So, apparently PayPal is incapable of learning their lesson.
I hadn’t entered this crazy genre last spring when PayPal attempted to strong-arm booksellers like SmashWords into censoring the content they sell or face losing their accounts. After a couple weeks of furor, PayPal rescinded that ban.
Kinda. Now they’re not going after big companies like SmashWords. They’re going after private, individual accounts.
How do I know this? Because my cover artist, the brilliant Kerry Chin, aka DragonReine, is one of the accounts they’ve frozen for distributing indecent material.
You’ve seen her beautiful work for the covers for Inertia and Acceleration, already. Do you want to see the image that got her banned, the commission transaction that was flagged for distributing indecent material?
It’s so outrageous I don’t even dare embed it in my blog. I have to link back to it.
Mmhm. Yep. That’s a portrait. Of Loki from The Avengers. Fully dressed and doing nothing but smirking. And while I am fully aware that Loki’s smirk inspires any number of obscene thoughts in the minds of the people who behold it, I’m unaware of it violating any actual decency statutes. Keep in mind, it’s posted on DeviantArt, which doesn’t even allow art featuring erect penises.
So I’m failing to see how it violates this, which is the terms of service PayPal put into use after the erotica-banning debacle last March (courtesy of The Digital Reader:
Update: Paypal has clarified the new policy on their blog. (Boy did they back down.) Their new policy only affects potentially illegal images, and the blog post specifically states that it doesn’t cover text only ebooks.
First and foremost, we are going to focus this policy only on e-books that contain potentially illegal images, not e-books that are limited to just text. The policy will prohibit use of PayPal for the sale of e-books that contain child pornography, or e-books with text and obscene images of rape, bestiality or incest (as defined by the U.S. legal standard for obscenity: material that appeals to the prurient interest, depicts sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value).
In addition, the policy will be focused on individual books, not on entire “classes” of books. Instead of demanding that e-book publishers remove all books in a category, we will provide notice to the seller of the specific e-books, if any, that we believe violate our policy. We are working with e-book publishers on a process that will provide any affected site operator or author the opportunity to respond to and challenge a notice that an e-book violates the policy.
ETA: THIS IS NOT A COPYRIGHT/LIKENESS ISSUE. The notice she received targeted one of the transactions for my Acceleration cover as well as the Loki art, and specifically stated it was for explicit content.
Here is a snippet of the email PayPal sent her, with the transaction IDs redacted.
Dear KERRY CHIN,
We are hereby notifying you that, after a recent review of your account
activity, it has been determined that you are in violation of PayPal’s
Acceptable Use Policy regarding your sales / offers of adult commisions of
digital art on http://dragonreine.deviantart.com.
Please refer to:
– Transaction *redacted*
– Transaction *redacted*
– Transaction *redacted*
Therefore, your account has been permanently limited.
One of those redacted IDs is my second payment for the Acceleration cover. One is for the Loki art. Kerry is having a hard time tracking down the third because in the process of freezing her account, PayPal locked her out of seeing her own history and researching the transaction.
Furthermore, it’s not just Kerry. A acquaintance of Kerry’s also works in the field of erotic art, and her PayPal account has been suspended for the same reason, only hours before. I don’t know how many others have been affected, but it looks like there might be another indecency purge going on. A smaller, more insidious purge, because it targets the little guys who can’t fight back, instead of companies that are in the public eye like SmashWords and ARe.
ETA 2: please refer to http://ameliacgormley.com/2012/11/09/its-not-about-copyright-a-clarification-on-the-paypal-matter/ for updated information.
Where does it stop? Will my PayPal account be suspended for commissioning my book covers, or for selling books with those covers? After all, you can see a little bit of Derrick’s ass on the cover for Acceleration and not to mention also OMGZGAYLOVE.
Will other book cover designers also be affected? How is this going to impact our genre?
If my PayPal account is suspended, I will have to stop distributing my books on SmashWords, as I don’t make enough in quarterly royalties for them to cut me a check (or I didn’t last quarter, at least. Hopefully it will pick up after the release of Acceleration.) How many of the rest of us in this genre sell books with covers which could be deemed indecent?
So, a heads-up, folks. This could be happening again. Like last time, I think we need to raise a hue and a cry, before it gets out of hand.