Paypal’s Battle with Independent Erotica Publishers

Ebooks and epublishing have made it easier than ever before for anyone to publish their words, whether they are high fantasy novels, business guides or information on Ocoee rafting and Ocoee river sports. However, you might be surprised to know there is a thriving market for self-published erotica ebooks.


Perhaps it is the fact that eReaders make it easy to conceal just what it is you’re reading or maybe we are simply becoming less inhibited, but either way, many people are making good money writing erotica.

What was the Situation?

Paypal is one of the most common methods for accepting payment for such stories and paying of royalties to authors. Late February 2012 saw that many of the marketplaces where these erotic stories are sold had to place stricter criteria on the kinds of erotic stories they would accept for sale due to Paypal clamping down.

Threatening the distributors with the suspension of their Paypal accounts meant that ebook distributors, such as Smashwords, had to immediately change their terms and conditions, asking authors to take down works which violated Paypal’s conditions – no works could be sold that included rape, incest or bestiality.

What was the Response?

Unfortunately, Paypal’s new terms were not very specific, leading to much confusion and worry. While Paypal cited legal concerns, their prohibition on material that contained descriptions of bestiality, incest and rape would have prevented the sale of much fully legal material.

Paypal justified their action by saying that such ebooks often contained images, however many writers pointing out that a restriction on images did not necessitate a restriction on the written word.

Seeing this policy as a crack-down on free speech and sexual liberty, many erotica writers, as well as The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the National Coalition Against Censorship launched a campaign against Paypal in the first week of March.

What was the Resolution?

By the second week of March 2012, Paypal had rolled back on its earlier policy. Rather than issuing a blanket ban on certain types of content, they altered their policy to be more specific, targeting images that are illegal rather than simply fictional descriptions.

In addition, they will notify distributors of books that are concerning, allowing both the author and the distributor to defend themselves before their account is affected.

Regardless of your view on the morality of erotic content, this is clearly a victory of free speech. While Paypal’s actions were not technically censorship, as a virtual monopoly in online payments, their actions could have seriously infringed upon free expression. What they ban today could be expanded tomorrow.

It can be a slick slide down to further censorship. In this situation, it just goes to show that online campaigns can be successful. But for now, you may want to go back to reading about Ocoee rafting.

About the author


I am Vishal Gaikar, Engineer, Web Addicted, Living in Maharastra, India. Email Me @ vishal@techbucket.org

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