In a victory for free speech, PayPal today announced plans to revise their content policies to allow Smashwords writers full freedom to publish and sell legal ebooks.
I met with PayPal at their offices yesterday in San Jose. They outlined their proposed policy changes for me. I was impressed.
This is a victory for all writers and readers. It removes credit card companies, banks and payment processors from the business of censoring legal fiction. It creates a new precedent that should allow other payment processors who have previously discriminated against legal fiction to relax their policies.
It will make more fiction more available to more readers. It gives writers greater freedom to express themselves. It gives readers more freedom to decide what they want to experience in the privacy of their own imagination.
If you haven't followed the Paypal censorship saga, you can see how the campaign developed by reading my email dispatches to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers. They're archived in the Smashwords Press Room (see PayPal #1, #2, #3, #4, #5).
When I received the first email from PayPal February 18 with the ultimatum to remove certain erotica content or face loss of PayPal services at Smashwords, my first inclination was to try to limit the damage so we could protect mainstream erotica from further censorship incursion. Thanks to the outpouring of opposition to these policies, I saw an opportunity to make PayPal our partner in a greater campaign to protect all legal fiction from censorship.
Credit for this breakthrough goes to the indie author community who made phone calls, wrote letters and emails, blogged and tweeted; bloggers who raised visibility of the issue; advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) who were the first to stand up for our authors; mainstream media who raised visibility of the story to greater levels; and last but not least, PayPal. PayPal worked with us in the spirit of partnership to understand the issues, understand Smashwords and how we represent a new model for publishing outside the traditional gatekeeping system, and to understand that fiction is fiction and literary merit should be determined by readers.
I'm sending out an email today to all Smashwords authors and publishers with more details and thanks. An archived version is in the Smashwords press room here.