UK Legal Status of NTSC Media


Anyone in the UK wishing to buy NTSC video media (tapes, LDs, video CDs, DVDs) should bear in mind the following important issues:-

1) Video Certification:

Any video media offered offered for sale in the UK must first be approved (in other words, censored) by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Imported videos do not have such certification. It is AGAINST THE LAW, specifically the Video Recordings Act 1984, for UK retailers to sell uncertificated videos, punishable by a fine of up to £20,000 and six months in prison. Prosecutions are typically brought by Trading Standards officers of local councils.

It is LEGAL for UK citizens to order uncertificated video from overseas (but see 2 below) and possess them for their own personal use, but they may not resell them within the UK. There are however groups actively trying to close this import "loophole". Be warned.

2) Obscenity Laws:

Imported videos fall under the purview of the Obscene Publications Act and associated legislation. Customs & Excise routinely search packages arriving in the country, and will confiscate anything they find which they consider (in the words of the Act) "liable to deprave and corrupt". This includes adult anime titles commercially available in the US, such as Urotsukidoji and La Blue Girl. The seized material is destroyed without compensation and prosecution may follow.

Several leading video retailers in the US (including eBay) will refuse to ship any adult videos to the UK for this reason.

Anti-obscenity laws in this country are progressively tightening: under Section 3 of the Act, it is possible for the police to obtain an order from a magistrate for seizure of offending material anywhere, without recourse to a jury or right of appeal.

3) Region Coding and FACT:

DVDs incorporate a software lockout system called Region Coding (RC), which divides the world into six geographical regions, and in theory prevents DVDs being used outside the countries in which they are licensed (the UK and Europe lie in Region 2). However, the system is widely hacked, and US DVDs (Region 1) are popular elsewhere, because of the large number of R1 titles available (about ten times the number of UK-only R2 releases).

Since Autumn 1998, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), a trade body supported by members of the UK video industry, has conducted a systematic campaign of legal action against UK Region 1 DVD importers. FACT claims that since the R1 DVDs are only licensed for sale in North America, their sale in the UK breaches the copyright of official UK distributors (legally highly doubtful, but nonetheless...). Coupled with prosecutions for selling uncertificated videos, they have succeeded in shutting down several R1 DVD importers.

FACT is an industry body not accountable to the public, and it has ignored the widespread protests its actions have caused

In a deposition to Parliament, FACT have stated that they would, in effect, like to see even the personal import of video material stopped altogether.


Resources:

For more information about these issues, please see the following sites:

Melon Farmers: Dave Taylor's site chronicles the pettiness and absurdity of the UK censorship system.
Strong language: Dave tells it the way he sees it, and more power to him...

For clear thinking on the subject of adult anime, see HentaiFREEfree. Let grownups decide for themselves.

The Usenet newsgroup uk.media.dvd.

More links coming soon (NetFreedom, Liberty...)

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