Click here to sign your name to this letter and email John Muller, PayPal’s General Counsel

PayPal, which plays a dominant role in processing online sales, has taken full advantage of the vast and open nature of the Internet for commercial purposes, but is now holding free speech hostage by clamping down on sales of certain types of erotica.  As organizations and individuals concerned with intellectual and artistic freedom and a free Internet, we strongly object to PayPal functioning as an enforcer of public morality and inhibiting the right to buy and sell constitutionally protected material.

Recently, PayPal gave online publishers and booksellers, including, Smashwords, and eXcessica, an ultimatum: it would close their accounts and refuse to process all payments unless they removed erotic books containing descriptions of rape, incest, and bestiality. The result would severely restrict the public’s access to a wide range of legal material, could drive some companies out of business and deprive some authors of their livelihood.

Financial services providers should be neutral when it comes to lawful online speech.  PayPal’s policy underscores how vulnerable such speech can be and how important it is to stand up and protect it.

The topics PayPal would ban have been depicted in world literature since Sophocles’ Oedipus  and Ovid’s  Metamorphoses.  And while the books currently affected may not appear to be in the same league, many works ultimately recognized for their literary, historical, and artistic worth were reviled when first published.  Books like Ulysses and  Lady Chatterley’s Lover were banned as “obscene” in the United States because of their sexual content.  The works of Marquis de Sade, which include descriptions of incest, torture, and rape, were considered scandalous when written, although his importance in the history of literature and political and social philosophy is now widely acknowledged.

The Internet has become an international public commons, like an enormous town square, where ideas can be freely aired, exchanged, and criticized.  That will change if private companies, which are under no legal obligation to respect free speech rights, are able to use their economic clout to dictate what people should read, write, and think.

PayPal, and the myriad other payment processors that support essential links in the free speech chain between authors and audiences, should not operate as morality police.

Signed by:


ACLU of California

American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression

American Society of Journalists and Authors

Article 19

Association of American Publishers

Association of American University Presses

Authors Guild

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Bytes for All, Pakistan

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Coming Together, charity publisher

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Feminists for Free Expression

Fight for the Future

Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association

Independent Book Publishers Association

Index on Censorship

Internet Archive

National Coalition Against Censorship

New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association

New England Independent Booksellers Association

Northern California Independent Booksellers Association

Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association


PEN American Center

Reporters Without Borders

Southern California Independent Booksellers Association

Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

Tunisian Association for Digital Freedom

Unlimited Publishing LLC

Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

List in formation.