The initial appearance of picture postcards (and the enthusiasm with which the new medium was embraced) raised some legal issues that can be seen as precursors to later controversies over the Internet. Picture postcards allowed and encouraged many individuals to send images across national borders, and the legal availability of a postcard image in one country did not guarantee that the card would be considered “proper” in the destination country, or in the intermediate countries that the card would have to pass through. Some countries refused to handle postcards containing sexual references (such as of seaside scenes) or images of full or partial nudity (including images of classical statuary or paintings). Many French postcards featured naked women in erotic poses. These were described as postcards but whose primary purpose was not for sending by post because they would have been banned from delivery. Street dealers, tobacco shops, and a variety of other vendors bought the photographs for resale to tourists. The sale of erotica was banned, and many of these postcards were sold “under the counter”.
Instead, nude and erotic photographs were marketed in a monthly magazine called La Beauté that was ostensibly targeted for artists looking for poses. Each issue contained 75 nude images which could be ordered by mail, in the form of postcards, hand-tinted or sepia toned.