Payments to Clips4Sale Blocked, with “ATVOD” Error Message

Here’s a strange, and largely unexplained, story that’s emerged over the couple of weeks since the “ATVOD law” was introduced against British online porn services.

Clips4Sale.com (C4S) is a site allowing small content producers to make and sell their own video clips without the expense of building their own website. Although it’s an American service, ATVOD considers that individual channels may fall within its censorship remit, if they are managed by a person in the UK. This means that individual performers who sell their own clips may be considered to be “On Demand Programme Service providers” by ATVOD, and subject to massive fines. As a result, a number of UK-based producers have closed their C4S channels down, through fear of being targeted.

Shortly after the law came into place, some UK providers noticed that their C4S payments had dropped. During one test of the service, the card was rejected with the error code: “PROHIBITED:GB-ATVOD” (click here for screenshot).

Before a service can be sanctioned, it must have been the subject of a complaint to ATVOD, followed by an investigation and determination – during which the service provider has the right to respond and appeal. Instead, here were services having payments blocked without any kind of due process. It seems that services were subsequently unblocked, with C4S mailing a provider:

...we found a way around all this and now all UK
debit cards are back buying again!!

Mysteriouser and mysteriouser: there was still no information provided as to why and how the payments had been blocked. We have placed a request with C4S for more information, and will update this post if any is received.

Meanwhile, I put three questions to ATVOD’s CEO Pete Johnson, asking whether he could cast any light on:

1) …why these payments are being blocked,

2) who is doing the blocking,

3) and what the rules are regarding which services and which users will be blocked?

To which I received the following response:

We are not responsible for payment processes operated by, or any error codes displayed on, Clips4Sale. I suggest you direct your questions to Clips4Sale.

I followed up:

I certainly have contacted them. Are you concerned that they are using “ATVOD” in the error code? Have you contacted them to discuss this?

And received the following response from Cathy Taylor, ATVOD’s Policy and Investigations Manager:

If Clips4sale are using their paywall as a proxy age verification process and are declining certain types of payments which can be used by under 18s in order to ensure that UK based pornographers are compliant with ATVOD’s Rule 11 then it is unlikely that ATVOD would have a reason to be concerned.

Still little in the way of clarification. So as this stands, we know that a payment block was put in place, and then (apparently) removed, but details are still very vague. It is currently unclear whether blocking payments in this way is being done at the request of UK authorities, and whether it is legal.

Weekly News Summary w/e 14 December

Mass face sitting protest a success, and receives international media coverage

A protest by sex workers, adult entertainers and campaigners took place In Westminster, outside the Houses of Parliament on Friday 12th December.

The protest was organised by Charlotte Rose, a sex worker and sex educator who stood for Parliament in the Clacton and Rochester and Strood by-elections.

The sight of clothed face-sitting and simulated sex outside the home of UK Government attracted worldwide media coverage, and will have raised awareness among those who may not been aware that such laws were being created to restrict the content consensual adults are free to consume.

In addition to the attention-grabbing simulated sex and clothed face-sitting, key campaigners shared their views on why we need to stop it now and what laws like this mean for our future way of life. Speakers at the event included Charlotte Rose, Jerry Barnett, Myles Jackman and Jane Fae.

The protest also took to twitter to maximise its reach with the hashtag #PornProtest with 4,700 users sending 7,185 tweets, with a potential of 35,688,045 impressions.

Just some of the coverage:

The idea of a sex protest outside Parliament is not a new one, in 2008 a similar protest was held outside the heart of British politics over laws that were passed to make “extreme pornography” illegal to possess, produce or distribute.

Adult DVDs sent to parents and children

The Edinburgh Playhouse has been forced to issue an apology after it accidentally sent hundreds of pornographic DVDs to children and their parents.

The duplication company responsible for producing the DVDs, Edithouse, has accepted “full responsibility for the mistakes made in the duplication process” in a written statement issued after the playhouse recalled the DVDs following the discovery of the adult content by a member of staff who had taken a copy for himself.

Playhouse sought the advice of the Police but Police Scotland confirmed no crime had been committed as this was a production error rather than a deliberate circulation of pornography to youngsters.

Vodafone blocks Chaos Computer Club site, fuelling ‘Net censorship concerns in UK

Vodafone UK isn’t letting its customers access the website of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), one of the oldest and largest associations of computer hackers in Europe.

It’s not yet clear why the mobile operator has blocked the ccc.de website but since late last week the site has been unavailable for users of Vodafone’s mobile internet.

