Payment service provider PayPal has announced a new speech-friendly policy for online book sales, reversing plans to shut off payment processing to publishers of certain forms of erotic literature.
"Free speech in the 21st Century depends on a chain of electronic service providers, and financial services like PayPal play a critical role in the unfettered exchange of information and ideas in the digital world," said Rainey Reitman, Activism Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "We are so glad that PayPal has clarified its policy, and won't interfere with lawful access to legal content."
EFF joined the National Coalition Against Censorship, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ACLU of California and other groups in calling on PayPal to support free speech after online publishers and retailers - including Book Strand, Smashwords, and eXessica - were notified that their accounts would be closed unless they stopped selling any erotic books containing descriptions of rape, incest, and bestiality. In an open letter to PayPal, the coalition told the company that this would severely restrict the public's access to a wide range of legal material.
Today, PayPal announced that it would focus its policy on e-books that contain potentially illegal images under U.S. law - not on text-only descriptions. Also, PayPal says it will no longer demand that publishers remove all books in a category. Instead, it will identify specific books that might violate the law, and give the site operator or author opportunity to respond and challenge the notice.
"The Internet cannot be a true global forum for expression if private companies that provide communication and payment services operate as morality police," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "The Internet is a global forum where ideas can be freely aired, exchanged, and criticized. We're especially pleased that PayPal will only target specific works and not entire websites."
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