The Film and Publication Board’s (FPB) deadline of 31 December 2006 for local pornographic websites to discontinue the distribution of adult material on the internet is looming, but unhappiness regarding this decision remains.
According to a press statement released by the Film and Publication Board: “Internet distributors of adult material have until 31 December 2006 to discontinue the distribution of adult material on the internet. Distribution of adult material on the internet is in contravention with section 24 of the Films and Publications Act.”
Whilst the Act has been in place for a while the regulation of online material has added a new element to regulation of adult content in SA.
The FPB’s official stand on online porn
“Distribution of adult material on the internet is in contravention with section 24 of the Films and Publications Act. Anyone distributing after the above set date will be punished accordingly as stipulated in the Act,” said the FPB.
The Board stated that they were implementing tougher regulation of adult content due to the many complaints received from the public.
“In view of a number of complaints from the public regarding the distribution and exhibition of materials containing depictions, descriptions or sequences of sexual conduct via the internet, by mail-order and through mobile cellular phones, the Board advises the South African Police Services to investigate and charge any person using above-mentioned media for distribution of films, interactive computer games or publications which have either not been classified by the Board or classified ‘XX’ or ‘X18’,” said the FPB.
Distributors of adult content can request a license from the FPB which will allow them to continue business but there are strict conditions attached to the license:
1. Such distribution or exhibition takes place within premises forming part of a building,
2. Notices prohibiting entry to such premises by any person under the age of 18 years is clearly displayed at all entrances to such premises and,
3. No material classified “X18” is displayed in such a way that it is visible from a point outside the premises.
Online distributors struggle to be legal
A group called Adultlinks.co.za investigated the issuing of these licenses only to find that a procedure was not yet in place.
According to the petition on the Adultlinks website ( http://petition.adultlinks.co.za/ ), “We have been in contact with FPB to establish how an adult site can comply with the act (and thus pay the prescribed fees and get a classification for a website), and reading between the lines we have learnt that the FPB is not geared to apply a classification to a website.”
The reason, according to the Adultlinks petition, why it is so difficult is because the Act deals with physical locations, printed media, video media and distributorship of material within these physical venues.
Problems arise due to the nature of a website or Internet material falling within the realm of the virtual world and therefore outside the bounds of the stipulations given within the Act.
Adultlinks stated that, “because the FPB has no way of classifying sites, a general attitude of ‘If we can’t regulate it, it must be shut down’ becomes very clear.”
A petition against the restrictive regulation of adult content has been launched by Adultlinks and they are urging interested consumers to make their voices count before SA sites are forced to close down.
The reason they feel this latest development from the FPB must be stopped is because it harkens back to the days when adult content in South Africa was tightly regulated and citizens were told what was acceptable and what not.
“All in all, the current situation reeks of old apartheid censorship, where government decides what you may or may not see, and I for one, am not going to take this lying down,” said Adultlinks spokesperson.