not unconstitutional for a privately owned or publicly traded business to refuse service or refuse to sell something that doesn’t meet their standards and values. It is only unconstitutional if a government agency or Congress refuses. The US Postal Service, for instance, cannot refuse to deliver items they find offensive. They are a government agency. USPS can only refuse to deliver illegal goods or contraband.

        PayPal execs aren’t completely stupid. They would never have done this without consulting their legal team. You can bet they are within their legal rights. They would not risk a lawsuit that could cost them millions.

        It’s legal for people to write books with the “offensive” content. But as you say, that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. It doesn’t necessarily make it wrong either.

        What PayPal is doing is heavy-handed, to say the least. But they have every right to do it. Just as we have the right to take our business elsewhere if we don’t like it.

      2. You are, of course, correct, at least in regard to their right to refuse service, and I have no doubt they would not have made such a blatant move if they didn’t believe themselves to be in an unassailable position of strength. Whether they are or not, of course, remains to be seen. I suspect they will find their footing somewhat more tenuous than they currently think it is.
        Without further debating the legality or lack thereof of PayPal’s position, we certainly seem to agree at least on these points:

        1) PayPal could have handled this situation much better, if they were so deeply offended by it.
        2)We have the right to tell PayPal to go jump if we don’t like it.

        Legal or not, within their rights or not, the fact remains that PayPal has sent a clear message to authors and readers that to use their service, we have to play by their rules, and that means not selling or purchasing anything they consider questionable. I for one intend to fight this tooth and nail until it’s resolved in such a way that the next megalithic company to consider this sort of thing thinks twice. As I noted elsewhere, my account was suspended for purchasing “sweet” romances in a manner which violated NONE of their terms of service. That was when PayPal and I parted ways. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still watching for abuses of their power, and this is WAY over the line.

    2. There are civil liberties that are guaranteed, especially when dealing with interactions between legal entities (person & inc). They cannot come into my home without permission or be charged with B&W. They are not the bookseller… they are a financial institution (bank) and are regulated heavily, which also guarantees compliance with statute (which INCLUDES the Constitution – ie Constitutional Law) AND additional regulations.

      This is going to have to be battled out in the courts. That is where we get into trouble. In order to sue, the plaintiff must be a party to and have been injured by the violation of our civil rights (read especially1st & 4th amendment).

      It is legal to produce, sell, & buy multitudes of items that fall into this quagmire. There are lines rhat the law has specificly drawn for us and those cannot be crossed… but the T&S and AUPs of publishers, distibutoes, and anyone else should restrict specific things for public safety, but these broad strokes can easily be applied to everything.

      I write, edit, and publish (for me amd others), so YES this worries me.

      The BIBLE contains ACTUAL INCEST, and CHEATING and MURDER and PSEUDO-INCEST… among other things.

      Should we ban the sales of it too?

      Frankly, my mind has been racing with examples… including from my childhood library, which was anything but racey.

      I AM a preacher’s kid… and incest survivor (not by my Dad), so if I don’t mind PI, why should you. I am also a rape survivor, but BDSM isn’t a sin. Heck many religions screw with prople’s heads more than most things I’ve seen or read.

      So much to say… so little time… and aito-correct…. damn autocorrect… sinetimes it works… sometimes it doesn’t.

      *How do kids type on these things?*

  12. Hey JS,

    Thank you for the info and the all the dirty deeds. Thank you all for all that you have said, and I couldn’t agree more.
    One thing that ticks me off to no end is censorship of any kind including about things that make
    me uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean that others can’t enjoy reading those things regardless
    what I feel or think. It is the point that Paypal believes they have the right to examine what
    anyone purchases with their own money. Whose business is it anyway? They have violated
    individuals “PRIVACY” and violated peoples rights, and it is illegal and morally wrong in my book. I may be a reader, and I do purchase books from Bookstrand once in awhile because certain authors don’t sell anywhere else. If I had known that I would never have used Paypal, and instead would have used my credit card. Whatever hurts our authors hurts everyone as it a pathetic attempt to censor what we have the right to read. Shame on them.
    It is one step closer to our rights being stripped, and it simply infuriates me. I want my authors to
    write what they write and have the right to pursue their right to do so. If allowed to continue its
    another nail in the coffin so to speak, and it just gets me madder by the minute. So I’m going to
    re blog on my little place and pass this all on to others through Twitter and Facebook as well.
    You bet I will be writing a letter and they will hear many roar over this fatal misconception of
    what people will tolerate.
    Thank JS…love your letter..you’ve said it well indeed….*S*

    1. Hi, Darcy!
      Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed it!
      Voltaire wrote, “I may detest what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” Clearly, I’ve already proven this is not ALWAYS the case, but we as a society have a pretty good handle on acceptable versus not. Thank you so much for helping pass the word. The more people let them know that “legal” or not, we’re not going to put up with it, the more likely it is they’ll step off and let grown adults make their own decisions without having them intercede as self-proclaimed guardians of morality.

