Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Britain's Extreme Porn Laws

A new British law, the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014, will come into effect on December 01, 2014. Dubbed the "anti porn" or "extreme porn" law it does not allow for certain kinds of porn to be sold any more by British makers independent of the online location where they sell it from.

"We must not allow the internet to be an ungoverned space"
- David Cameron, British Prime Minister. (Nov 14, 2014)

Crusade
The British government is on a crusade against porn with questionable intent and shoddy implementation. Sex and Censorship has written an excellent article on what the new law means but basically ATVOD the UK Authority for Television On Demand (yes there really is one) extended its oversight to include certain adult websites by labelling them TV-like services. Whomever has "editorial control" over the content is responsible, meaning if you live in Britain and run an American C4S site you are still within reach of British law, which, in a rather unprecedented move, means British Authorities claim jurisdiction over all on-line activities of people residing in Britain even if their on-line activities take place elsewhere.

I am very much surprised this new law has not drawn wider attention from businesses everywhere. Until now businesses like Amazon have mostly registered sales based on the domain of their websites, rather than where the customer is based. If the principle of "editorial control' works, nothing stops governments from applying that same principle taxing sales organizations based on where the customer is located rather than a fictional point of sale.

Mission creep
The whole thing - looked upon in isolation - makes little sense. The porn is still available, the owners are just not in Britain any more. Most people will say new law, big deal but often laws suffer from what is known as "mission creep": applying laws to situations for which they were not intended. However if you consider this a prelude to a government trying to gain more control over their citizens on-line life it is actually pretty smart. The government now has a framework in place to ban almost anything they dislike simply by adding items to the list. The BDSM community is as small and disorganized as it gets, which makes them the perfect test case. Privacy is more important than anything else for most people involved so the risk of someone challenging the laws are small. Political support in favour of kinky freaks is also highly unlikely:

"Hello I am your Prime Minister, during the day I have my hand on the red button so we can nuke Al Qa'ida at a moment's notice but at night I am down on all fours, obeying mistress' every order while she whips me silly. But don't worry the nuclear launch codes are safe with me. Sweet dreams everyone and don't do anything I would not do :)"

The new law outlaws "extreme porn", which I thought they already did in 2008, whatever that may be. The law will most likely effect dommes shooting their own femdom home videos to be sold on C4S, which in terms of sales is a cottage industry, so opposition will be limited. British porn viewers will still be able to buy "extreme porn" on-line, just not the home grown stuff. The British government will try to put an end to that as well by going after the banks that process payments and is tinkering with the idea of introducing some kind of licensing system. Government certified quality porn any one?

The whole thing is not just a silly solution but also a legal and moral quagmire. Even if you can reasonably argue what is and what is not morally objectionable, somebody has to decide what is "extreme porn". How do you do that? Light whipping is OK but extreme whipping is not. Are you going to hire a scientist who calculates the impact of each blow, taking into account things such as velocity at which the whip travels through the air, area affected and so on in order to distinguish between mild and extreme?

Yes. The country that gave you George Orwell now brings you
 draconian censorship of which porn is just the first to fall victim to.

What now?
Any challenge to these laws will be met by fierce government opposition. One suggestion is for dommes to sell (limited) rights to their content to foreign websites in return for a percentage, like artists and singers do. British producers can also set up foreign joint companies to distribute their content, a good lawyer should be able to separate editorial control from ownership issues. If you want to fight and take it to court you might consider to challenge the right of the UK regulator to categorize adult content as TV-like. Other options include to challenge the effectiveness of the law or bring a discrimination case against the government for allowing foreign companies to sell the kind of content, local companies are not allowed too. One last ground to challenge the law is the fact that it in effect makes it impossible for British based producers to sell their movies to jurisdictions where that kind of content is legal.

It baffles me that a law is introduced which does not solve the problem it is designed for, should such a problem exist. It adds an instrument to the government's toolbox to rather arbitrarily persecute people as well as introduce censorship via the back door, based on some random moral code nobody is able to define or defend.
Children will soon enough learn to circumvent controls to get the content they want. A law is just some words written on paper, it says nothing about its effectiveness or whether it is just. That won't stop politicians bragging about how they have put an end to the evil that is "extreme porn" lulling their constituents to sleep and perhaps cut some of the budget for the police, making Britain less safe rather than more safe.

Whatever happens, it probably is going to be a huge mess, crushing a few innocent people in the process, not solving anything but it will give politicians something to boast about or something to deflect attention from less welcome topics.

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