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1984 film classification law gets reboot

Lords press replay on video act

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Anyone hoping that 2010 was the year when they could produce smut or violence for direct release to DVD, without undergoing the tiresome process of having their work checked and classified by the British Board of Film Classification, can hit pause now.

Such hopes were dashed yesterday as the House of Lords breathed fresh life into the Video Recordings Act 1984.

The Bill, shortly to take flight as the Video Recordings Act 2010 does no more than repeal and revive, without amendment, its previous 1984 incarnation. In the process, Parliament is putting right a procedural error – the UK forgot to inform the EU - made during the passage of the 1984 Act, which effectively invalidated the age-rated classification and supply controls contained in that Act and therefore made classification of DVDs unenforceable in UK courts.

At 3.38 pm, the 2010 Bill received its Third Reading in the House of Lords and, as it has trekked through both Houses of Parliament in a near record two weeks flat without any amendment, it now requires only the Royal Assent for it to be the law (again).

Her Majesty the Queen may yet take a couple of days to get round to signing it off. However, prospective filmmakers should not count on it: subject to further information, it should be assumed that the royal biro is being prepared for action even as we speak.

The Act does little more than put the state of play back to where we thought it was in the first place. All classifications passed during the period when we believed the 1984 Act to be the law are hereby reinstated.

Classifications put in place by the BBFC during the last few months of legal limbo will now take effect. Any film released during that period without classification may well now be in breach of the law and anyone responsible for such release should either withdraw their film or seek to obtain classification – or potentially face prosecution.

While this now puts the law back to where it was, readers should also be aware of a parallel amendment now wending its way through Parliament. This comes from Labour backbencher Andrew Dismore MP and, if successful, would require sports, music and religious DVDs to be classified in future.

Whether this will find sufficient parliamentary time to pass is in doubt – but given Tory support for these measures, the chances are that the proposal will be back in the next Parliament. ®

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