Non-U.K. Hardcore Porn Websites on ATVOD's Radar

LONDON — In its annual report released today, ATVOD said that the U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service has the authority to disrupt the business of non-U.K. hardcore porn websites by blocking payment to the sites.

"[T]he Obscene Publications Act makes clear that non-U.K. websites which offer unrestricted access to hardcore pornography and which can be accessed from the U.K. are likely to be considered to be operating in breach of U.K. law," ATVOD said in the annual report.

"Such websites offer free content as a 'shop window' to attract subscriptions mainly paid by credit and debit card. ATVOD has therefore questioned whether it  can be right for businesses which are likely to be operating illegally to draw revenues from U.K. bank and credit card accounts."

News of the possibility that some websites could have their funds blocked made headlines last month on XBIZ when Pete Johnson, who leads the British regulator of video-on-content, spoke at the Westminster eForum conference on blocking payments.

Today, Johnson echoed his earlier statements about hardcore sites that market to U.K. consumers.

“Our recent enforcement activity has sent a clear message that U.K. providers of hardcore pornography on demand must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under-18s," Johnson said. "Asking visitors to a website to click an ‘I am 18’ button or enter a date of birth or use a debit card is not sufficient – if they are going to offer explicit sex material they must know that their customers are 18, just as they would in the ‘offline’ world.”

The annual report included other tough action by the regulator in the past year. This included sanctions against two services run by Playboy TV which resulted in fines totaling £100,000.

According to ATVOD, the porn video sites operated by Playboy TV had failed to ensure that under-18s could not access hardcore porn content on the U.K. operated websites. 

The Playboy TV services were among 16 services — operating across 26 websites — found to be in breach of the statutory rules in 2012-13 because they featured hardcore porn material which could be accessed by under-18s, ATVOD said.

Of the 16 services, 10 acted to make changes to bring the service into compliance and three promptly closed. The remaining three – including the two Playboy TV services – were referred to parent regulator Ofcom, which imposed financial penalties ranging from £35,000 to £65,000.

In its report, ATVOD said that parent regulator Ofcom confirmed the regulator's designation until 2020 and to give ATVOD more operating freedom, including removal of the need to seek prior approval from Ofcom before publishing guidance.

ATVOD's Johnson will discuss new rules and enforcement targeting adult entertainment companies at XBIZ EU. The Q&A session, slated for Monday, Sept. 23, at 1 p.m., is the kickoff seminar at XBIZ EU.

View annual report

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