Clean Reader is a free speech issue

The app does way more than remove the word fuck. It also, for example, turns the word cunt, vagina, ass, cock and all manner of words into the word “bottom.” There have been plenty of examples posted on the web of the other words it replaces. The list is pretty long. I understand people not wanting to consume adult language or themes, nothing says they have to. Just don’t buy those books.

1 Like

Just saying someone should not read a book because it might be offensive is a bit more extreme than letting them read the book with some words poorly replaced by ‘bottom’.

1 Like

Changing words, changes the context of scenes, characters and a book as whole. It is indisputable is that Clean Reader distorts the author’s work, and by so doing not only changes the experience of the work but also undermines the author’s intention and reputation.

Mark Coker, owner of Smashwords requested on March 25th that all Smashwords titles be removed from Book Foundry and Clean Reader. He wrote, “Books are works of art, and the art is manifested by the author’s word choice. You can’t block, change or censor words without changing the book. I also think such an app is counter to the best interests of book culture. Books should be judged, celebrated and debated in their naked glory as their creators intended. The sanitization of books IMHO leads to greater ignorance and intolerance in the world. Books don’t need sanitization when proper categorization and honest book descriptions will do the trick.”

1 Like

Stross and Cory Doctorow have licensed works under Creative Commons before. But while Cory Doctorow has used, for instance, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0,
Down and out in the Magic Kingdom

Stross has used

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5


Here, the choice of how to subvert the standard copyright license is up to the author-- and while technically what Cleanreader does may not be illegal, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is right.


It’s a bigger debate that ties back to that idiot Helene Hegemann who justified her plagiarizing as ‘mixing’. People are treating artistic expression / intellectual property like an iPhone - ‘once I buy it, it is mine to change and use as I see fit.’

That is fine with me, if you want to jailbreak your iPhone that’s your business . But it is one thing to alter something on your own for your own purposes and another to do so commercially. In essence Clean Reader makes its money by altering other people’s work. Worse, it does so without the copyright holder’s consent.

The thing is, it is easy to defend censoring dirty words and by extension, dirty writing. What upright moral person could stand up for such filth? /sarcasm off

But imagine the outcry if there was an app called “The Reasonable Holy Reader” - a wonderful new app that scrubs the offensive content from the Bible/Torah/Quran/Bhagavad Ghita rendering them ‘squeaky clean’ and ‘politically correct’. I don’t think it would be hyperbole to anticipate that people would die.

1 Like

It depends on the editing, I would say. People could choose not to read at all or choose to read selectively or choose how they interpret what they have read or even choose to remain in denial after being confronted with facts. There is a myriad of ways to impede enlightenment. I just don’t like the idea of adding one more.

In any case, regardless of my personal views, restricting or banning the ebook reader is self-defeating. It’s essentially censorship to avoid censorship.

Freedom of speech governs both arenas - the ones that want the app to exist and those that don’t. That’s the beauty of it.

How so? Must all films be rated ‘G’ now so that everyone can enjoy them? You have the right to choose what to read and what not to read. Not all fiction is appropriate for all readers. If words challenge you, what will you do with controversial IDEAS?

1 Like

To those who want to ban the app, or think that it breaks copyright rules:

What if I made an eReader for my tablet that allowed users to type into their own copies of books, and edit the text at will. (Any changes made would exist solely on the user’s tablet.) Should that app be banned?

What if I made an eReader for my tablet that allowed users to search and replace text in their copies of books, like in any text-editing application. Should that be banned?

What if I made an eReader for my tablet that allowed users to search and replace text in their copies of books, and came pre-populated with a few dozen optional suggestions. Should that be banned?

At what point did that become illegal, or morally corrupt?


Sam, these apps already exist. It’s copy and paste + EverNote or Word or any number of text editing programs out there (assuming DRM is not involved). This debate is not about hypotheticals, it’s about a specific app and how “it” works.

No one has the right to tell you how to enjoy a book. The issue is how Clean Reader has positioned itself to make money. People make parodies of Star Wars Films all the time…they are all over YouTube, but I suspect that if they started making money off of those parodies, the studios would get involved–fast. Imagine for a moment an app that makes royalties on each Star Wars movie it sells, then displays them with a set of filters not sanctioned by the studio? Litigation would surely follow.

How many languages do you speak?

More apropos – how many languages do you read?


I think the appropriate analogy here, is to printed books.

Since we already outlaw the viewing of books through filters (covering one eye, peeking out between the fingers, wearing protective lenses, under artificial lights, or in translation) the same should apply to ebooks.

Additionally, all modern literary criticism acknowledges that The Author is The Supreme Authority With Whom We Shall Brook No Disagreement. Thus, we should honor the authors spoken or unspoken intentions at all times.

And, by the way, if you even THINK of reading this post while wearing pants you are in violation of the EULA you implicitly accepted by reading. Any wearing of pants during the reading of this post completely misses the point, and violently changes the intended meaning.

I’m guessing you would think I’m an idiot for reading Don Quixote in English.

1 Like

(#2 prolly doesn’t belong, but is here for FUCKING SHITS and giggles)

Now, what’s the difference between an e-reader and a browser?

Think carefully. This does count towards your final grade, and spelling counts.

1 Like

That didn’t answer my question at all.

If I sold my app that can search-and-replace text in any ebook on your tablet, I’d be doing it for money.

How is my app legally different from Clean Reader?

Remember, the search-and-replace on Clean Reader happens after the user has legally bought an unedited, verbatim copy of the book.

1 Like

Don Quixote is public domain and translation of copyrighted works do require the copyright owner’s approval.

We already see that in practice in the USA and it’s scary stuff.

Sure, but cptnrandy wasn’t making a copyright argument.

By the sound of it, your app would work on eBooks already loaded on your tablet not eBooks you purchased through the app which is significantly different than Clean Reader. Also by the sound of it you’d be selling just the “filter” and your app would make money just on the search and replace feature not on royalties of every book sold through its catalog.

On Mar. 26 Inktera tweeted:
“In support of #authors #readers #books everywhere, the @Inktera bookstore system has been pulled from @CleanReader, effective immediately.”

Freedom of speech covers both the defenders and the detractors of this app. That being said, First Amendment rights do not make anyone exempt from laws or litigation. While I realize that the intention of this app’s creation was probably benign, I find it extremely unethical.

The way technology impacts art and art impacts technology is always a worthwhile discussion. Thank you for creating this forum.