The CCC believes it’s because its site has been misclassified in the Internet filtering system used by Vodafone.

The CCC, since its founding in 1981, has highlighted security risks in technology affecting a large number of people, has exposed government surveillance and has advocated for privacy and freedom of information online. Every year the group organises the Chaos Communication Congress, the largest hacker convention in Europe.

“When these filters were introduced, their abuse was imminent,” said CCC spokesman Dirk Engling in a blog post Friday.

“Today, we are shocked to learn that they not only block access to our site, but also to our conference. We see this as proof that censorship infrastructure — no matter for which reasons it was set up, and no matter which country you are in — will always be abused for political reasons.”

According to a check on blocked.org.uk, a website maintained by U.K.-based Open Rights Group (ORG), ccc.de was being blocked by both Vodafone and Three, another U.K. mobile operator, as of Sunday. The Chaos Communication Congress tickets site, tickets.events.ccc.de, was only being blocked by Vodafone.

El Paso Children’s Hospital backs off from fundraising event due to DJ’s porn career

Cash-strapped El Paso Children’s Hospital is backing away from its participation in a local fundraiser after learning Monday that the special guest DJ for the event also happens to be an adult film star.

The Dance4Charity benefit which seeks to raise charitable donations for organisations and charities through house/dance and DJ events.

The event was set to feature headline entertainment by DJ Jessie Andrews, who also is a working superstar in her other career path as an award-winning porn actress.

According to Children’s spokeswoman Susie Byrd “This event was coordinated through the UMC Foundation without the consent of El Paso Children’s Hospital. We have asked the UMC Foundation to immediately correct this by removing our name as a recipient”

Not long after Byrd was asked for comment on the booking of Andrews, all mention of the event and her appearance on the Children’s Hospital social media accounts were deleted.

Andrews tweeted several responses to the story via her twitter account, @JessiesLife;

“I love music. I love to dance. I love to dj. And it’s not a joke to me. I honestly love it. Who cares if I do/done porn? Let’s get real,”

“ALSO: Shame on anyone who judges me for what I’ve done. It’s 2014. If I got hurt the hospital wouldn’t turn me down.”

“Society pretty much says that since I’ve done porn I can’t do anything else in life that’s respectable. Just kill me now why don’t you,”

December 9th, a day after the news broke, Veteran’s Entertainment, the organisers of the fundraiser issued a statement and confirmed that “The event will still be held and we will push to support a charity that would like us to help them” and added “A person’s past should not prevent them from doing a positive service for others, hopefully more organizations will recognize that.”

Andrews has won various accolades for her work, in 2012 she picked up the AVN Best Actress and XBIZ Best Acting Performance and New Starlet of the Year awards.

She is as well known for her mainstream modelling and music career as much as she is for being active, popular porn star with both careers doing extremely well – her music can be heard via soundcloud.

Resist Porn Culture criticises animal welfare charity over so-called ‘misogynistic’ and ‘offensive’ imagery in the charity’s latest anti-dairy products campaign.

Resist Porn Culture has attacked animal rights and welfare campaigners PETA for the charity’s latest anti-dairy products advertising campaign.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) ad is on a billboard outside Notts County FC’s stadium. The football club told the BBC that the ad was due to be removed but as of BBC running the story it was still in place.

The ad featured a woman who had white liquid, presumably milk, splattered across her face with a look of surprise or shock. The slogan to the right of the image read “some bodily fluids are bad for you”. The campaign group Resist Porn Culture said the poster was “sexist” and called for tighter regulations.

The ASA confirmed they would be launching an investigation after receiving four complaints due to the fact that the ad was sexual in nature and close to a ‘family’ venue.

PETA responded to the criticism, telling the BBC the billboard was a “tongue-in-cheek warning” about the dairy industry’s treatment of cows

He added:

“While some people might disagree with our tactics, there is no one final word on what offends women and what doesn’t.’

“Many of the women here – and the women who have written in telling us they love the ad – have a different opinion.”

PETA have long used provocative ad campaigns, often featuring nudity and sexual innuendo, to push their message.

Protesting Porn Lovers and Parliament’s Perversion

Tomorrow at noon, protesters will gather outside Parliament to protest against the draconian anti-porn censorship law that came into effect on 1st December. Sephy Hallow believes such protests are vital.