  13. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the laws in the US or what kind of ‘business’ Paypal is, but I know in Canada, if a bank decided to tell me where I could spend my money, and froze my money if I refused to comply, that would be illegal. Paypal has told consumers exactly that and is now telling Book Strand the same thing. Paypal isn’t a store that can say ‘We don’t want to sell those products’. They are telling other stores ‘You can’t sell those products or we won’t give you YOUR money’. Theft isn’t legal in the states, is it?

  14. I have posted on FB and sent an e-mai to that team-player what ever. This is part of Obama’s means of dismanteling the constitution. I am sure one of his “czars” was instructed to go after the means that transacts money for reading material. He already said , if re-elected, he would take away our guns. They all ready have this is in socialist countries like England and France- he will do it here. He is a Muslim-Jihadist bent on destroying this country from the inside out and so far he is doing a pretty good job of it. Look into his background and writings. The Quaran is very specific about erotica, as is sharia law. There is a lot more going on, that meets the eye.Its a shame people don’t see the real thing. Remember Rev. Wright and how the media squashed that. The recent lawsuit against him, because his father is not an American citizen, therefore he should NOT be president, according to the Constitution- the judge was quieted. Don’t say conspiracy theories- these are facts.

  15. I posted on FB and sent an e-mail to theadress posted. This is Obama or one of his czars going after the biggest money transactor for literature. He said he hates the Constitution; if re-elected he will take away our guns. Look back at Rev. Wright, the media squashed all that. The lawsuit where his father is not a US citizen,therefore he should NOT be president- the judge was silenced also. He is a Muslim and the Quaran and Sharia Law don’t allow for erotic writings. He is making us a socialist country like France and England. Beware becauset there is more going on that meets the eye. Don’t saythis is just a conspiracy theory. Look at the facts- it’s a shame people are so blinded and dependant on this nanny-state,with Barack as their savior.

    1. O_o
      You put me in a very interesting quandary, Suzanne. Do I approve this comment and prove I have the courage of my convictions, or do I deny it and respond privately?
      It’s YOUR opinion, and I can’t very well decry censorship in ANY form if I myself am prepared to engage in it.

      *I suppose this is as good a time as any to mention that the opinions expressed here are solely those of the individual commentators. Approving a comment for visibility on this blog should NOT be construed as agreement with the sentiments expressed therein, tacit or otherwise.

  16. I get that completely about the censorship bizo. I am a writer and have had issues getting certain titles of mine published due to the strongly worded and often raunchy titles. It annoys me I have to alter my work to suit the prudes of this world. It comes down as a violation of our freedom of speech and freedom of choice.
    I do not agree with PayPal doing what it did to you. How dare they tell you what you can and can’t purchase through them. They are not a moral compass that the universe must conform to.
    I can understand certain books stores censoring titles, (but then again, there are ways around almost everything). Hey, I guess it has to happen to the best of us.
    Don’t get mad, get even. I came across this post via facebook, so I guess your plight is on its way to going viral. Congratulations on spreading awareness of this issue! :)
    I hope PayPal takes heed and shoves their prying eyes along with it’s busybody nose where the sun don’t shine.Behaviour from PayPal like this is a breech of privacy.
    In this technological age, PayPal better beware someone don’t come along and create a better online banking network that will eclipse their prudish religious and opinionated censorship threats. Best of luck and in time, I hope someone serves PayPal an ice cold dish of their just desserts…

  17. PayPal has the right to decide for themselves a private company who they want to represent. I can’t see them taking peoples money or feeling their accounts.

    1. I wish I could say it doesn’t happen, but it does. Mine is just one of many such stories, and as such things go, my own experience really wasn’t that bad.
      What I find curious is, PayPal hasn’t said anything until just now. All of a sudden, they feel confident enough in their *phenomenal cosmic powers* to start leaning on Bookstrand. If they succeed here, they’ll move on to larger fish.

