By Rob Stone
The story of my recent battle with the BBFC and an adult film called Dare Devils which throws into question the BBFC claims of impartiality in law enforcement matters.
UK hardcore video by Rob Stone (Rob Stone Films)
Cut by 3:12s when submitted in 2006 with the following BBFC comment: Compulsory cuts required to remove shots of, and dialogue reference to, abusive and/or forced gagging during deep throat fellatio. Further
cuts required to remove sight of fluid expelled from the anus, or which appears to be expelled from the anus, either consumed or having been expelled onto another person. Additional cuts required to remove sight of nudity and sexual activity in a public location
in the UK.
When I completed the hardcore release Dare Devils I knew that the BBFC were going to take issue with some of the more extreme content in the submitted film. Therefore, I decided that anything the BBFC cut, I would
offer for free on my web site. Anyone who bought the DVD could download the censored clips via a password protected section of the site.
How silly, silly, silly of me. Not only did Dare Devils take a staggering 4 months to be passed through the BBFC - a fact I was assured had nothing to do with my free downloads offer - they also took a very active role in ensuring the downloads never
When I noticed Dare Devils was taking a snail's pace through the BBFC, I rang up to find out what was going on. I was told that they hadn't seen content like it before and therefore 'needed to handle it carefully'. When the cuts list finally came
back to me in April (The film having been submitted in January), I also got a call from the senior examiner at the BBFC.
He told me that he had heard about my press release in ETO (Erotic Trade Only) announcing free downloads of censored clips and the BBFC had taken issue with it. I replied that I was unaware that the BBFC read ETO. The reply was a friendly kind of 'we have
eyes everywhere'. As I'd just had an acrimonious legal battle with a certain major R18 distributor at the time I wondered if the BBFC had been informed of the ad by someone inside the adult industry. 'No, the information was internal.' He replied. So the BBFC
DO read ETO!
Supposedly a few of the heads at the BBFC didn't like the fact that I was using the term 'BBFC' in my press release. That - apparently - brought the company into disrepute and could I refrain from doing it. No problem, I said, I'll just put 'censored clips'
or those cut by the 'censors'.
'Hmmmmmmm. Yes. Well, how about not doing it at all.' Because I was then informed that offering free downloads of censored clips not only made a mockery of the BBFCs hard work, it was also illegal. When I asked why it was illegal, instead of the Video Recordings
Act, I got the Obscene Publications Act.
The clips censored by the BBFC would be done so because they were illegal viewing in the UK. Therefore if they appeared on a web site they broke UK laws. What I was planning on doing was a criminal act and I could be prosecuted. When I stated the obvious:
shouldn't the resources of the OPU be focused on stopping child pornography sites, or maybe even the million UK porn sites SELLING downloads of material deemed illegal by the OPU, I got the same reply it seems everyone gets:
We're not talking about them, we're talking about you.
When I explained that the OPU's jurisdiction did not cover the internet I was told that I was a UK resident and a UK company offering downloads in the UK, therefore they COULD get me. I replied that my web host was in another country, therefore I wasn't technically
offering anything inside the UK. Doesn't matter, you're a UK resident, they can still get you.
At this point I asked why the BBFC were taking such an interest in a legal matter that clearly had nothing to do with them. On their web site it states that they are not a law enforcement agency and take no issue with enforcing the law. This phone call seemed
to prove otherwise. I was informed that it was just a 'friendly warning'.
I agreed to refrain from using the term 'BBFC' in any further ads and said I'd take legal advice concerning the other matters and call them back.
I didn't bother with the legal advice, instead I sat there thinking that perhaps the real reason the BBFC had taken an active interest in all of this was because there was sod all they could do about it and they just wanted to put the shits up me. I mean what
law was there to stop any film company, be it porn or mainstream, from putting all their clips censored by the BBFC on a web site? What would the BBFC do if the film-makers of say "Excorcist 3" uploaded some horror clips that had been censored? They'd
do bugger all, face it. But what if EVERYBODY started doing it? Well, then they'd probably still do bugger all. But pornographers being the scum of the earth, if a couple of them jumped on the band wagon, all hell would break loose.
A few weeks later I called the BBFC and told them that as they had taken so long to pass my film, I needed to make as much money from the content as possible to recoup my losses. Therefore I would have to circumvent the classifaction laws and the OPU to do
so. What I intended to do was sell all the censored material to a non UK resident who would then host it in a foreign country and offer it to whoever he wanted and the OPU couldn't touch me.
Stalemate. The friendly examiner at the BBFC said it sounded interesting and he'd speak to the OPU. (So yet again, the non-law-enforcement remit of the BBFC coming into effect).
