I hate your [CENSORED], but I'll defend your right to [CENSORED] to the death

I think literary censorship is hardly comparable to limiting somebodys exposure to an actual harmful act. Especially this dumb type, which seems to be predicated upon the dubious assumption that there is such a thing as “bad words”. They would be culturally and subculturally relative, and hugely dependent upon context. Blanking them out doesn’t teach kids about why they should/shouldn’t use them, or alternately when they perhaps should/shouldn’t be used. And it doesn’t do anything to help them with deeper problems of dealing with difficult concepts.

I think the use of this device is problematic…I’d argue that you are correct about the possible effects. But I can’t see any way to block it without removing freedoms for the rest of us. It’s like a book made of uncuttable paper that repels ink…no one can change the book, but on one can make notes or cut out a passage to put in a collage either. You have the right to do stupid things, or you have no rights.
There is a disturbing tendency among many modern “progressives” to think that totalitarian solutions are fine as long as they support “good” ends. (And I’ll point out that BB is an exception, one of the reasons I hang around.)


We’ll I think so, but I’d prefer to call a spade a spade. I’m censoring my children’s experiences. Both the bible-belter and I think we know better than the child as to what is harmful and don’t give them the option to learn otherwise.

I do think there are “bad words”, and I’ve witnessed an extremely pervasive and successful censorship effort aided by our schools and my neighbourhood in general. It was so successful, that in studying the US history of integration for Black History month, it became obvious that my grade 5 child and many of his peers didn’t even know what a racial epithet was. And yes, my child is biracial and the school is somewhat mixed, so the opportunity to be exposed to these “bad words” would otherwise have been there. But pervasive censorship in any media these children had access to was astonishingly successful.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of political correctness as that made those sort of expressions so declassé that no middle-class person (in this Toronto neighbourhood) would be caught dead saying them in front of children.

Again, my “bad words” are different from the bible-belter’s, but I had no problem with the censorship of what my children and their peers were exposed to. It’s just what was censored that was different. It would be hypocrisy for me to try and claim otherwise.

Funny thing: a DVD player that does something similar to movies has the distinction of having had its business model specifically authorized by an act of Congress.

Since it doesn’t alter the original work, just the way in which you read it, it may legally be a fair use.

Of course, nothing prevents people now from decompiling e-books, running their own search-and-replace, and recompiling them. If I was ever in a situation where I felt I needed to do that (heavens forfend!) I certainly wouldn’t rely on someone else’s app to do it for me.

A bit O/T, but how much say do authors have over the wording in translations of their work?

1 Like

Welcome to any public discourse, ever. Read between the lines of Juvenal, for an example of misrepresentations for ideological or satiric purposes. Consider also the writings of anyone who has had to submit to studio “notes” or other meddling backed up by the willingness of editors and publishers to throw their weight around to modify and dumb down ideas they consider dangerous.

I think the app violates my artistic rights as an author. If I define a character in my work as a foul mouthed, morally deficient, and violent person, then taking away their voice silences my speech. If I use words in my work that I define as profane, I mean them to be profane.
Fine, I get the part about “their consumption of their copy”; I think that’s a false argument.
These morally and mentally bankrupt people are a half step from burning books and demanding that we produce “Clean-lyric” versions of our work.
I respectfully suggest that they wake up and realize that there are real people out here that deal with real problems. If they don’t want to read the “dirty words” in my text, don’t buy the book.

A fair use, provided that you change the text for only your own use, and not that of other readers.

Not having any ebooks besides some scans I made for convenience, I never looked into the “licensing” of ebook “ownership”. A printed book on my shelves appears the same for anybody who reads it. One person changing it to suit their preferences would present an inconvenience for other readers. I imagine that such a censorship app skirts propriety when people share a device. Also, I am not clear if it changes the data of the book file or only functions as a “selective” reader.

I had two friends in high school in the late 70s who MANUALLY did this to a book. They replaced the heroine’s name with a nickname of a female friend of theirs. It was a labor of love and very amusing.

It should also be possible to insert the words ‘IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROPHECY’ at the end of every paragraph.

1 Like

Thanks for stepping up to the plate for the rights of authors. I completely disagree with you, but I admire your willingness to go against the flow.

So, respectfully, I’d like to ask: Do you believe that creators of other works in other media should be allowed the same rights in requiring how people enjoy their work? For example, the listening environment fundamentally changes the nature of a lot of music in ways that might well appall the creator. (Years ago, I actually truly upset an audiophile by accidentally listening to a piece of music on his high-end stereo in mono. I was destroying the artistry of the work.) Should equalizers allowing me to distort the music in a way never meant or desired by the creator be allowed, or am I violating the creators rights?

Or going to another medium, should the creator of a visual work be allowed to demand that I not corrupt the artistic intent of the work by viewing it under black light?