  18. J.S.
    I hate to pile on to comments already made. But, Pay-Pal has every right to choose what they want or don’t want to support. I would fight for their right to that freedom.
    That being said, I also believe you or any other author, me included, has the right to write whatever we want to. I would fight to keep that freedom also. If I wanted to write a story with the protagonist who is a child rapist and I could find someone stupid enough to publish it, then that should be my right. *spit* Sorry, had to get the taste of those words out of my mouth. But I do not believe that anyone should be forced to read or even see a book they are uncomfortable with. Some of us (me) have a very low resistance level to erotic thought and being an evangelical Christian it is a sin for me to think certain thoughts. But as I said you have the right to not only write it but have it sold on the free market. The way I fix that is if someone is selling that sort of thing, I don’t go there, that simple. Much like you suggest about Pay-Pal.
    Now that I have brought them into this, in today’s depressed economy it is my personal opinion that to restrict ANY form of revenue is financially horribly stupid. If I were a non-evangelical shareholder and found that they were turning down business, you can bet I would have a bunch to say. AS it is while I was doing some research about this I found they will not allow weapon or ammunition transactions. While I believe it is their right to do that, it is also my right to take my business elsewhere. I also do not shop stores that restrict conceal carry either.
    Just my two cents worth
    DMac

      1. Hi, Doug!
        Yes, one of the commentators yesterday mentioned that. I agree with you that people should have the right to express their thoughts as they wish. I also agree that if someone doesn’t like what’s on offer, they shouldn’t go there. We’ve already parsed the societal issue of what’s acceptable and otherwise, so with regards to my own feelings on the subject, I feel pretty secure in the stability of my footing.
        The interesting thing about the rights of the individual (or a company) is that those rights cease when they place the rights of others in jeopardy. PayPal, by creating a potential vacuum in payment methods and refusing to process certain transactions, is interfering with the rights of authors both here and abroad. They are not a storefront, but claim they have the right to interfere with the right of authors and businesses to decree what a given business can and cannot offer if they wish to have the payments processed by PayPal.
        If they don’t want my filthy lucre, then they don’t need my business. But if they’re willing to deprive authors or other businesses of their rights by word or action, PayPal clearly need to be put in its place.

  19. Reblogged this on Muse Ampoule and commented:

    Recently PayPal issued an ultimatum to Bookstrand which boils down to good old fashioned censorship. Read about it in J.S. Wayne’s post and if this strikes you as a cause to rally against, sign this petition: Sign this petition if your passionate against Paypal’s corporate censorship on works of fiction: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/7/stop-internet-censorship/

    Don’t hesitate to make your voice heard. If you think the censorship will stop with uncomfortable topics/genres, you’re wrong.

  20. I mentioned this at Renee Vickers post, and I’ll mention it here: I wonder if they’re banning transactions of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series, which features incestuous relationships among other things in the telling of the story. Seems like they’re targeting this particular publisher for an example maybe? Hypocrisy at its most potent form. I just signed the petition. Thanks for raising awareness of this troubling issue…

  21. Does anyone know if there is a law suit being brought against Paypal? this would seem like a good case for a good constitutional lawyer and a class action suit of the authors and publishers who are affected.
    MJB

  22. I agree what PayPal is doing is wrong, but it is not unconstitutional. They have not held a gun to anyone’s head to use their service. BookStrand could choose to use another service and so could consumers. The fact that no such service exists is irrelevant. Just as we as authors have the right to express ourselves as we see fit, so does PayPal have the right to decide what products can be purchased with their service. And conversely, we are writers have no guarantee that anyone will read us and PayPal has no guarantee anyone will continue to use their service. They can only enforce their will as far as others will allow. If other retailers tell PayPal to pound sand, they cannot enforce their will.

    There are many problems with this situation, but being unconstitutional is not one of them. You as a writer can still write whatever you like and you can even sell it. Those rights have not been violated. But you cannot force BookStrand or PayPal to do it for you. You have no right to put your work up for sale in any store, excepting one you open yourself. You have the right to free speech, but not the right to be heard and that is essentially what we are dealing with. Saying PayPal must accept your work no matter how they feel about it is unconstitutional. A writer cannot force anyone to sell or read their work against their will. That violates their freedoms.

    While I agree with the spirit of your argument, it is flawed. As I stated above, PayPal is wrong. Just because you can exercise power, does not mean you should. But it is morally wrong, not legally wrong. The difference between PayPal and the man from Germany one man reference in his comment is you and I and BookStrand can say no. Europe could not. Or to put it another way, PayPal may have BookStrand in a corner, they don’t have a gun to their head. Lets remember the difference. Acting like a fascist is one thing. Being one and rolling tanks into Poland is another.

