UK Citizens Worked Up About Broad And Vague Obscenity Law

from the outlawing-comic-books dept

I have to admit that I’ve never quite understood the point of any sort of obscenity laws. Perhaps it’s just my inner-libertarian, but why should the government be outlawing what people look at — especially when it comes to such a subjective standard as “obscenity.” Over in the UK, many people are up in arms over a new pornography law that is so broad and so vague that it could outlaw certain Batman comics, among other things. Defenders of the law will say that this is a ridiculous claim and that the law was intended for no such thing, and, in fact, police have said they don’t plan to actively enforce the law.

Of course, that should be a sign of why the law is so problematic. Basically, officials are admitting that they’re only going to use it in cases where either they can’t find something else on someone, or they just want to pile on. It’s not a law for any good reason… it’s giving prosecutors an extra tool to take someone down. In the end, it looks like this was just another grandstanding law — allowing some politicians to announce that they were able to help “protect the children” — with little thought given to the actual details. That’s why it includes a carve-out for movies. So, in theory, you could watch a movie with graphic pornography in it — but then writing a description to someone else about it would be illegal.

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Comments on “UK Citizens Worked Up About Broad And Vague Obscenity Law”

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Anonymous Coward says:

And this is what happens when a single person with some serious mental issues goes out and harms someone else. Instead of realizing that its just that one person with some MAJOR mental issues people go balisticly overboard and try to make a law banning whatever it was that person claimed to have caused them to harm or kill that person.

SteveD says:

Fear and scaremongering

There was a Radio 4 programme two weeks back that went a long way to establishing the culture behind this push. It seems a lot of UL sociologists are worried over the rise in online porn and the effect it might be having on young men. One sociologist admitted it was only in the last few years they’d even taken serious notice of the internet, previously amusing it would just be a ‘fad’.

The programme contained such wonderful lines as ‘online pornograpy ‘might’ have serious ‘unknown’ effects on your children. For extra effect it then cross-referenced the grieving mother of a girl killed a few years back by a man who was found to have been viewing a lot of violent porn.

On the face of it thats what this law is supposed to do; block out the really violent stuff. But thats illegal already, and the new laws vagueness means no one is really sure where the bars been set.

PaulT (profile) says:

“So, in theory, you could watch a movie with graphic pornography in it”

Not even that. According to what I’ve read, the footage needs to be in context – isolated clips are illegal regardless of their source. So, have a DVD of A Clockwork Orange or Salo? No problem. Rip a single scene to your hard drive with no surrounding contextual sequences? Now you’re a criminal.

Not only that, but I believe that any movie footage needs to be BBFC-certified. Are you a movie critic with a DVD screener that hasn’t made it through the BBFC yet, or did you buy an uncut version of your favourite movie while on holiday in the US? The law offers no protection if I’m correct about the BBFC requirement.

Sadly, just another poorly-conceived law from the makers of the “video nasties” controversy and its utterly ineffective and counter-productive fallout. Some of the above and the controversy surrounding the new bill may be hyperbole, but we literally don’t have any way of knowing how the law can be used until it is. If the only protection is the police promising they won’t enforce the law… what a scary concept.

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