You’ve probably heard by now about the face-sitting protest scheduled to take place outside of Parliament on Friday 12th December, where 500 people are due to simulate face-sitting in order to protest the draconic new porn UK porn laws. Personally, I’ve got to say that I love it: Charlotte Rose’s campaign has everything a good protest needs, including ruffling some disgruntled feathers to make its point. Some people, however, aren’t so keen; my favourite retort was a tweet that called the protesters “selfish porn sick cockwombles” for their participation. And whilst I love the flourish of her counter-protest language here, I have to say, it worries me that having the right to determine our own adult entertainment laws is somehow considered “selfish.”

Is it really selfish to demand the right to freedom of consensual adult expression? Is it selfish to say our sexual expression is a fundamental part of our humanity? Is it selfish to point out there are deeper underlying issues?

People that complain about protest in this way – that assert a protest is too brash, too trashy, or too inconvenient – always strike me as people who fundamentally don’t understand the purpose of protest. A protest is not something you can undertake in private. It is a loud, proud public action designed to disturb and disrupt, to force attention towards issues that would otherwise go ignored. It has a long and varied history of causing inconvenience and making the masses uncomfortable, acting as a thorn in the side of public discourse until someone pays bloody attention. It isn’t, as some suggest, a form of tantrum; it is meaningful and planned, and as such both more sustainable and more worthy of our respect, or at the very least, our ears. In short, yes, we are trying to piss you off – but for a very good reason.

Because this isn’t about good spank-bank material. This is about legislation that creates a veil between on and off-camera activities, shrouding the illegal from public scrutiny, and forbidding certain consensual sex acts to be recorded, allowing for a climate in which public, consensual acts are shamed, and private, illegal acts are overlooked. This is about recognising what this illusion of a distinction between porn and sex does. This is about pushing back against a mentality that simultaneously slut-shames for face-sitting and female ejaculation, whilst having one of the lowest rape conviction rates in Europe. The protest might be considered crass. But the idea that our government thinks banning face-sitting in porn is a more effective method of protecting women from sexual harm than addressing the dismal statistics on rape reporting and conviction is absurd, and standing up for that idea – even by face-sitting – is something we should only commend.

Because the anti-protesters are right: it is disgusting. It is shameful. It is vile. All of these adjectives are correct. It is disgusting that we have to protest. It is shameful that parliament passed ineffectual censorship laws, and played it as some kind of female liberation stance. And it is vile that this is the length we feel we have to go to in order to be heard – that we have to crowd around the offices of our representatives, and mimic the very act they have banned from being seen, just to make them listen.

For me, this isn’t just about censorship of consensual sexual expression, even though that is enough reason for me to get angry. For me, this is about a government so patronising, they believe they can placate women with a gesture – to say, “we are protecting you, through legislation which shames you.” Banning the publication of consensual sexual expression – and let’s be clear, much of this legislation has to do with banning female acts, regulating female bodies – sends a message. This is taboo, this is wrong, it cannot be seen – it is shameful.

That is what our government is dressing up as protection. And it’s not protection, it’s nothing like protection. It doesn’t stop men and women getting raped; it doesn’t improve communication, or provide protection for sex workers, or better our sex education. All it does is shame.

So let us take away the shame from the act of face-sitting. Let us make that point, and make it so damn clearly, they can’t misinterpret what we’re trying to say.

We’re not ashamed. We demand respect, and the protection of law. And we will sit on faces outside of Parliament until we get it.

Coming For Christmas?

Xmas Single from TVX and Pornhub

Buy it, and help fund Sex & Censorship!

Christmas singles cum and go… they’re usually cheesy, and most are quickly forgotten: this year is no different. This year’s batch includes the (dire) Band Aid 30 year update, and a single to support anti-boobs campaign, No More Page 3.

For the first time, there’s a porn contender: Television X and Pornhub have united to release Coming For Christmas, a tongue-in-cheek (or tongue-in-something, anyway) take on the genre. The single features an all-porn cast, including veteran stud Ben Dover on drums. Wouldn’t it be nice, at a time when UK regulators are introducing tough censorship controls, to get it into the charts, and make a Radio 1 DJ cringe as they explain why they can’t read out the title on-air?

TVX have agreed to make a donation to the Sex & Censorship campaign if the single reaches the charts. Can you spare less than a pound, to help fund the campaign going into 2015? If you’re on Spotify or another streaming service, you don’t even need to buy it – just play it.

Coming For Christmas is available on: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and other music services. You can also watch the clean version on YouTube and the unclean one on Pornhub (NSFW!)

Please buy and spread the word!