    1. Hi, Marlene!
      You are, of course correct that PayPal’s TOS does afford them that right, and by entering into it, people agree to it. I know Mark Coker, the founder and CEO of Smashwords, is concerned about how this might affect other retailers who cater to indie authors and presses, such as his own. Renee Vickers said this best, in my opinion: “[When you] stifle conversation about the topics in question, you also stifle the conversation against them.”
      However, I don’t think the references to a certain German dictator are all that far off the mark, simply because he started out as a minor government functionary and began passing small-time legislation, much of it censorship-related, intended to “protect the German people and uphold the law.” The result, not too many years down the line?
      Tanks in Poland and Czechoslavakia. Jews, homosexuals, and political dissidents in extermination camps. The absolute crushing of all rights for the German people and a brand-new definition of fear and evil on Earth. A war that raged across the entire planet. Millions dead or permanently maimed. Once-proud capitol cities on three continents reduced to war zones.
      All under color of law.
      I’m not arguing that the two do or necessarily will equate in scale or ultimate outcome, but we as a people, a society, and a race have certainly learned that the more leverage we give to ANY entity that seeks to censor material, no matter how unpopular, the faster these bodies will act to assert more control. By giving them even this limited power, we effectively encourage them to pursue more of it. And who among us is willing to take the chance that our new would-be dictators will use this power any more wisely or benevolently than those who have preceded them?
      By making a strong stand now, when they are attacking the fringe as you so astutely noted in your blog, we can prevent further and more egregious forms of attack on our rights down the line.
      For those who are interested, you can read Marlene’s take on the situation here: http://marlenesexton.blogspot.com/2012/02/paypal-bookstrand-and-censorship.html/ Please note there are two parts, but she makes an excellent and succinctly worded argument!

      1. Thanks for the link to my site. I agree, no matter the legality or ethics involved, it is clear PayPal want to dictate what you and I can write and sell. What their specific agenda is I don’t know. Could be as simple as overzealous protection of their brand. On the other hand, it could be as sinister as some people suggest. In any case, we should speak out against it. Just because PayPal can do something doesn’t make it right or mean they should.

        For the record, I have ceased all business and personal relationships with BookStrand and PayPal. Money talks!

  23. Yeah, once again erotic writers find themselves in the sights of the newest trigger happy know-whats-best righteous do-gooder Bubble-Burster. But we should all be used to that. I knew these things would happen the moment I started writing erotic.

    I don’t censor myself. I write what feels hot to me, and the naughtier the better. I use words a lot of people can’t stand. My concepts are the type whispered about in dark corners. When people ask me what I write shortly after asking what I do, the looks range from secret intrigue to horror.

    So when I read another article where my vocation is damned–all I can say is “here we go again”.

    Now I’ll jump on the “down with censorship” band wagon and play a loud-assed trumpet. I will flip Pay Pal the finger and write an erotic tale that’ll make the execs blush and feel dirty just by reading the title, because it’s what I do.

    But one thing I won’t do, is worry.

    The entire world can prude-out and I’ll still have a fan base–even if it’s underground–because one thing is for certain: sex is a powerful, unstoppable urge. And when someone wants to read something hot as hell, in the realm of the forbidden to scratch an itch they can’t in the real world…they’ll find me, and any attempt to stop them is simply laughable.

    Let PayPal and Extremists stand on their soapbox trying to dictate to others what they can and can’t do. They preach to those who already believe as they do and people who never will, doing nothing to tilt the scale toward their single-minded ways. The rest of the world and I will be doing what we always do, waiting for the pressure of the do-gooders own denial to snap their secret seals and unfurl the truth of their fantasies. My work will be waiting for their consumption when that happens.

    The truth is, PayPal only denies themself revenue, because my books will sell regardless. If they don’t want a piece of it, someone else will. From the dawn of time one thing remains true: Where one man pulls out, another is ready to stick it in. Or maybe that’s just my newest Work In Progress.

    Thanks for the heads up, JS…now how’s about we start up a banking service for the industry? PornPal perhaps? ;)

    And thanks to all the responders, you have all made some great points about rights and the constitution. I enjoyed reading each side.

    Best,
    AyVee
    Allure Van Sanz

  24. Let me state up front that I’m NOT saying I support the effect of what PayPal did. On the contrary, I wish PayPal had not taken this move.

    Unfortunately, the issue isn’t censorship. (And believe me, I’m not on PayPal’s side, here, but there is a logical base to this.) As a business, PayPal is entitled to enforce their TOS. PayPal is beholden to MC, Visa, Amex, et al. because they’ve signed those TOS. MC, Visa, et al. have very strict requirements for businesses who deal with adult and digital material. If I’m not mistaken, any items in the adult categories on Ebay cannot be paid for with PayPal either. This is why so many adult businesses don’t use PayPal, and have to use other CC processors who have agreements with Visa, MC et al. about how they process high risk items that are very liable to chargeback.

    Businesses are not legislated by what they should sell, just by what they can’t. Just like you cannot force your local hardware store to carry a specific brand of plumbing products, PayPal opting to abide by the TOS they signed with MC and Visa isn’t censorship.

