Loophole Invalidates U.K. DVD Age-Rating Law

Tod Hunter
LONDON — A routine check of U.K. law by workers on the Digital Britain project has discovered a loophole in current law that means retailers who sell restricted materials — like violent video games and 18-rated DVDs — to children cannot be prosecuted.

The Video Recordings Act (VRA) was passed by the Thatcher government in 1984 and required that videos and video games must be classified and age rated by the British Board of Film Classification. The law made it illegal to sell violent video games to children and required that explicit adult videos be sold only in licensed sex shops.

However, the Thatcher government did not notify the European Commission about the law, making it invalid.

Culture, Media and Sport Minister Barbara Follett said, "The VRA is no longer enforceable against individuals in U.K. courts."

Ongoing prosecutions are being dropped, but previous prosecutions will stand, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In 2007, 87 people were convicted for offenses including supplying material which should be sold only in sex shops and selling unclassified work.

The law is expected to pass again in three months.

The Digital Britain project promotes modernization of communications, including radio, television, broadband and new media, in the U.K.