20/05/21 Seminar presented by Jamie from Studio 66 TV
This seminar on UK Regulations and ID Verification was set up for Jamie to disseminate the information he’s learned from a couple of years in this field. Tackling legislation in the adult field, governmental direction and regulation, from the days of ATVOD, through into the latter regulation by OFCOM. Now Jamie shares his insight on the upcoming UK Online Harms Bill and how it may affect your adult online business.
This write up is certainly and abridged summary of a seminar which touched into many related areas. For the point of clarity, we’ll summarise into the key points more specifically to do with where we are in the adult space in the UK today, and where the regulatory direction of travel will mean we will be tomorrow.
Jamie started off by giving us all a brief summary of his background in this field. In 2010 the UK adopted the EU AVMS directive and subsequently established a new regulator called ATVOD to implement, monitor and enforce the regulation that the UK government put into place.
With specific regard to the adult space, this regulation was designed to keep adult content away from minors. Laudable in intent, but ineffective given the international nature of the internet. The simple fact was unless there was international adoption of regulation, any minors would simply surf to ‘the site next door’ which might be hosted in Canada, Belize or Australia, and as such not have to follow the rules of the EU AVMS directive, nor the intent.
This, along with significant political pressure from child protection agencies, the anti-porn lobby and a general direction of travel led the government to start work on the Online Safety Bill (previously known as the Online Harms Bill). This is currently going through an elongated Parliamentary process which will likely lead to being in the statute book and enforced some time in the next 2-3 years.
Jamie has been working with the Age Verification Providers Association for the last couple of years, in a role as an industry figure trying to help inform the government and steer the regulation to a direction where it is fair, workable and satisfies its intent.
Where we are right now
The current regulatory position is that OFCOM have taken the place of ATVOD and are now regulating VOD providers; these being TV and broadcast businesses, websites and other media outlets. Again, for the point of keeping this information relevant to the adult sector, OFCOM are charged with regulating adult VOD providers in the UK.
The current position is that if you are running
- A VOD service
- That has ‘editorial control’ based from the UK
then you are supposed to notify OFCOM and register as an ODPS (On-Demand Program Service).
Depending upon the size of your business, a regulatory fee may be required (businesses with a turnover of £10m or under are exempt from fees)
Regulation adherance for adult VOD services essentially falls into two key areas;
- As an adult VOD provider, you are not allowed to show explicit (to the equivalent of BBFC R18 level) without first successfully passing through an Age-Verification barrier.
- This AV barrier needs to be an established check against approved databases such as the electoral roll, driving license, passport, mobile phone status. As credit cards are only available to over 18’s, this is also deemed an acceptable barrier by OFCOM.
The difficult with regulating the internet internationally is that the OFCOM rules apply only to businesses based in the UK. As such, new legislation is needed to tackle this matter, which is where the proposed Online Safety Bill comes in.
The Online Safety Bill
Currently the proposed Online Safety Bill is designed to try and regulate content outside the scope of the current OFCOM AVMS interpretation. Social media platforms and other ‘user-to-user’ services would also come under the scope.
THE ONLINE SAFETY BILL APPLIES ONLY TO ONLINE SERVICES WHICH OFFER USER-TO-USER OR SEARCH SERVICES TO THE UK
- A “user-to-user service” is an internet service by means of which content that is generated by a user of the service, or uploaded to or shared on the service by a user of the service (including written material or messages, oral communications, photographs, videos, visual images, music and
data of any description) may be read, viewed, heard or otherwise experienced (‘encountered’) by another user, or other users, of the service.
- A “search service” is an internet service that— (a) is, or includes, a search engine and (b) is not a user-to-user service
- A “regulated service” must have links with the United Kingdom i.e.
a) the service has a significant number of United Kingdom users, or
b) United Kingdom users form one of the target markets for the service (or the only target market) or
c) the service is capable of being used in the United Kingdom by individuals, and
d) there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is a material risk of significant harm to individuals in the United Kingdom arising from:
i. in the case of a user-to-user service, content present on the service;
ii. in the case of a search service, content that may be encountered in or via search results.
- Services are exempt if their content is limited to Email, SMS and/or MMS, one-to-one live aural communications, Internal business services, ‘Limited functionality services’ and Public bodies
So this scope shows that OFCOM will have a broader spectrum of services to regulate.