Ofcom Reverses ATVOD Decisions on Appeal

Jun 7, 2016 10:50 AM PST

LONDON — U.K. communications regulator Ofcom has made another determination in favor of an online adult operator over an appeal that questioned whether the operator’s sites were subject to regulation.

The operator of Candy Girl Productions, Laura Jenkins, won her appeal involving two online adult sites AllTeensWorld.co.uk and CandyGirlPass.com as well as 33 other affiliated adult subscription sites, Ofcom revealed in a bulletin issued today.

Just yesterday, XBIZ reported that adult director and performer Pandora Blake received word that she won her appeal over DreamsOfSpanking.com and planned to relaunch the fetish site in a number of days.

In both Blake’s and Jenkin’s cases, Ofcom reversed decisions made by previous co-regulator ATVOD and decided the sites listed in the appeal cases were not on-demand video websites and subject to regulation, including requiring a system that verifies that the user is 18 or over at the point of registration. Each of the online adult companies were subject to fines prior to the appeal cases.

Ofcom said in the rulings that it proposed to quash previous ATVOD determinations in the cases and replace it with the current determinations.

In each of the cases, Ofcom did not consider the audiovisual content on the sites to be “standalone services” and subject to the country’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive that controls on-demand programming.

In Blake’s appeal over DreamsOfSpanking.com, Ofcom noted the online adult video content “was always accompanied by photographs of the scene depicted in the video, such that the audiovisual material was complemented by photographic content, forming part of an integrated offering of audiovisual and photographic content, together with the blog available on the service, which discussed the scenes depicted in the videos and photographs, as well as other topics related to the theme of the service.”

U.K. industry attorney Myles Jackman told XBIZ today that Ofcom's recent decisions that reverse ATVOD's determinations, “may be indicative of how far [ATVOD CEO] Peter Johnson went off reservation.”

“But [the determinations] should give the adult industry hope for a more sensible and nuanced approach to porn regulation under this new regime," Jackman said.

Jerry Barnett, who leads the London-based Sex & Censorship, told XBIZ that he’s pleased that Ofcom has withdrawn the ATVOD rulings on the basis that the sites are not TV-like.

“However, let us not forget that Ofcom holds deeply anti-porn attitudes, and this ruling is not a sign of any deep policy change,” Barnett said. “In fact, the government has signaled that a coming law — the Digital Economy Bill 2016 — will extend Ofcom's powers in this area.

“Specifically, the ‘TV-like’ test will be removed, and the law extended to cover all forms of adult content, including still images and live streams, which are not currently included. Unfortunately, I expect that they will come back after these sites once they have the powers they've been lobbying for, so they have only been given a temporary reprieve.

“Non-U.K. businesses should also beware, as the new law is likely to give Ofcom powers to disrupt overseas adult services.”

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