    Or think about it this way. Do you take your Chevy to a Ford dealership and claim censorship if they refuse to work on it? No, you take it to a Chevy dealership.

    The simple answer here? The businesses effected by this simply go use a different CC processing merchant that has working TOS agreements with Visa and MC that they can process adult/digital items. End of problem.

    PayPal isn’t a government institution. Therefore, they are not subject to any constitutionality regarding censorship. They are a private business not subject to freedom of speech laws. Honestly? I don’t want government regulating anything other than civil rights issues. That’s the same as saying you as a store owner don’t want to sell a certain product, but the government comes in and says, oh, sorry, that’s censorship. You HAVE to sell xyz product. See where I’m going with this?

    What has to be done is people must lobby local, state, and federal officials to change obscenity laws. They differ from locale to local because there is no real government umbrella of protection covering it. That’s why some businesses won’t ship via USPS (only UPS or FedEx) to certain states, because of more stringent enforcement of obscenity laws that can get them fined and/or jailed for shipping obscene materials over state lines via the US Mail. The Postmaster is used as a pawn to go after them.

    1. I agree with you to a point. (To see where that point is, tune in tomorrow when my next post is up.) But when the material in question is legal and used personally as intended, it changes the game. If Bookstrand chooses not to carry certain titles, that’s fine. If they don’t want certain covers on their site, again, fine. If a reader decides they don’t like what they see and don’t buy those books, cool. But, as I point out tomorrow, PayPal refusing to process adult-oriented material that’s not illegal or restricted on any other basis is like my wallet refusing to open when I go to the Seven-Eleven to buy condoms.
      The fact is, by PayPal taking money and then confiscating it in this manner and for these reasons, they’ve MADE it a civil rights issue. That’s the basis of my stance on this. And I agree with you: There needs to be another means of processing adult-oriented payments so this ceases to be an issue. In the meantime, PayPal’s the megalith who’s calling the shots, and other megaliths are calling their shots. So those are the people we need to let know that we’re not going to put up with this.
      Just my own personal, as always. That and $5 will buy you coffee at Starbucks. :)
      Thanks for coming by!

      1. I see no one’s hitting on the point that Paypal is a DEBIT SERVICE primarily. So, to be accurate, their TOS s are telling me what I may purchase with MY funds in their possession, a service I pay them to provide. This has to do with obscenity laws. It also has everything to do with anti-trust laws.

        I’ve dealt with these bad boys before, as an eBay seller. The line their pockets by seizing funds over some questionable purchase or a disputed charge by a consumer, and hold far more than the dispute amount, collecting the interest.

        They did not wake up one day and decide to use their TOS to make the world a better place, they saw an emerging e-population which was making money and had no organization, and said “Oh, look,lambs to shear.”

        I blogged on this topic as well, and I would love permission to link back to your post on mine, :)

      2. Hi, Eden!
        Yes, of course you can link back. I stated that very explicitly in the original post, but I certainly don’t mind saying it again. :) After the way PayPal treated me while I was a customer, they pretty well signed the death warrant for that relationship.
        As I mentioned to Remittance Girl, people are looking for other ways to perform online financial transactions without PayPal. This is all to the good. When PayPal realizes they’re losing business, then they’ll either get on board or fold. Either way, I don’t feel the need to give my business to any company that claims they can use my funds for their own ends at any time with no recourse. And you are, of course, correct. They made it very easy to get in, hard to get out, and in the meantime, God help you if you don’t play ball.
        Until everyone takes their balls and starts playing on another playground, that is. :D
        Thanks for dropping in!

    2. They have a monopoly, just like Ebay by the way.

      The problem is that they pushed all other non-CC-card payment solutions against the wall, squashed them with the help of mothership Ebay and now rule the dunghead uncontended.

      Customers outside the USA don’t readily use CCs (I don’t and won’t), US sellers don’t do bank drafts for no fees as European banks for instance do, any transferral of money without a CC or Paypal tends to cost in the region of 20-30 $$ the TRANSFER FEE ONLY!

      That’s why people use Paypal and why Paypal is so utterly happy to have its monopoly. Without Paypal I will be reduced to buying exclusively via Amazon, because they do bank drafts. Now, which authors and which books don’t get published via Amazon? Your bad luck then…

  25. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of Censorship And PayPal: UnConstitutional and WRONG J.S. Wayne . Thanks for the post. I will definitely comeback.

