I wrote last week about the conflict between e-publisher Smashwords and PayPal over the publishing of erotica on the Smashwords site. Under pressure from credit card companies, PayPal had indicated that it may no longer be able to offer its services to Smashwords due to conflict over content: an announcement that, not surprisingly, raised some serious questions about banks attempting to get into the censorship business.
After weeks of negotiation, PayPal has agreed to revise its policies and allow their commercial relationship with Smashwords to continue without restricting the publication of legal fiction.
As Mark Coker wrote yesterday in an email to Smashwords authors:
This is a big, bold move by PayPal. It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction. It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction.
Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors. Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies?...
...This is a bright day for indie publishing. In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit. Today, thanks to the rise of indie ebooks, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish. Merit is decided by your readers. Just as it should be.
Smashwords are to be applauded for their handling of this. From what I've seen of the reporting on the issue, Smashwords have worked from the outset to seek a positive outcome with PayPal without getting sucked into the anti-PayPal backlash and calls for Smashwords to simply walk away. Similarly they have worked to understand issues surrounding erotica in all its colourful shapes and forms. This is a great outcome for readers, writers and publishers.
Photo credit: dan