Category Archives: Activism

SUCCESS!

As Kerry slept Sunday night (it’s Monday morning for her already) PayPal, only a few hours of sending her a canned response telling her that her account hold was there to stay, sent her another email rescinding it.

I can only suppose that a little bit of public pressure, in the form of this article by Nate from The Digital Reader, who helped lead the charge back in February during the SmashWords debacle, helped sway PayPal to a more reasonable stance.

So I’m very glad for Kerry (and her sister also, whose account was likewise restored) that they don’t have to go through the inconvenience of finding another means by which to conduct their businesses.

I hope this was an isolated incident, and not an attack on erotic books by new means. So far no other cover artists have come forward, which is a good thing.

I do think we all have to be vigilant, those of us who publish independently and even the small presses who may rely on PayPal to conduct transactions with vendors or customers. If PayPal does decide to go on the censorship warpath again, it could be a mess. Hopefully we nipped this in the bud.

Thank you all for your support.

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It’s not about copyright: A clarification on the PayPal matter

Yesterday, in an attempt to be jaunty, I made a big issue of the fact that one of the transactions targeted by my cover artist was of Loki. I did this because at the time, we weren’t sure specifically which other transactions were being targeted by PayPal because my cover artist was still going over her records comparing transaction IDs.

This gave some people who are discussing the matter elsewhere, the impression that the problem was actually copyright.

It’s not. That much is very clear by the email PayPal sent my cover artist, which reads as follows:

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.

Transaction ID’s redacted.

Therefore, your account has been permanently limited.

Per the User Agreement, when PayPal permanently limits an account due to an Acceptable Use Policy violation, we may hold your funds up to 180 days. In addition, you will be liable to PayPal for the amount of PayPal’s damages for each violation of the Acceptable Use Policy.

To read more about your liability, the actions we may take and other
relevant information pertaining to the User Agreement, please refer to the
following URL: https://cms.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=ua/UserAgreement_full&locale.x=en_US

You will need to remove all references to PayPal from your website/s and/or auction/s. This includes not only removing PayPal as a payment option, but also the PayPal logo and/or shopping cart.

The PayPal User Agreement states that PayPal, at its sole discretion,
reserves the right to limit an account for any violation of the User
Agreement, including the Acceptable Use Policy.

Under the Acceptable Use Policy, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for certain sexually oriented materials or services or for items that could be considered obscene.

The complete Acceptable Use Policy can be found at the following URL:
https://cms.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=ua/AcceptableUse_full&locale.x=en_US

To learn more about the Acceptable Use Policy, please refer to our Help Center page here:
https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/helpweb?cmd=_help

We thank you in advance for your cooperation. If you have any questions, please contact the PayPal Brand Risk Management Department at
aup@paypal.com.cn.

Sincerely,
Jared
PayPal, Brand Risk Management

Now. I’d say there is very little ambiguity in that message regarding the fact that the issue here is “obscene” images. Upon further research, it turns out one of those redacted transactions was my second payment for the

We still don’t know what the third transaction was, because in the process of freezing her account, PayPal is also cutting off Kerry’s ability to view her own transaction history, and she cannot find the email receipt for the third transaction yet.

ETA: one of those three redacted transactions was the down payment for the cover of Acceleration, and the other one is the second and final payment for the cover of Acceleration.

How the Loki art got mixed up in there, I can’t guess. Probably they’re trying to legitimize their targeting of the suggestive/homoerotic art by tacking on a little copyright intimidation.

Now, here’s the kicker, and this is why we are in absolutely no doubt that PayPal is on an anti-obscenity kick, even if it’s small-scale. I have been vague about naming names and details because I didn’t know how private the person was about this matter, but she’s being very open about it, so I’m going to share it here.

This is an email received by Kerry’s sister, who is a fetish model, when HER account was frozen, within minutes of Kerry’s account being frozen:

This is kath’s email. Note the vagueness of their accusations, and if you check the listed sites, she never asks people to pay for shoots with PayPal. She read aloud all her received payments to me, and they are all for sales of secondhand clothing, or contributions from friends to help her buy her higher-priced corsets.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <**********>
Date: Nov 8, 2012 11:12 PM
Subject: Your account has been limited

To: <***********>

Dear Kathy Chin Chew Lee,

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 fetish and pin up
photo shoots on
http://kathteakatastrophy.blogspot.com/?zx=e666d08f00168f92,
http://www.modelmayhem.com/2337096, and
http://kathtea-katastrophy.deviantart.com/.

(transaction IDs redacted also)
Therefore, your account has been permanently limited.

Per the User Agreement, when PayPal permanently limits an account due to an Acceptable Use Policy violation, we may hold your funds up to 180 days. In addition, you will be liable to PayPal for the amount of PayPal’s damages for each violation of the Acceptable Use Policy.

To read more about your liability, the actions we may take and other
relevant information pertaining to the User Agreement, please refer to the
following URL: https://cms.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=ua/UserAgreement_full&locale.x=en_US

You will need to remove all references to PayPal from your website/s and/or auction/s. This includes not only removing PayPal as a payment option, but also the PayPal logo and/or shopping cart.

The PayPal User Agreement states that PayPal, at its sole discretion,
reserves the right to limit an account for any violation of the User
Agreement, including the Acceptable Use Policy.

Under the Acceptable Use Policy, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for certain sexually oriented materials or services or for items that could be considered obscene.

The complete Acceptable Use Policy can be found at the following URL:
https://cms.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=ua/AcceptableUse_full&locale.x=en_US

To learn more about the Acceptable Use Policy, please refer to our Help Center page here:
https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/helpweb?cmd=_help

We thank you in advance for your cooperation. If you have any questions, please contact the PayPal Brand Risk Management Department at
aup@paypal.com.cn.

Sincerely,
Jared
PayPal, Brand Risk Management

This is not about copyright. If it were, there would be Cease & Desist letters being issued, not account closures. That is traditionally how IP owners have handled the matter. Furthermore, if it were about copyright, my cover for Acceleration would not have been targeted, nor would Kerry’s sister’s account.
This is about PayPal being on an anti-obscenity crusade, even if it’s not a very large one. Are we clear on that? Good.

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PayPal and Censorship… AGAIN

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.

Here it is.

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 https://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.

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