LawFuel.com – PayPal’s request to certain publishers to remove books that contain what PayPal considers “obscene” themes could be challenged legally according to some sources.
PayPal,which is the online payments arm of eBay Inc, has sparked controversy in the publishing world by asking some e-book distributors to ban books that contain such themes as rape, bestiality or incest.
Reuters report that PayPal sent an email on Feb 18 to Mark Coker, founder of e-book publisher and distributor Smashwords, saying it would “limit” the company’s PayPal account unless Smashwords removed from its website e-books “containing themes of rape, incest, beastiality and underage subjects.”
PayPal sent similar warnings to online publishers and booksellers including BookStrand.com and eXcessica, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit that supports free speech, privacy and other individual rights in the digital world.
A PayPal spokesman confirmed that the company sent such notifications to companies but declined to identify specific recipients.
EFF and other groups including the Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the Association of American Publishers are planning to send a letter to PayPal on Wednesday asking the company to reverse its policy.
PayPal “is now holding free speech hostage by clamping down on sales of certain types of erotica,” the groups said, according to a draft of the letter sent to Reuters. “We strongly object to PayPal functioning as an enforcer of public morality and inhibiting the right to buy and sell constitutionally protected material.”
PayPal said it was acting in part because banks and credit card companies it works with restrict such content, according to an email PayPal sent to Smashwords on February 24. Reuters obtained copies of the emails.
“Our banking partners and credit card associations have taken a very strict stance on this subject matter,” PayPal said in the February 24 email. “Our relationships with the banking partners are absolutely critical in order to provide the online and mobile services we (offer) … to our customers. Therefore, we have to remain in compliance with their rules, which prohibit content involving rape, bestiality or incest.”
The move has caused an uproar in the publishing world, which is concerned that banks and credit card companies may be exerting too much control over what books can be written, published and read.
Whether legal moves are taken to challenge PayPal’s move remains to be seen, but the current controversy has a way to run before PayPal necessarily gets what it wants.