  26. Okay, I feel I should say something here. A lot of people are saying this isn’t censorship, and that’s true in a legal sense. However, what they are doing isn’t just attempting to censor content they don’t approve of. They are also discriminating against businesses. Let’s look at this from the point of view that we aren’t talking about pseudo-incest books, but potato chips. Now let’s say PayPal decided that full fat potato chips were bad for your health, so they decide to disallow them to be sold through their service. Fine, you might say. Chip makers could sell through other means. But what if Visa and MC decided they too would not allow full fat potato chips to be sold? Those companies that make the bulk of their money selling full fat potato chips would be destroyed.

    The courts would have a field day with that. Companies, private or otherwise, can’t set out to destroy an entire industry because of their own moral judgment calls. And that is exactly what is happening here. Look at cigarettes. Visa or MC could just decide cigarettes are on their list of prohibited items, but what would the repercussions be? Public outcry? Yep. Boycotts? You betcha. Court cases? Undoubtedly.

    But because these are just “lowly” erotic stories, they think they can get away with it. Forget the fact that sex between two consenting adults is legal in almost every circumstance. They think they can do this based purely on some puritanical moral judgment call, and it’s wrong.

    So, fine. Maybe it’s not technically unconstitutional from a censorship standpoint. But what they are doing is anti-competitive. It’s suppressing someone’s business and product simply because they don’t like it. And that is almost definitely something that could be fought in court. You know darned well King Tobacco would fight it out there if it came down to this happening to them!

  27. Being the first in the line of fire, PayPal suspended Bookstrand without notice, their funds confiscated. PayPal went to excessica next, but maybe because of public outcry, instead of immediate suspension, they gave them 30 days to clean up their site. PayPal probably gave All Romance 30 days also before they will get suspended too if they don’t comply. Or maybe with what had happened to Bookstrand, excessica and All Romance cleaned out their PayPal accounts to leave nothing for PayPal to confiscate the day they come knocking. So keep on cleaning out your PayPal balance every day because if you built enough in there, PayPal will freeze it. There’s nothing like the threat of your business coming to a halt unable to process payments to get these businesses to take action the way PayPal wants. That is just plain abuse of power. Who’s next? Smashwords? Seems like Barnes & Noble uses PayPal as an otpion to process transactions. Will PayPal go after Barnes & Noble?

  28. Dear Indie Author,

    We have made a decision to no longer maintain most indie author accounts at BookStrand.com. Therefore, we are deactivating all titles associated with your account and no new uploads will be accepted. Your final distribution payment will be disbursed to you within 30 days and your account will be closed. During this time you will still be able to access your sales report from your account.

    BookStrand will focus on its core business by servicing accounts of publishers with clear submission and publishing guidelines that best serve our targeted audience. Our customer base was successfully built on this premise, and it’s time to go back to our roots.

    While we understand you may be disappointed in losing a distribution outlet for your work, there are still several outlets that currently accept self-published titles. We wish you the best in your endeavors.

    Sincerely,
    Howie M.
    BookStrand.com

    1. *Whistles*

      If Bookstrand, as a distributor, elects not to carry certain titles or to work with indies, that is unfortunate. But it is their right. The crux of the problem was PayPal’s pressure, and clearly it’s working, but regrettably, at this point, there’s not much to be done. All-Romance Ebooks appears to be going down the same road. I project it’s only a matter of time (like days) before Amazon institutes the same policies. Mark Coker at Smashwords has expressed his concerns about this, which may not be entirely a bad thing for the indie author; after all, Smashwords can be assumed to have a certain amount of clout and as more indies turn to Smashwords, this will only continue to grow.
      Sadly, so too will the ability of PayPal and major credit card companies to dictate what ebook sellers can and cannot sell.
      I honestly don’t know what else remains to be said.

  29. I signed and spoke my peace. I still believe that those that continue to remain silent and assume that this will a foregone conclusion will suffer in the end. If they silence one group it has a very serious domino effect, and it will hurt us all in the long run.

    Darcy
    Pommawolf Wolfweep’s Johnson

    1. Thank you, Darcy. :) I appreciate your support and your help in this.
      I’m going to take a couple of badly needed days off and recharge my batteries, so any pending comments will be moderated upon my return.
      At this point, all I can say is “Good luck, everyone.” Hopefully, we’ll get our point across in a way that cannot be ignored.

  30. Here’s what gets me about this, Game of Thrones is loaded with incest, underage sex and rape. I don’t see PayPal making Amazon and B&N take that book down. A LOT of books portray these things. And the bestiality one apparently applies to werewolves in wolf form, which is beyond stupid. Are they making any kind of distinction between standard fiction that portrays these acts and erotica? Not that I support it either way mind you, but it would be interesting if a book like the BIBLE could get pulled because it depicts these acts as well. I mean come on folks.

    I personally think it’s a hit against self e publishing by the brick and mortar publishers. They want to sell ebooks at insane, one dollar less than the physical copy prices, and self publishers undercut that big time. Just my two cents.