Roll on another few weeks and the BBFC call me again. This time I'm not in a very good mood, and what they have to say pushes all the wrong buttons:
They have spoken to the OPU and they have stated that if I sell the material to another company outside the UK, that's as maybe, but if I place a LINK on my web site, pointing to another web site that hosts the clips, then I have broken the law and they can
come get me.
I just let loose both barrels, and I felt bad because I was only shooting the messenger: Why don't the f****** OPU contact me themselves? If they're going to prosecute me for a web link they'd have to go after every web site and every e-mail that so much as
points to adult content with material the OPU deem as illegal! How impossible and Monty Python is that?! I then screamed that if the OPU wanted to come get me for a web link, not only will I embarrass them by letting every newspaper in the country know what
a bunch of petty minded, resource wasting tosspots they are, I will hold the BBFC personally responsible for contacting the OPU in the first place. Therefore I would publicize the fact that the BBFC DOES act in affairs of law enforcement. I would then contact
Advertising Standards to inform them that the BBFC had untrue statements on their web site. Then not only would I retract my agreement to refrain from using the term BBFC in my advertising, I would intentionally shoot excessively hardcore material just to
get cut by the BBFC and devote a whole web site to it! I would then use the BBFC cuts list as promotional on all my DVDs and websites. Then, after all that was done, I'd take the BBFC and the OPU to a European Court and see how they fared there.
In fairness, the chief examiner listed to me very carefully, probably scribbled a few notes and did his best to calm me down. Then he said, quite flatly: The chances of them doing it are very remote. Very remote. But the point is, they said they COULD
if they wanted.
What? I thought it was the job of law enforcement agencies to ENFORCE the law not THREATEN it. But funny how in all of this I never got so much as a phone call from anyone at OPU. For all I know the BBFC could have been making the whole thing up. Who cares?
The irony of it all was that the cuts made by the BBFC on Dare Devils were much, much kinder than I ever expected, and it made a mockery of offering the free downloads anyway. It was like "was that it? is that all they cut?" And the next
film I put through the BBFC had content that was even harder and nastier than Dare Devils and it took all of about 6 weeks to pass.
The moral of this story? There isn't one. But if you find one please let me know.
British Board of Film Classification
The BBFC is an independent company tasked with UK film,
video and games censorship. It is funded through
The BBFC role is different for cinema, home media and online.
For cinema the BBFC
historically represented the interests of the film industry to ensure
that film makers avoided legal issues
from obscenity law etc. BBFC cinema ratings are advisory and the
ultimate censorship responsibility lies with local authorities. In the
vast majority of cases BBFC advice is accepted by councils. But advice
has often been overruled to ban BBFC certificated films or to allow BBFC
For home video, DVD, Blu-ray and some video games, the
BBFC acts as a government designated censor. BBFC decisions are enforced
by law via the Video Recordings Act of 2010.
For online films the BBFC offers a voluntary scheme of reusing BBFC
vide certificates for online works. The BBFC will also rate online
exclusive material if requested. Note that the Video Recordings Act does
not apply online and content is only governed by the law of the land,
particularly the Obscene Publications Act and Dangerous Pictures Act.
The BBFC is due to relinquish responsibility for video
games in late 2011. The Video Standards Council will take over the role
and ratings will be provided using Europe wide PEGI ratings and symbols.
- John Trevelyan 1958-1971
- Stephen Murphy 1971-1975
- James Ferman 1975-1999
- Robin Duval 1999-2004
- David Cooke 2004-present
- U: Universal: Suitable for all
- PG: Parental Guidance: General viewing, but some scenes may be
unsuitable for young children
- 12A: Suitable for 12 years and over.
No-one younger than 12 may see a ‘12A’ film in a cinema unless
accompanied by an adult. [cinema only]
- 12: Suitable for 12
years and over. No-one younger than 12 may rent or buy a ‘12’ rated
video or DVD. Responsibility for allowing under-12s to view lies with
the accompanying or supervising adult.. [home media only]
- 15: No-one younger than
15 may see a ‘15’ film in a cinema. No-one younger than 15 may rent or
buy a ‘15’ rated video or DVD.
- 18: No-one younger than
18 may see an ‘18’ film in a cinema. No-one younger than 18 may rent or
buy an ‘18’ rated video.
- R18: To be
supplied only in licensed sex shops to persons of not less than 18 years.
Hardcore pornography is allowed in this category
- Rejected. The BBFC has the power to ban the sale of home media. A
rejected cinema film may be shown with permission of the local
Not that rejected home media is banned from sale. It
is not generally illegal to possess. However criminal law
makes it illegal to possess child & extreme porn.
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