Mistress Tytania vs ATVOD (audio)

A lot has been written over the past week about the new law that empowers ATVOD to regulate British video-on-demand sites. Not all is lost, however: one woman took on, and defeated the regulator. Mistress Tytania runs the only adult website that is currently allowed to operate outside of ATVOD’s censorship regime. I interviewed her to find out more.

With thanks to the Naked Truth Guy for editing and publishing this podcast. You can follow him on Twitter.

Click here to hear the interview (27:41).

Can Sex-Positive Feminism Exist?

When I tell people I am a feminist, I get a wrinkle of the nose. Their face screws up, like they have smelled something bad; it is the expression I pull when the milk has soured.

“But you’re so sensible,” they protest. As though feminism requires the loss of brain cells for participation.

For a while, I even shunned the term myself. “It’s too gendered,” I’d say, feeling that my views were about gender equality, and therefore should not be posed as something one-sided. I’d phrase my views awkwardly – I’d call myself a “gender egalitarian”, for instance. I justified that it didn’t have the same ring to it, the same catchy title, but at least it was more precise in representing my views. Then, when I graduated, I sat through an eye-opening speech by feminist writer and critic Linda Grant. Grant had written books on politics and sex, and novels to boot. She was the woman I always wanted to be. And she was a feminist.

“I tried to get a store card in 1984,” she told the audience. “I was declined, because I didn’t have my father or husband present to sign off on the transaction. That’s when I became interested in feminism,” she said. Sitting there, in my mortar board and robes, I felt suddenly far too naïve to be in the ceremony.

I was born only 4 years after Grant’s anecdote took place. I had always considered feminism to be an archaic thing, a movement that brought us the vote and then went off the deep end with fits of misandry, censorship and sex-hating, and that wasn’t me. When I thought of feminism, I thought of Andrea Dworkin. I didn’t think of Linda Grant. I had simplified a complex political movement into a handful of successes and a whole heap of crazy. I had resisted identifying with anything feminist, because I was sex-positive, anti-censorship, totally behind the idea of sex as a fun recreation, someone who enjoyed pornography and vocally supported sex workers. I was someone who saw society’s next goal involving better protection for sex work of all varieties, who wanted consent to be respected by law regardless of whether money or cameras were involved. All this time, I thought that meant I wasn’t a feminist. And all this time, I realised in that audience, I was wrong.

Feminism is a complicated set of ideas, with an equally complicated set of people behind it. Like any complicated ideology, feminism is riddled with nuance and debate, and it isn’t stagnant: there are revelations and evolutions in ideas all the time. I don’t agree with all feminists; I want gender equality, both between the binary sexes and for those who don’t identify in those terms, but I don’t always agree on what that means. For some, it means that removing the idea that women are sex objects means removing women from sex, especially in public expression, and on that note I heartily disagree. For me, and – I assure you, readers who are still scowling, still wondering how such a nice girl ended up here, many people just like me – feminism is about claiming our right to consent. For me, feminism protects my ability to have sex, to enjoy it, and not be shamed; but equally, it protects me from being forced to explain my lack of consent in other situations. Feminism is about my right to say yes or no without being threatened, either by the society that would deem me a slut, or the rejected party who is angered by my audacity to decline.

I am a sex-positive feminist, and I can tell you, we are not on the verge of non-existence – we are not lost dinosaurs, wandering around in a wasteland, looking for creatures of our kind. We are real women, trying to express our views without being shouted down for being “feminist.” If you really want to help gender equality and the progression of society’s view on sex, judge feminists on the quality of their individual content, not the merit of the banner of feminism. Maybe then we can start to get somewhere.

It’s About Censorship, Not Sexism

A year ago, the hideous ISP filters came into force. Although they had been sold as “porn filters”, they ended up blocking all sorts of things that had nothing to do with porn, from drug and self-harm information to nudity, even in non-sexual contexts. Initially, there was a spike of public outrage, but quickly the issue fell into the swamp of identity politics. On discovering that various gay and trans sites were blocked, the outrage became about homophobia and transphobia. ISPs moved to quickly unblock sites that had been identified by the press, and the media lost interest. The filters remained in place, and still today, up to 20% of sites are blocked by them. What could have become a broad-based movement for free speech fizzled out.

On Monday, a new law came into place, extending DVD censorship controls on to Internet videos. None of this was new or unexpected. The censorship rules which have caused so much outrage this week have been in place for many years.

