There has been a lot of chatter on twitter about ATVOD and the new porn law that goes into force on December 1st the UK, some of which I’ve seen is incorrect. The first thing to understand is this the law does not prevent you from filming at all but it does ensure you cannot distribute any unclassified material from the UK. By unclassified I mean anything that cannot be classified by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) who are generally responsible for deciding the age you have to watch a certain film in the cinema or on DVD. Adult content has been traditionally given a classification of R18 which are movies that you generally found in licensed sex shops and its these set of standards that are now being applied to on-line film content or video on demand services. There are BBFC R18 guidelines available on-line for those who have trouble sleeping and want to be bored to tears. However here is a list of prohibited material I came across:
Material which is in the breach of criminal law, including material judged to be obscene under the current interpretation of the obscene publications Act 1959 (Interpretation!)
Material (including dialogue) likely to encourage an interest in sexual abusive activity which may include adult role-playing as non adults.
The portrayal of sexual activities which involves real or apparent lack of consent. Any form of physical restraint which prevents people from indicating withdrawal of consent.
The infliction of pain or acts which may cause lasting physical harm, whether real or (in a sexual context) simulated. Some allowance may be made for moderate, non-abusive consensual activity.
Penetration by any object associated with violence or likely to cause physical harm.
Sexual threats, humiliation or abuse which do not form part of a clearly consenting role playing game.
Strong physical or verbal abuse, even if consensual is unlikely to be acceptable.
ATVOD is an extension of OFCOM and has similar power of prosecution. Their remit is to ensure R18 content can only be assessed by adults. This means all adult films must reside in a secure password protected location and site owners must use an Age verification solution to ensure access is restricted to adults only. ATVOD does suggest or accept that customers who sign up via a credit card can be age verified as being adults but not with a debit card. People under the age of 18 have debit cards and therefore in theory can access such material.
A huge issue at the moment is that Clips4Sale accepts UK debit cards as a payment method which is a problem for UK studios owners as it puts them in the cross hairs of the regulator; ATVOD who doesn’t accept a debit card as proof of age. Clips4sale has been aware of this issue since January and “working on it”. It doesn’t sound like they are working on it that hard at all as other payment suppliers such as CCBILL have done an excellent job at responding to this issue and continues to do so. Until Clips4sale removes UK debit cards from its checkout solution then it becomes difficult to recommend them to anyone as technically just owning a store there isn’t legal for a UK citizen at this current time.
These new rules seems to unfairly target the BDSM/Femdom community in particular where it says Sadomasochistic material which goes beyond trifling and transient infliction of injury, Bondage, Torture with instruments and activities involving perversion and degradation which covers a lot of areas traditionally associated with what some consider as just play. And yet, in the same list of prohibited activities it specifically mentions fisting. I sense a tory boy had a particular bad time at public school inspired that entry. Generally such guidelines are seemingly deliberately vague to me and designed to trap as many people as possible using broad terms that could be applied to anyone they (“the government”) just dont like.
ATVOD isn’t just looking at adult content but every film or clip that is published on-line. So if you even have a channel on YouTube that consists of tutorials or science programming then you’ll be expected to pay a license fee (£732+) for the privilege of being VOD provider in the UK which will only deter further creativity, enterprise and expression of thought and opinions. Pretty much 1984 and a clear attempt oppress freedom of speech in my opinion.
This bill was rapidly pushed through parliament as an amendment without any debate. You as service providers and the general public were not consulted and instead had conservative prudish views pushed upon you in an undemocratic way which for many is going to cause a great deal of hardship and stunt those who were just starting out in their careers in films both in front and behind the camera.
Is there anything that you can do? In my opinion, the sort of things I would be looking into further if I were in this position would be
1. Possibly moving your operations aka your business into another jurisdiction (ie outside the UK) but be aware that you will then be under the laws of that said country. This doesn’t mean you wont be able to film in the UK just not directly distribute from a UK location. For that to work, the single person responsible for editorial control must reside outside the UK. The filming/editing side must be completely separated from the person with editorial responsibility and they cannot reside in the UK.
2. You can also work for foreign web sites as a production company in the UK, filming the content but supplying it back to the foreign entity for distribution within their own country under contract. You may be asked to prove this relationship with the foreign entity by ATVOD and so make sure your contract is super tight with regards to this of where editorial control lays, who owns the content and provide proof of payment receipts from said companies.
3. Start an on-line parliamentary petition (epetitions.direct.gov.uk) and make it appeal to as wide population as possible rather than just those that produce adult content. Remember ATVOD are attacking everyone who wants to make a film of any type not just adult and its not just people that sell films but also distribute by any nature. For example The Top Gear Youtube channel was targeted and notified they had to pay a fee. There was nothing wrong with their content, ATVOD just wanted money.
4. Work in the current regulatory system but push for a new film classification suitable for BDSM content. Something above a R18 with caters for the sub-culture and related activities.
5. Be a pain in the arse to ATVOD by using their own rules against them by reporting mainstream programming on catch up services such as boxing matches for physical harm is caused (and blood is seen), every time a footballer is injured and taken off on a stretcher, ruby where someone is KO’d by a tackle etc. Keep them busy until somebody realizes what a nonsense this new law really is.
Disclaimer: These are impressions from information I’ve gathered from various sources. Always get independent legal advice yourself to double/triple check everything before embarking on your own personal path. Do the research! There is no easy route and always remain within the law.
If you do decide to demonstrate your displeasure to the authorities then its far better to be a collective, as otherwise you will be just like a fly banging its head on the window; annoying but largely ignored. The e-petition is a good start.
http://www.bbfc.co.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/BBFC%20Classification%20Guidelines%202014_5.pdf (Page 21)