Yesterday, Anuj Nayar, Director of Communications at PayPal issued the following statement about its recent moves to force eBook sellers to stop carrying erotic books containing descriptions of incest, bestiality, rape or underage sex. For copyright reasons, I do not reproduce the whole of the statement here. Please take the time to read it all at the link above.
I tried to post my reply to Mr. Nayar in the ‘comments’ area but received this message: “A username and password are being requested by https://www.thepaypalblog.com. The site says: “Access restricted to authorized personnel only“
So, not finding anyway to join the blog and post a comment, and not being ‘authorized personnel’, I post my response to Mr. Nayar below:
Thank you for issuing this statement, Mr. Nayar. However, I take some issue with your defense of your actions.
First, I would like you to define what YOU consider ‘extreme’ in fiction. It is a subjective term at the best of times. Would the destruction of whole planets be ‘extreme’? I suggest you consider banning sci-fi. Would the murder and evisceration of a series of women be ‘extreme’? Then I think you must refuse to sell any non-fiction or fictionalized versions of the Jack the Ripper story.
Your second defense is that many of these ebooks contain pictures. This, sir, is patently untrue. The vast majority of the books which have been affected by PayPal’s actions have nothing more than a cover. If PayPal objected to the explicitness of the covers, then that should have been what it asked eBook sellers to change!
And what puts your statement in grave doubt is that your company has not cut off services to comic book and graphic novels online sellers or game sellers which DO have images!
Your third defense is that these books blur the lines between fiction and non-fiction. You already process sales on thousands of true-crime titles! Books published under the erotica genre are BY DEFINITION FICTION. And as gullible as you appear to believe some readers are, I put it to you that it would take a person of subnormal intellect to believe that a paranormal romance story between a woman and a werewolf might, in any way, be non-fiction.
What is your criticism? That fiction writers write too realistically? It is the aim of every good fiction writer to engage the reader’s suspension of disbelief and this is done by weaving realism into the fictional story. The fact that you seem unaware of this only speaks to exactly why PayPal does not have the experience or the expertise to judge literary content.
Beyond that, regardless of whether a book is fiction or non-fiction, it enjoys the same status of legality under the law. So your defense is not legal, sir. It is patronizing in assuming that your customers – readers – cannot tell the difference between fiction and reality. Textual descriptions, whether of fictional or non-fictional situations, are NOT REAL. They are words on the page or on the screen. They are IDEAS not ACTS. Ideas are not, as yet, illegal.
Furthermore, your account of your actions is disingenuous. You DID threaten and bully ebooksellers into complying with your demands and gave almost no time in which to do it.
You allude to your legal ‘risk’. But in fact, you offer no proof at all of how you were ever legally at risk and I contend that you have hyperbolized your risk in the service of explaining your deplorable actions.
You protest that your actions were not based on moralistic grounds, but in fact your actions had that effect. Furthermore they had the effect of primarily targeting women, writing for women, about women’s sexual fantasies. It was not only moralistic, but it was discriminatory. The fact that you didn’t ‘mean’ it to be is of little consequence.
No one could blame PayPal for being cautious to ensure it is not involved in the transfer of monies for illegal goods. But this action, sir, has no grounding in any real legal risk. And therefore, intelligent people can only interpret it as the imposition of a moral paradigm by a financial transaction processor onto the whole of online literature.