The new law – which I explained on this blog – is probably the greatest attack on free expression that the UK has seen since the BBFC was empowered, in 1984, to censor all video works before they could be released. One of the BBFC’s first policy decisions was to ban all explicit sex on video. And so, the UK became one of the few democratic countries whose population was banned from legally buying porn on DVD, until this rule was eventually challenged by the porn industry in 2000. Forced to accept explicit sex acts, the BBFC (along with the police and CPS) clung to as much power as possible, and still refused to approve many, many “niche” sex acts on DVD.

By mid-decade, this barely mattered any more. Broadband Internet connections made DVD increasingly redundant, and likewise the BBFC, which saw its revenues steadily fall. Pete Johnson, a BBFC manager, tried to reverse this decline by introducing the BBFC Online scheme in 2007. But this had no statutory backing, and never took off.

In 2010, Johnson moved from the BBFC to head a new regulator, ATVOD, and (via a complex use/misuse of EU law), was empowered to implement regulations for VoD sites. His first – and only significant – action was to implement onerous age-verification requirements for UK porn sites: rules that were not implemented anywhere else in Europe. As a result, many businesses (including my own) closed, and others (such as Playboy’s UK operation) moved overseas, shedding jobs in the UK.

The new law adds power to ATVOD’s existing regulations, and for the first time, enforces the BBFC’s R18 rules online. This year’s fashion among the new-left has been to label everything sexist: toys are sexist, and computer games are sexist, and that comedian is sexist, and he’s sexist, and you’re sexist, and that tree is sexist… and so of course, by cherry-picking BBFC rules, the new law was also deemed to be sexist. Not a huge step towards Chinese-style Internet censorship that will harm everybody’s right to access information. Sexist.

So yes, it’s true (as well as ludicrous) that female ejaculation – aka squirting – is one of the many acts now banned, and easy to assume this is sexism (since, of course, male ejaculation is still allowed to be seen). In fact, within the BBFC’s reasoning process – which makes sense within its own, screwed-up logic – this makes perfect sense. The powers-that-be have deemed urination in a sexual context to be unacceptable, and since the evidence as to the nature of squirting is still far from conclusive, they have also banned that. Commentators have also complained that gagging on cocks is still approved; but in fact, the BBFC will cut such scenes if they are deemed to be “potentially life-threatening”. And they will allow similar acts to be carried out by a woman with a strap-on. And the ban on face-sitting isn’t an attempt by The Patriarchy to attack female domination, any more than the ban on strangulation of female models is an attack on male domination. The rules may be extremely stupid, but they’re not sexist.

Although the most immediate casualties of the law will be fetish sites, it’s not especially about targeting fetish either – that just happens to be the first thing in the way of the bulldozer. As already mentioned, the BBFC tried as hard to ban “vanilla” sex as it did to ban kink. It’s just that it lost that particular battle in court.

So what is this about? As the name of our campaign suggests, it’s about both Sex and Censorship. It’s odd that almost nobody noticed what actually happened on Monday: well over 99% of the world’s websites are now technically illegal here in the UK. Not because of the R18 thing, but the other part: the one requiring sites to validate a visitor’s age before they’re allowed to see any naughty bit.

There are multiple interests here: anti-sex moralists (of both religious and feminist varieties) who are truly outraged by sex, and want it all banned; vested interests that stand to earn money and power from censorship (ATVOD and the BBFC, for example); and authoritarian interests that are looking to find excuses to block online content. In the latter case, porn is just one of a number of excuses, as are terrorism and copyright theft. Those familiar with Orwell will recognise that the British state, liberal on the surface, is deeply authoritarian beneath.

This week’s public outrage is an opportunity to build the movement for free expression to a new level, and it would be a shame if certain “It’s all about meeeee!” narratives were allowed to distract from that.

The new law is actually a means to an end, not an end in itself. A process that began (suitably) in 1984 is still rolling along. If you would like to support as we build the case against censorship, please join our list or even send a donation, large or small. Next year is going to be “interesting” for the UK, and not in a good way.

Feminism, free speech and keeping your enemy in plain sight

Journalist Nichi Hodgson takes a look at a feminism that justifies censorship in the name of fighting sexism. This article was originally posted on her blog, and is republished here with her permission.

If you’ve been thinking about feminism and free speech in the wake of the Julien Blanc debacle, I recommend you read Helen Lewis’ article for the Guardian on free speech and trolling. In it, she makes the little-mentioned point that the way we broadcast on social media is leading to ‘context collapse’. Yet to some extent this applies to Blanc too. The context for the PUA movement’s performative braggodocio is a country where the Westboro Baptist Church can caw for the death of homosexuals in the name of true faith in God, and where the right of abortion protestors to shout in the face of vulnerable womenleaving clinics is effectively a constitutional right.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we have to accept Blanc’s feckless brand of manipulation (as manipulative of men as it is women) out of some kind of culturally relative sympathy.  But it does help to explain how Blanc could establish his expensive workshops and get his stomp on in the grounds of maligned masculinity.

