ATVOD Begins Talks With U.K. Processors Over Foreign Porn Sites

Oct 14, 2013 12:00 PM PST

LONDON — The top U.K. processors on Monday said that last week's summit hosted by U.K. video-on-demand regulator ATVOD provided a "starting point" discussion on a plan that could effectively block revenue generated by foreign hardcore porn sites.

ATVOD in its latest initiative is seeking a voluntary deal with banks and credit card firms to tackle hardcore sites that don’t employ age verification.

But the group of processors at the meeting — the British Bankers’ Association, MasterCard, Payments Council, PayPal, The UK Cards Association and Visa Europe — summed up that they don't want to be "the regulator of the open Internet."

Nevertheless, the processors said that that they have agreed to work with ATVOD to consider how any proposal to limit the exposure to explicit porn images might work in practice should new laws become enacted.

"The view of the meeting was that the current legal framework provides inadequate provision for this to happen and any emerging initiatives will need a firmer statutory underpinning," the processors group said.

Noting that they already work with law enforcement agencies, the processors said there is "no single solution" over what to do over the proliferation of free porn and that ATVOD's meeting was a "useful starting point."

"It is clearly a global issue and any initiatives have to recognize that most of the websites in question are hosted outside the U.K. and that such online material is often available free of charge," the processors said. "The industry will work with [ATVOD] to develop proposals that will make it more difficult for payments to be made to online services which allow children to access explicit pornographic material. 

"The industry, alongside ATVOD, is therefore keen to explore this with government," the processors said. "In the meantime, we have agreed to work with ATVOD to consider how any proposal might work in practice, should the necessary statutory underpinning come into being."

ATVOD CEO Peter Johnson told XBIZ on Monday that the regulator viewed the meeting as " positive and constructive" but did not elaborate further on the meeting, which was not open to the public.

Johnson announced earlier this year that some websites that market to U.K. consumers could have funds blocked by banks and credit card companies if their operators fail to stop children accessing the sites.

He has noted that recent enforcement activity has sent a clear message that U.K. providers of  VOD hardcore porn must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under-18s.

With the latest ATVOD initiative, foreign porn sites would be subject to some form of regulation by the processors.

U.K. officials this past summer have hinted that they will prepare legislation if the processors don't agree on some form of regulation for non-U.K. porn sites that don't employ age verification.

ATVOD's initiative to regulate foreign porn is just one of the battles facing online adult entertainment.

Last summer, Prime Minister David Cameron announced an opt-in system under which households would be denied sexually explicit online material unless they specifically asked for such access.

Cameron this month will hear testimony from companies including Google and Yahoo to demand to know how they have progressed since July, when he demanded that they block explicit web searches.

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