Video Recordings Act UK (1984) – Exempt Material

I posted the following on today’s Shooting People.org bulletin. It questions whether this act – strangely passed in 1984…and amended in 1993&4 – and therefore several years before the advent of the DVD, is being applied by the BBFC to DVD extras material which could well be exempt, or presented in a way which would make it so, under the terms of the act. But the draconian penalties – a maximum 2 years in prison and unlimited fines means that none of the small distributors are prepared to challenge the BBFC. But there is something we can all do.

Read on:

Material designed to educate, inform and instruct is exempt under the Video Recordings Act of 1984 and its ammendments (1993 & 1994), with certain provisions regarding sexual and violent content or instruction in criminal activity.

As most DVD extras material is designed to educate and inform – and such as ‘deleted’ scenes can be put into this context if accompanied by explanation, I contacted the BBFC about such material.

I’ll paraphrase their reply. It is not up to the BBFC to decide whether material is exempt or not, it is up to the distributor/supplier. If anyone sends material to the BBFC they will classify it – and charge hundreds/thousands of pounds for so doing – regardless. In fact, they comment, many distributors like having exempt material classified(!) They then referred me to the VSC where I could find a summary of the Act.

So I went and read their summary which did suggest that most ‘extras’ material was exempt, or could be edited/presented in ways which conformed to both the letter and spirit of the law.
But, as the penalties are horrendous – up to two years in gaol, £5,000 fines and so on, I needed further clarification.

The Act is enforced, not by the police, but by Trading Standards. So it’s all down to how Trading Standards officers interpret the law (if they can; and if, since the introduction of European Human Rights legislation, R18 and so on, they can be bothered.

The trouble is though, this is down to individual officers in individual boroughs. But the law gave them the power to ‘cross over the states line”, so to speak, and enforce their judgements in any other officer’s territory. So Trading Standards in Manchester could say youhave no need to bother with the BBFC, just stick an ‘E’ on your extras disc, and you end up getting busted by someone in jackboots from Tunbridge Wells.

There’s only one solution – to get the opinion from as many local Trading Standards offices as possible. Just Google, go to the right page, fill in your post code and you’ll get the email address for you local one.

I’ve just emailed mine with a detailed account of the confusion and a set of specific examples. Anyone who would like to use this as a model letter and copy and paste it to theirs is more than welcome to contact me.

Oh yes, please forward their replies to me as I will be publishing a summary of the results.

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