Lewis argues that it was right to deny Blanc a visa because his free speech is inciteful of violence against women. The problem, as ever, is proving incitement. It’s not impossible to do, of course, (although it raises serious questions about personal responsibility). But what the wider debate about free speech vs sexism is demonstrating is that it may be time to broaden our hate speech laws if we want to make it an offence to incite gender-based violence. To do that could throw up some interesting results – such as whether OBJECT constitutes a hate group, for example (here’s an interesting post from Sex and Censorship on the topic). After all, feminists against misogynistic language need to be careful. Labelling men rapists, where they have not been charged with a criminal offence, is defamatory.

Lewis’ argument is astute and articulate. But it is also unfortunately an argument diluted to censorship by campaigning feminists in their war against sexism. No More Page 3 have managed to persuade Tesco to censor the covers of tabloid papers on the basis of their sexism and so-called ‘harm’ against women. Yet they cite no independent, empirical research to back up their claims.

What’s more, they need to watch out that they don’t inadvertently curtail women’s sexual freedom. I’ve just been told that my next book won’t be for sale in supermarkets unless I tone down the title, for example. Guess what it’s about? Yep – female sexual liberation. Incidentally, there’ll be no scantily clad anything on the cover.

What’s more, the war against sexism is at risk of mis-serving its  most serious victims. We talk of ‘rape culture’ but seem to ignore the real details, causes and context of the 85,000s rape that take place in England and Wales. We harp on about the assault that is a street-side ‘hey baby’ while it’s revealed that Margaret Thatcher knew of the Westminster paedophile ring. Sexism and harassment manifest at every social level. Of course the government is going to round on individuals like Blanc – it helps deflect from their own multifarious abuses. But is Blanc really who we should be getting aerated about over a prime minster who turned a blind eye to eye – watering sexual assault, alleged murder and the abuse of scores of young men?

Personally, I’d rather be able to hear Julien Blanc. Milton’s argument in Areopagitica is that the broader the range if views we are privy to, the better we can crystallise our own. Keep your enemies in plain sight, especially when they are misogynists.

As the American academic Stanley Fish has it, “Free speech is what’s left over when you have determined which kinds of speech cannot be permitted to flourish”. Fish, of course, like Lewis, also believes that’s a good thing.

But that’s the thing about the internet. You can’t round on its dark, anti-social, hateful voices the way you can out there in civic society.

Nor can they hide.

That too, is a good thing.

Alert: New ATVOD Anti-Porn Censorship Law to Arrive 1st December

On 1st December a new law governing online porn will come into force in the UK. This is known as the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014, and amends the 2003 Communications Act.

The law applies to VoD services regulated by ATVOD, and imposes restrictions on the types of content that can be legally sold by UK VoD providers.

There has been much confusion over what this law means: this post is an attempt to provide some clarity.

Effects on Consumers

There are no (direct) implications for porn consumers. The law affects UK-based providers only. Consumers are still at liberty to access any online porn they want, and will only be affected if their favourite British website happens to be censored by the new law. Of course, existing laws (like the 2008 “extreme porn law”) still apply. However, see further implications below.

Effects on Providers

The new law only affects providers of On Demand Programme Services (ODPS) that are regulated by ATVOD. ATVOD’s power comes from the EU AVMS regulations, which relate only to “TV-like” services. In most European countries, most websites (including adult websites) are not considered to be TV-like. However, in the UK, ATVOD has chosen to apply the regulations far more broadly, and encompass a wide range of services, including adult sites. This gives ATVOD the power to regulate, and control, any website it decides is TV-like.

Note that ATVOD has repeatedly been struck down by Ofcom regarding its broad definition of TV-like. The Sun newspaper, the BBC, and a number of others, have successfully appealed that various services cannot be considered TV-like, and so have escaped regulation by ATVOD. Recently, a dominatrix also appealed that her site, Urban Chick Supremacy Cell (NSFW), was not TV-like, and won. Sites that have removed themselves from ATVOD regulation in this way are not bound by the new law.

What Does the Law Change?