  31. Excellent post, Wayne. I’ve been reading up on this all day and yours is the first I’ve seen that’s gone into the Constitution. I’ve linked and quoted you on my blog: http://eripike.blogspot.com/2012/02/erotic-censorship-and-home-for-homeless.html

    You might be interested to know that No Boundaries Press is now accepting the homeless, “questionable” titles that were pulled off the shelves onto their vendor site. Their offer sounds very reasonable. I hope more will put up a fight :)

    1. I’ve been monitoring this for most of the week, and was glad to see NBP taking a proactive stance on the issue. I see a lot to fear here, especially if it’s not checked quickly.
      Also, I saw your link back and quote on your blog. Excellent post, by the way! :) I’ll be linking to that on Monday, if you don’t mind. :)

    2. Regarding the commentors mentioning NPB.

      I have been reading sbout them and there seems to be some question concerning the, uh, consistency with which certain individuals have related to (or retaliated against, according to some sources) certain other members of the community.

      I do not know the details if the sutuations in question, but each individual must research and make an informed choice.

      Like everything in life there are two sides to every story and everyone has their quirks. I pray the suggestion of unprofessionalism and impropriety by certain persons is unfounded, but I remain cautious of putting all my eggs in one basket, so to speak.

      Until someone nuts up and sues the monopoly in question (which behaves in everyway but name as a banking institution), each new opportunity will meet a similar fate. The financial part will forever have someone high in the ivory tower concerned that annonymous will create havoc again.

      Last time it was state secrets… this time it’s erotica.

      I am of the opinion that the main-stream publishing houses have something to fo with this.

      So, until things change, I continue to write prolificaly and diversify my portfolio of works just as I do my retirement funds.

      That way I don’t get nailed in the end just because someone’s teenage son (or daughter) stole their credit card and bought porn.

      This is all misdirection, folks. Slight of hand. Who is the real puppet-master? What are they really after? And who profits from it all?

      Money. Show me the money…

      1. BTW, typing on a phone creates more errors than autocorrect can possibly fix. So please excuse mu mistyping.

  32. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this admirable post.

    I see this trend as something truly horrific. A way for private corporations with political agendas to circumvent free speech laws by closing up every platform available on which to make the works available.

    I could understand if any given publisher did not want to publish a text. I could understand a retail outlet deciding this was something they did not want to sell. But when the provider of financial transaction services can effectively gag a whole set of erotica sub-genres, this is truly evil. Because perhaps they haven’t banned your kink today, but what about tomorrow. When, historically, did any entity with this much power use it wisely?

    I shall be moving my novel, Gaijin, out from under the Erotica genre (where I could tag it and provide warnings of its content) and into Literary Fiction (where adults are expected to simply put down a book that offends them), because although it does contain rape, and that rape might be read as titillating, it is also a metaphor for how people violate each others’ cultures.

    I’m lucky. I can do this. My readers will still find my work. But what about other writers? I can’t honestly say that I go for sexing up a horse myself, but how many of those novels have the ‘offensive’ bits as simply a small part of a larger, well-written, compellingly told story?

    And what if it’s simply an ‘I Did Stepdad’ story? It might not be to your taste or mine, but who are we to judge whether people have the right or not to consume perfectly LEGAL fiction?

    And when will Paypal decide to find fictional accounts of hardcore consensual BDSM offensive? Pretty soon, I imagine. There’s absolutely no one to stop them.

    1. Hi, Remittance Girl!
      First, I wanted to compliment you on your post concerning Mark Coker as well. I couldn’t think of a single thing to add to the commentary, which was excellent, so I just lurked. :)
      My fear is, okay, they’re attacking the stuff that no “sane” person would want to read anyway, at least by their lights. People are always uncomfortable when shades of gray get introduced, so they try to put bright lines around where it stops and starts to make the demarcations clearer. But when PayPal says that BDSM is tantamount to rape regardless of setting or circumstances, they can’t be far from banning more mainstream content that will affect publishers and authors of every stripe and size. This also tells me they have no knowledge of the complex relationship a loving, secure, healthy BDSM dynamic entails, including safe words and the responsibilities of both the dom and the sub.
      I know there are several indie authors and a handful of small presses getting together to find ways to block PayPal’s interference, and the stats on the petition since Smashwords gave in to PayPal reflect the anger and fear many readers and authors feel. At last count, we’re over six hundred signatures and growing fast. I expect within the next couple of days, we will reach 1k signatures.
      However: What PayPal has also done by making such a ham-handed power grab is motivate others to seek out new ways to pay for products and services over the Internet that don’t carry the same restrictions. A credit system for individual sites is one concept I’ve seen mulled over again and again lately, and I don’t think that’s a bad idea. That puts the power and the choice back in the consumer’s hands, rather than PayPal’s.
      Which, to my way of thinking, is a VERY good thing.
      Thanks so much for weighing in! I’ll have more tomorrow, and with your permission, I’d like to link back to your post. :)

      1. “they have no knowledge of the complex relationship a loving, secure, healthy BDSM dynamic entails”

        I get the feeling that we aren’t dealing with ‘subtle’ minds when it comes to PayPal.

