U.K. High Court Blocks Adult Video Sales Over Web

Rhett Pardon
LONDON — In a stunning legal decision, the United Kingdom’s highest court has ruled that explicit adult videos cannot be sold over the Internet.

Further, high court justices said Monday that the videos cannot be sold through mail order or by phone. The court said the aim of the law was to stop the material from falling into the hands of children.

The court ruled that all “R18” films and videos must be sold in person in licensed sex shops. The R18 certificate represents a grade given by the British Board of Film Classification on its explicit nature.

"We have no doubt that one of the main reasons for the restriction is to ensure that the customer comes face-to-face with the supplier so that there is an opportunity for the supplier to assess the age of the customer,” Lord Justice Kay said in the ruling. "It is a disincentive to a visibly underage customer to seek out the forbidden material."

The ruling, however, may become a goldmine for websites and mail-order houses located elsewhere because the decision targets only those companies located in the U.K.

"Whilst they do no make it impossible for a determined minor to come into possession of an R18 video, they make it more difficult," Kay said.

In the decision, the court axed two appeals by licensed sex businesses fined after prosecutions by Liverpool City Council's trading standards department.

Interfact Ltd. were found guilty at Liverpool Magistrates' Court in last year for offering R18 classified videos on their website.

At the hearing which led to Monday’s ruling, Interfact’s David Pannick said it made "no sense" to allow sales to adults who were physically present, but prohibit mail order.

"Indeed, the only purpose which such an interpretation of the law would serve would be to damage the local economy in favour of the economy in France or the Netherlands," Pannick said.

Pannick had claimed prohibiting mail order would breach free speech rights, but the court said otherwise.