The new law puts a restriction on the strength of porn that can be sold on regulated services. Previously, any pornographic content that did not breach existing content laws (for example “obscene” material, and child abuse imagery) could be sold. Now, only content equivalent to the BBFC’s R18 rating can be sold: this brings VoD services into line with DVD.

R18 is a strange thing: it is a set of weird and arbitrary censorship rules decided between the BBFC, the police and the CPS. There appear to be no rational explanations for most of the R18 rules – they are simply a set of moral judgements designed by people who have struggled endlessly to stop the British people from watching pornography.

In practise, this means that video of various fetish activities can no longer be sold by regulated UK services – the people most affected will be those running fetish sites of various types. This may explain ATVOD’s apparent obsession with chasing down dommes who sell their own videos: most femdom sites would now be illegal to run in the UK (at least, if they are “TV-like”).

The list of rules governing R18 is long and often vague, but they include:

  • Urination in various sexual contexts is banned, as is female ejaculation
  • Spanking, caning and whipping beyond a gentle level are not allowed
  • “Life-endangering activities” such as strangulation and facesitting cannot be carried out
  • Fisting is banned (if all knuckles are inserted), as are other large insertions
  • Bound and gagged models may not be featured, as there needs to be a clear way in which the model can withdraw consent

Why Has This Been Done?

The introduction of the R18 standard into law is essentially a way to circumvent European standards. The EU’s AVMS directive specifies that content that “might seriously impair minors” should be restricted so that under-18s cannot normally  view it. However, this is a test to be answered by psychologists, not government censors. The UK media regulator Ofcom looked at the results of research by 20 European governments, and stated: “No country found evidence that sexually explicit material harms minors”.

This is inconvenient for a government that wants an excuse to censor pornography, regardless of any evidence of harm. Introducing the R18 test removes the need for objective evidence, and instead allows censors to make arbitrary decisions.

Although the law is introduced under the pretext of “protecting children”, it actually affects adults and children alike.

Implications

In practise, very few people are directly affected: most businesses selling strong fetish material online left the UK years ago for other European countries or the United States (the well-known fetish site kink.com (NSFW) is run by a Briton who moved to San Francisco to escape our ludicrously censorious climate).

However, this law was clearly introduced to further ATVOD’s plans to restrict what sexual content can be accessed by UK citizens, and will doubtless be used to justify further censorship in various forms. ATVOD have long wanted to stop banks from processing payments for services that don’t meet their tight regulations, and have tried (and failed so far) to introduce licensing of non-UK sites. Watch this space for more news at it emerges (please join our mailing list for updates).

News Roundup: 2014-11-17

This week’s news includes;

  • Two leading supermarkets give in to pressure from campaign groups
  • Aeveral changes to the regulation of video and on demand content in the UK are set to come into force December 1st and,
  • Online retailer accused of selling “pro-rape” and “sexualised” clothing

Two leading supermarkets buckle under pressure from No More Page 3 and Child Eyes.

Tesco and Waitrose have conceded defeat and have announced that they will cover-up or remove from a ‘child’s line of vision’ tabloid newspapers.

Tesco told the BBC that their ‘news cubes’ would be redesigned so that only the mastheads would be visible to customers. While Waitrose said they would remove the tabloids from the eye level of small children.

The announcements come after months of campaigning by No More Page 3 and Child Eyes.

Tesco have claimed that they listened to both customers and campaigners (clearly only campaigners from one side of the debate) and wanted to “strike the right balance for everyone”.

Customer Experience & Insight Director Tracey Clements told the BBC:

“We are first and foremost a family retailer and it’s important we do everything we can to promote the right environment in store.”

Tesco says the changes to the display of tabloid newspapers (nothing about those celebrity mags that highlight cellulite on beach photos of celebrities though) will come into effect by the end of November, meaning newspapers will no longer be displayed vertically.

Waitrose tweeted:

“We’ve been working on this for some time and will soon be changing our newspaper fixtures so we can display some newspaper covers out of the eye line of children.”

No More Page 3 said it was “absolutely thrilled”  the group added on their blog;

“It sends a very strong message to the tabloids that Tesco don’t think their front covers are appropriate material for display in a family-friendly environment, and that can only be a good thing in the long term.”

BBFC shakeup content classification guidelines ahead of amendments to the Audio Visual Media Services regulations.

The BBFC are to update the content classification guidelines and aim to define what they will and will not allow in a video works – online or off.

A dedicated post regarding the changes will follow soon.

Naturally there are some dubious clarifications such as face sitting is not allowed about choking on a penis will be.