        I am quite sure this will force the evolution of other payment strategies. Ultimately, the market will have what the market wants. But this sort of corporate power – what we have seen exercised here – is significant and has far, far reaching implications for how they will manipulate the availability of information on the web in the future.

        I had a sense this would happen when they refused to take Wikileaks donations and when Amazon stopped hosting them. Many people may have read that as an act of national solidarity and applauded it. But when that happened, I knew we were in for a rather dark time. The minute corporations begin to act ‘politically’ instead of as evenhanded providers of a service to anyone who could pay, was the minute I knew we were well down the slippery slope towards a brave new world.

        I’m quite sure we will see further attempts to ‘marginalize’ what mainstream society feels are negative and transgressive elements.

        I look forward to your next post.

  33. Two separate precedents related to this incident that no one has mentioned:

    1. Paypal has done this before on a smaller scale.

    Pro-censorship groups succeeded in pressuring the blog/journal/diary site LiveJournal to ban without warning many groups and individuals using pedophiles as the bogyman.

    Later, blog/journal/diary site DreamWidth came under attack by similar groups. http://www.dreamwidth.org/legal/principles Check out their point under “Freedom”. Because they would not respond to direct attacks, pro-censorship groups were forced to attack them through their income, which was processed by PayPal at that time.

    DW refused to comply to PayPal’s demands for censorship and PayPal cut them off. DW survived the lean times with the support of their community and found another method of processing payments. I would suggest that any business having difficulty because of this might do well to contact them for further information on how they weathered PayPal’s denial of service and who they use now.

    2. As for whether PayPal can legally do this:

    While PayPal is not the government and hence not bound by the restrictions of the Constitution in the same way, there is legal precedent for forcing a business to do business even with those they would rather not.

    Signs reading “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” used to be common in businesses. In reality, this meant that African-Americans were not welcome. Integrating dining establishments that had previously refused to serve African-Americans (“Sit-ins” at lunch counters) was a key part of the Civil Rights movement.

    As sexual preference is a protected category in some states, much in the same way as race is a protected category now, that might be a workable approach to a legal challenge to PayPal’s censorship policies.

    On the other hand, questioning the legality of freezing already held assets and possibly refusing to release them could be interpreted as theft or something of that kind. The second approach might work better, as it would apply to all states and not be dealing with the likely uphill fight to get BDSM and various fantasies counted as sexual preferences legally, which would be a major precedent.

    I would be thrilled to see such a precedent set, but it seems very unlikely for it to happen at this time.

    1. Hi, Isaac!
      Can’t give ‘em an inch, or they’ll take a mile. That’s the moral of this story. The worst part is, they’re using their own customers’ money as a prod and earning interest on it while they do. So they get the best of both worlds and we get the shaft.
      It’s infuriating, but I think they’re pretty clear on the fact that customers aren’t going to continue to put up with this. Enough people can see which way the wind’s blowing to ensure it.

      1. I thought that the DreamWidth incident would be enough of a warning. People in the kinky blog community and fanfic communities were definitely aware of it.

        It has occurred to me that it is possible that PayPal is responding to pressure from pro-censorship groups again or trying to avoid further harassment from them.

        I can only hope that this incident will be enough to inspire an enterprising person to start an alternative service. I’d consider it myself if I was in a place to acquire that much start-up capital. More players in the game will be better for customers on all fronts.

  34. I suggest we start a viral campaign with the slogan ‘PayPal: if you can’t afford to lo$e it, don’t use it’ They make a big play in their ads about how safe your money is with them and how trustworthy their service is, then that is the place to attack.

    1. Hi, Essemoh!
      I have to say, that’s not a bad thought. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I like it. I’ll be interested to see what comments come across about this…
      Thanks for dropping in!

  35. Smashwords has been attacked by this as well —- and then I heard about VISA making a similar assault – they actually search for the word “gunshot” and banned it. Writing to the wrong people. ASLU and your representative and senator need to be barraged.

    1. Make no mistake, the ACLU, Better Business Bureau, and my elected representatives have been or are in the process of being advised. This absurdity has to stop, and it starts by EVERYONE this affects making a stand.

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