This news came to me Friday night by way of a friend, who heard about it from an author loop that was sourced by one blog. So if that’s not a complicated bit of tracking, I don’t know what is. The point I’m making before I dive in is that this is hearsay and opinion for the time being. But, as past encounters have shown, problems with PayPal are heating up, and something is going to happen. How it impacts, well, that has yet to be shown.
The following is an email I’ve found in several blogs recently, so I’m not citing any particular one, but I’ll do my best to link to various parties below should someone want to delve into this further. The gist is that PayPal will not allow purchases of content they consider questionable, and are pressuring book sellers to discontinue many titles until they can comply with the requirements.
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.
The "forbidden content" rules include:
Pedophilia in any size, shape, or form.
Any form of sex with minors or any character under eighteen years old.
Sex with a young character still in high school or using variations of "teenager" or "barely turned" 18 or 19 for sexual titillation.
Hatred for characters based on race/ethnicity or religion.
Hatred or bashing of gays/lesbians.
Titles with covers that show male or female genitalia, butt cracks, or the female nipple.
Any combination of incest or sexual acts involving an immediate family member.
Pseudo incest or sexual acts with parents or siblings ("step" or "foster") for the purposes of titillation.
Rape for the purposes of titillation.
Scenes of non-consensual bondage or non-consensual sado-masochistic practices.
Bestiality with naturally occurring animals.- Sex with non-animated corpses.
Scat play (sexual acts involving urination and defecation).
Harmful content such as instructions on how to make a bomb, etc.
Now, most of this if you interpret it as it states, honestly doesn’t infringe with current standards of publishing. One of the problems is that, to my knowledge thus far, this message was sent to self-published authors only. There isn’t an editor checking and double checking what they are, and are not allowed to publish, according to their publisher. That seems a little shady to me. Anywhere that includes the ‘etc.’ also worries me. There’s no clear cut extension of what is and is not allowed.
[Update] I have heard of one publisher running into issues with the PayPal debacle. It’s specific to what they publish, which does seem to cross some of the TOS boundaries that PayPal has set up.
I think what bothers me the most is that this is PayPal we’re talking about. The company that is owned by eBay, not a bank, and has historically gone to a lot of effort to establish that PayPal is not a bank. They’re a card processing service. A middle man. Not that I want to buy anything with scat play involved, but why should the middle man tell me what I can and cannot purchase?
For some instances, the sale of some products is banned by state or country. Okay, I understand. But in this day and age, we’re going through a lot of unrest about the rights of same sex couples. What if the middle man decides that m/m, f/f and poly relationships aren’t allowed either? I know of a wonderful woman who is a licensed sexologist that has written a very informational book about BDSM, and was told by PayPal they would not approve her account. Alternative lifestyles that include kink have been targeted in this mess, and books containing BDSM content are also not going to be allowed to be purchased through PayPal. I don’t understand why the middle man is saying what we can and cannot purchase. How far is this going to go, until we see things being boxed in?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t police the content of the books being sold. Honestly, I agree that books featuring pedophilia and bestiality should not be allowed, as well as many other things. I totally support books with names like, "Daddy’s Little Anal Slut," being taken off the market. I’m one of the people who has been unhappy with those kinds of titles popping up when I go to online retailers. We’ve reached a point where anyone can publish anything. And while yes, fiction is fantasy, there’s got to be a line drawn somewhere. If you want to write about a fantasy that’s an extreme taboo like that, well, it’s not my place to say don’t write it, but I don’t want it shelved in my romance category, because it’s not romance.
All of this mess is slinging more mud on the romance category. Yes, I’ll admit that as a genre, the authors and readers are hugely vocal. We carry our stereotype around like a cross and get upset when someone steps on our toes. But titles like, "Gangbang in the Cooler," are not romance. Those aren’t even poly relationships. It’s written porn. I believe others have called it stroke material. I’m upset that the inclusion of it into the romance genre hurts what I write and how I am perceived.
There has been some point made that PayPal is merely enforcing their TOS, and that the terms are there to protect their users from credit card fraud. Supposedly most credit card information is stolen via porn website transactions. I have no idea if this is a valid point or not, but it seems shaky ground to stand on to force a respectable book seller to take content down.
Now, with all of this said, the only bit of this that could impact me would be the bit about the covers. My latest release has a good deal of side boob. It’s obvious her areola has been airbrushed out. I’m okay with that, it’s still just side boob, but what if they decide that it’s not okay? Where does that leave me? I don’t know. So, here’s to a rocky Monday with a stormy forecast for the rest of the week, huh?
Here are a few other blogs that have discussed this issue. There are undoubtedly many more that will go up this week.
The Naughty Bits (an unsympathetic and well articulated post)