As always, the guidelines are open to vast interpretation and mis-interpretation by both producers and BBFC examiners themselves.

They are essential reading for everyone involved in the production of video content, but especially for those producing adult content and more niche works such as BDSM and fetish video.

The guidelines will feed into what other regulatory bodies find acceptable such as ATVOD and OFCOM as they typically use ‘R-18 equivalent’ as the standard by which they judge.

Audio Visual Media Services (AVMS) regulations are to be amended, amendments will be enforceable from December 1st 2014.

The AVMS regulations which sets out statutory and legal obligations for media distributors has been amended to cap the content that can be distributed at R-18 level.

There are those in the adult entertainment industry who believe it has always been mandatory and a legal responsibility to put R-18  content behind a credit card only or age verification enabled pay wall. It has not been. It has only been mandatory for on demand service providers as determined by ATVOD.

Those deemed to not be an ODPS, such as those who have won an appeal based on their content not being TV-like, ATVOD’s initial judging criterion, were free to continue to distribute R-18 content without such a strict paywall or verification procedure.

This law now enshrines in law, for the first time, the responsibility for any person or company with editorial control in the UK distributing R-18 content. Not just those notified with ATVOD as an ODPS.

The amendments also introduce a new level of content deemed ‘unclassifiable’.

The regulations will make it a criminal offence to not adequately restrict access to R18 content.

So while – “Big Anal Hos Volume 76″ will be heavily restricted; Saw, Hostel, American Pie, Basic Instinct etc etc… will be freely available to under 18s.

From the act;

“(2) An on-demand programme service must not contain any prohibited material.

(3) “Prohibited material” means—

(a)a video work which the video works authority has determined for the purposes of the 1984 Act not to be suitable for a classification certificate to be issued in respect of it, or

(b)material whose nature is such that it is reasonable to expect that, if the material were contained in a video work submitted to the video works authority for a classification certificate, the video works authority would determine for those purposes that the video work was not suitable for a classification certificate to be issued in respect of it.

(4) An on-demand programme service must not contain any specially restricted material unless the material is made available in a manner which secures that persons under the age of 18 will not normally see or hear it.

(5) “Specially restricted material” means—

(a)a video work in respect of which the video works authority has issued a R18 classification certificate,

(b)material whose nature is such that it is reasonable to expect that, if the material were contained in a video work submitted to the video works authority for a classification certificate, the video works authority would issue a R18 classification certificate, or

(c)other material that might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of 18.

You can read the full document here: http://legislation.data.gov.uk/cy/uksi/2014/2916/made/data.htm?wrap=true

Online retailer, CafePress, criticised for selling ‘unacceptable’ and ‘sexualised’ baby clothing.

CafePress, an online retail site, stock clothing and other merchandise that have either been customised by a previous customer or which customers can customise for themselves.

They have been criticised for selling clothing that is apparently unacceptable and calls for it to be removed .

Some of the customised clothing available online includes; a bib with “F*** like a porn star” embroidered across it and a baby blanket with “Awesome masturbating” written across it.

Australian quality campaigners appear to be leading the objections and have said that they contacted Cafe Press over a year ago regarding similar clothing.

Campaigner Caitlin Roper, of women’s rights/religious group Collective Shout, told The Independent:

“This content serves to reinforce women’s second class status, as less than men, as mere objects for men’s entertainment and gratification.”

and she continues;

“I can’t believe I even have to argue that sexualised or porn-inspired imagery and slogans on baby clothes and merchandise is unacceptable,”

also adding that Cafe Press’s “pro-rape ‘humour’ trivialises crimes of violence against women,” and reduces such an issue to just a “punch line of a joke”.

The British version of the site currently offers 132 different baby clothing products under the category of ‘Adult Sex XXX Porn’.

The Australian version of the site offers many more different t-shirts and slogans, including a babygrow with “Porn star in training” written across it.

The site had previously offered a mug and T-Shirt with “no means yes, yes means anal” transcribed in large print across it. However that product seems to have now been removed.

Roper contacted Café Press on Twitter and claims their attitude was “staggering”. Saying;

“They suggested I redirect my energy and instead of tweeting I should fill out reports. I countered that they should exercise some corporate social responsibility and asked if they were going to pay me to do their job for them.”

The Daily Mail also picked up this story and published images of some of the ‘unacceptable’ clothing claiming them to be promoting peadophilia.

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The UK is sleepwalking into censorship

  • Thousands of websites blocked by filters
  • Porn is just the starting point
  • Free expression is under threat!

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