A development in the ongoing story about PayPal and requirements it made on e-book distributors to remove certain kinds of erotica from their catalogs: there are signs the eBay-owned company could be preparing to reverse its position as early as this week, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The digital rights group has been among those meeting with the payments company in recent weeks, as part of a process to get PayPal to reconsider its decision. The last meeting between the EFF and PayPal was on Friday, and its activism director, Rainey Reitman, told TechCrunch that she left with a “good feeling,” with PayPal’s general counsel indicating that they would be “discussing it internally and might even be able to make a public statement in the next week.”
The EFF, she notes, specifically has requested that PayPal “update their policy so that this type of legal fiction would not be affected.”
The news — or potential news — caps off a tumultuous few weeks for the payments company over its role in deciding what content is appropriate or not to sell via its payment system.
The story started in February, when PayPal issued a mandate to e-book distributors requiring them to remove from their catalogs erotica that contained references to bestiality, rape and incest — or else face a ban on doing business with PayPal. (I wrote about it early on here.)
Mark Coker, owner of one of the sites affected, Smashwords, disagreed with the mandate but also noted that his hands were tied with complying:
“It is with some reluctance that I have made the decision to prohibit incest-themed erotica at Smashwords,” he wrote at the time in an open letter to Smashwords’ partners.
That’s because PayPal plays such a big role in how the company is run: it’s used not only for book purchases, but it’s also how he pays authors, Coker told me today.
Coker also told me that in fact less than one percent, 1,000 books, of his company’s catalog were affected, but that such mandates on what is essentially legal fiction (even it’s not your own cup of tea) is a “slippery slope.”
And it turned out that the issue became a slippery slope in itself, with the news then getting picked up by Reuters, Forbes and a number of other blogs. The EFF, meanwhile, launched a letter-writing service to protest what it described as “holding free speech hostage by clamping down on sales of certain types of erotica.” ...
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