Or do you believe this is a moral argument, but not a legal one? (i.e. a book censoring app is immoral, but it should be legal)

Just curious.

This debate reminds me Gore Vidal’s glorious novel Myron. Vidal had been disgusted and disgruntled with a recent anti-pornography ruling in the US Supreme Court and a general push by conservatives to censor “smut” from literature; so he replaced all the “dirty” words with the names of the Justice’s involved in the ruling, and people that had been pushing for more censorship. So you end up with sentences like this: “He thrust his enormous Rehnquist deep within her Whizzer White”.

It was a genius form of protest, and brilliant book.


Hmmmm. Portrait video?

1 Like

I used to have my phone in a pile of artfully messy papers on the desk so it was camouflaged by other jumbled bits of text. Worked a treat.

These morally and mentally bankrupt people are a half step from burning books and demanding that we produce “Clean-lyric” versions of our work.

I understand your discomfort and anger over the idea of someone’s app “fixing” the words you labored over. It’s stupid and immoral. I just don’t think it’s anything that should be illegal.
People who use this app may indeed be moral midgets, unable to deal with adult works in an adult manner. But they are not demanding anything. In fact, they’ve specifically found a way to AVOID demanding anything. They are taking it into their own hands to mess up their copy of the work to fit their own narrow, fragile sensibilities without picketing or boycotting.
It may be offensive, but I think it’s more offensive to to try and control what consumers do with the media they buy. Unless you want to add a EULA to your works, or refuse to sell to people until you’ve determined that they are worthy, they can do with it what they like. They can read it in a funny accent that ruins the intended effect, change all the character’s names to emoji… or take out the words they don’t like. Publishers and distributors have a responsibility to keep the work intact, but not the consumer. If they want to damage the work, or enjoy it in the “wrong” way, it’s their choice. I sometimes listen to music at a very low level to help me fall asleep…but I’m missing the subtleties and the impact that the artist intended. I’ve listened to audiobooks at different speeds when short on time, thereby playing havoc with the timing the voice actors worked so hard on. I’ve added a dinosaur to a landscape painting. I’ve watched MST3K. Have I offended the artists? I don’t know, but they don’t get a vote once they get my money.

I would join you in strongly arguing that people SHOULDN’T use the app, but I would not ban it.

1 Like

I see where you’re coming from and I would share your concerns were this an app that were anything but in the hands of the user who decides they want it on their device. It’s still an example of “something I can get a friend to do if I choose” and I don’t see this as anything more sinister than asking a friend to replace all the ‘bad words’ with something of their choice. Not something I would do or would advise anyone else to do but also not something I would want to deny anyone the right to do.

If this application were being imposed on people without consent then I would agree with your analogy. However… a closer analogy would be that why would I object to people being allowed (rather than encouraged or required) to buy a device that gives the police their location. I simply wouldn’t object to that and I’m not sure that many people would.

Two points:

  1. This application is being imposed on authors without their consent. If these alterations were performed before the text reached the consumer, it would clearly be a copyright violation, as in CleanFlicks (which sold and rented edited DVDs expunged of content they didn’t like). Instead, this software achieves the same purpose by merely applying the edits after the media is in the consumer’s hand, as in Clear Play (which is a DVD player that reads data on what parts of DVDs it should skip, effectively achieving the same result as CleanFlicks). http://www.patheos.com/blogs/filmchat/2006/07/court-rules-against-censored-dvds.html
  2. Your phrasing seems to suppose you need to explicitly consent to being observed in public. You don’t; that’s why it’s public. I mean, if not consenting to being observed in public makes that observation illegitimate, isn’t public photography of unconsenting individuals (and their property) also illegitimate? It’s more the reality that you consent to being observed by appearing in public.
1 Like

Well, you don’t need to defend it any more - we go to the death part quite quickly.


1 Like

Point 1.

I don’t give a fig what the author wants me to do with their work once I’ve bought it. Whether that be a physical book or an eBook. I simply don’t care. If I want to take a physical book and replace words with other words (by whatever means and for whatever purpose) then I can and will with a physical book and I won’t give a moment’s thought to what the author might think of me doing so. The same logic I apply to eBooks. It is my choice as the owner/consumer what I do with the material once I own it.

Point 2

I think you are getting confused by your own analogy. I specifically rejected you analogy as representing the eBook software. If I went around showing the altered eBook to people and claiming it to be unaltered then maybe there’d be an issue of misrepresentation but that’s the only part of any analogy to public expose I can see as being even vaguely valid to the situation.

What I am saying is that your analogy is invalid as it implies the consumer/owner of the material being involuntarily subjected to the changes. However, my counter-proposed analogy has neither issues regarding consent of the consumer nor a need to question the consent of being observed publicly.

I have no problems to you objecting to your own analogy, of course.