Monday, March 12, 2012

Book News Courtesy of Sheppard's Confidential

Another week, another 'big-brother' news item. Readers will remember how Amazon arbitrarily removed copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from Kindle users - only later to return the titles and compensate users. Then Apple had an issue with German newspapers over nudity and later backtracked.  Then there is the ongoing conflict in the USA where Amazon is in dispute over collecting state taxes.
  We have publishers withdrawing e-books from Amazon, and there's an internecine row where author Seth Godin‘s new book Stop Selling Dreams is not available in the iBookstore because the bibliography contains links to books on Amazon. Read more. There have also been other examples leading up to last week's news.
  This week, we learn that card companies and banks are putting pressure on PayPal - widely used by our readers - to cease allowing transactions by publishers when the book being sold contains 'erotic' material.  These sales are quite legal even if many do not want to read them. PayPal is contesting the issue but the move is a 'slippery slope' towards widespread censorship. 
  But the over-riding issue is that we are witnessing, for whatever reasons, pan-national companies attempting to dictate their own rules over national laws. Should we be fearing these companies more than nation states?  What can national governments do to combat this trend?

The news that Firefox has developed a programme to expose the 'watchers' - businesses and websites that send cookies to your PC when you access their websites is good news.  They may be harmless but the user should have the right to see when they are present.  If it is illegal for a commercial company to listen in on your private telephone conversation, or for someone to open another person's mail, surely such practices on the Internet should come under the same laws?


International: PayPal and Censorship
News of another 'big-brother' incident has come to our attention. It is certainly troubling sellers and the central companies involved - PayPal and Smashwords [a USA-based company which specialises in selling e-publications for publishers). But it is not PayPal that is driving this censorship - it is a group of banks and credit card companies which are placing pressure on PayPal.
  Two weeks ago, PayPal contacted Smashwords and gave the company a surprise ultimatum: Remove all titles containing bestiality, rape or incest, otherwise the company's PayPal account would be deactivated. Discussions have taken place since this was instruction was issued and at the moment, a reprieve has been give until a suitable solution can be reached.
  As Smashwords see the problem - 'PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction. Regardless of how one views topics of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction. We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers. This is unfair, and it marks a slippery slope. We don't want credit card companies or financial institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read. Fiction is fantasy. It's not real. It's legal.' Also read

International: Firefox outs the watchers
Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, has unveiled a new add-on for the popular web browser that gives web users an instant view of which companies are 'watching' them as they browse. The news broke soon after Google pushed ahead with its controversial new privacy policy, which we reported on last week.
  The add-on, called Collusion, is likely to be warmly welcomed by users everywhere. As anyone knows who owns and runs anti-malware programmes there are always numerous hidden links left on your PC after visiting websites most of which are harmless. Read more 
[Harmless they may be, but many Internet users object to be monitored and watched. The Internet has so much to offer yet it is also allowing organisations and individuals to eavesdrop and spy on unsuspecting citizens.  Firefox's new add-on could be a very useful tool to help block unsolicited communications. Do you have a view or an opinion?  Ed.]

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