Perverse Hope

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…

I find it somehow reassuring that the United States doesn’t have a monopoly on clueless politicians and lawyers who create–and try to enforce–completely brain-dead legislation.

For proof, one needs to look no further than a story making the rounds this morning. According to multiple sites, Germany is attempting to prevent the sale of adult e-books during daytime hours.

You read that right. If you want to buy an adult e-book from a German bookseller, you can only do so between 10 PM and 6 AM*, local time.

* If I haven’t screwed up the timezone conversion, that’s 1 PM to 9 PM here on the west coast of the US. Primetime for porn consumption. Remember, kids, don’t use your work computers to buy porn–unless you can justify the expense on the corporate credit card.

This isn’t an old, pre-Internet law being extended into electronic territory. It was passed in 2002 and appears* to be an update of a law dating back to 1954. The new extension to e-books is part of the ongoing review and rating process at the core of the law.

* I took some German in grad school, but have long since forgotten most of it. Accordingly, I’m relying on this article from the Font of All Human Knowledge. If your German–or direct knowledge of German law–is better than mine, please correct any errors you see in my post. Come to think of it, Wikipedia would also appreciate your corrections.

The implementation, as best I can tell, will be for retailers to tag all “youth-endangering” titles and automatically filter them out of all lists and search results during those dangerous hours when kids are awake.

Am I the only one who expects this to go down the way the EU’s charming “Right to be Forgotten” has been handled? There’s no question that Amazon’s German arm will be subject to this law–a corporate entity operating in Germany is logically subject to German Law.

But remember: France now insists that it’s not sufficient for Google to only filter searches for RtbF material in the EU. I expect German politicians* to point with horror to how easy it is to access non-German sites from Germany and thus that their restrictions must be implemented by all sellers. It’s not enough that sellers block sales (and they already do: the big sellers use geolocation to determine where an order is placed from to apply the correct VAT and block sales to regions where titles haven’t been licensed). Even showing the titles, let alone covers and previews, would be a violation.

* And if you don’t think the ongoing anger over the post-Snowden revelations of NSA spying on German lawmakers won’t be a factor, you’re dreaming.

Bets on how long it’ll be before we hear the first demands for Amazon US to hide adult titles during the American afternoon?

2 thoughts on “Perverse Hope

  1. God, I can be such a simpleton. When I started reading about “adult” titles, I was puzzled about what that was. Are we talking classics? Dickens? Jane Austen? Then I got that it was porn, and I was still puzzled. People read porn novels? This is considered a bad thing, despite the possibility that it is a sign of literacy? I guess I just need to get out and around more.


    • Remember, this is the second decade of the 21st century. The word “adult” now has only one meaning: “smut”. This can create confusion if you’re reading something written in 200x. And God forfend you try and apply modern sensibilities to something written in the dark ages, when dates began with a one!

      Putting on my librarian hat: Back in those dark ages, when I was in library school, there was much debate over whether libraries should encourage the public to read “good” material or if it was sufficient that they should read anything at all.

      Oddly, that debate continues to this very day. Should the library purchase multiple copies of Fifty Shades of You Know What because that’s what the public wants, or should they refuse to give it shelf space and try to steer the poor, deluded patron to Austen?

      Even more oddly, neither side of the argument has taken a firm position on “adult” titles. As far as I know, anyway. I confess that it’s been several decades since I engaged in that particular debate with a practicing librarian.

      Oh, lest I seem to be diverting the discussion, I invite one and all to peruse the ALA’s Most Frequently Challenged Books lists. I think you’ll be surprised what some segments of the population consider too “adult”. (Hint: Number 99 on the list for 2000-2009 is Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, a young-adult novel originally published in 1970; apparently it’s still too hot for young adults forty years later.)


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