PayPal backs off ebook censorship

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PayPal, the online payment service, is apparently pulling back from its hard-line ban on processing the sales of ebooks containing themes of rape, bestiality or incest.

According to mid-week reports, PayPal’s revised ban will apply only to potentially illegal images and text-only ebooks containing child pornography themes. In addition, the focus will be on individual books rather than entire classes of books.

Earlier this year, PayPal warned some ebook publishers and distributors that it would “limit” their PayPal accounts unless they removed offerings “containing themes of rape, incest, bestiality and underage subjects.”

The policy was criticized by the Authors Guild, the National Coalition Against Censorship and others, which voiced concern that banks and payment companies may be exerting too much control over what books can be written, published and read.

PayPal had told ebook distributors earlier this year that the original policy was put in place partly because the banks and credit card companies it works with restrict such content. Major credit card companies denied, however, that they would apply such restrictions to lawful material that seeks to explore erotica in a fictional or educational manner.

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