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Censorship Government Politics

British Video Recordings Act 1984 Invalid 340

Posted by timothy
from the slight-reprieve dept.
chrb writes "BBC News is reporting that the British Video Recordings Act 1984 is invalid due to a 25 year old legal blunder. The Thatcher government of the day failed to officially "notify" the European Commission about the law, and hence it no longer stands as a legal Act. There will now be a period of around three months before the Act can be passed again, during which time it will be entirely legal to sell any video content without age-rated certifications."
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British Video Recordings Act 1984 Invalid

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  • OMG, freedom. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:20AM (#29187163)

    What are we going to do with it?

    • Re:OMG, freedom. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:58AM (#29187759) Homepage Journal
      So, am I understanding it correctly, that a sovereign nation over there in Europe, cannot pass their own law without it also being reported (and I assume approved) by an outside entity??

      If so...doesn't that make you a non-sovereign nation then?

      • Re:OMG, freedom. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @12:22PM (#29188227)

        The whole idea of the European *Union* is that part of the sovereignty is sacrificed for something beneficial, like open borders (good for the economy), and reducing the likelyhood of war between European countries (you can think of the EU as a response to two world wars).

        Not everybody is happy about that, of course, partly because the EU is not as democratic as it should be. In some countries the EU constitution was voted away in a referendum because of that.

      • Re:OMG, freedom. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by imamac (1083405) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @12:37PM (#29188493)
        A european country in the EU will eventually end up just as "sovereign" as a state in the US.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cayenne8 (626475)
          "A european country in the EU will eventually end up just as "sovereign" as a state in the US."

          Well, at least these days, there is some grassroots movement these days, to try to stop the loss of power/independence in the states...and push back a bit on the federal govt.

          I only hope it isn't too little too late.

          With the way the current bits of legislation are going, with the feds taking over everything, well, there might be a backlash against it all....maybe the current administration IS what we need to g

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        They passed a law saying they had to notify the EU in order for a certain new laws to be valid, then failed to do so with another law ...

        So in the US if one law conflicts with another both are valid .... strange system you have ?

      • Re:OMG, freedom. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Xest (935314) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @01:03PM (#29188961)

        Not really, because the nation in question - Britain, has signed up to have that as part of the deal.

        If Britain hadn't signed up to this and Europe was still enforcing this you'd have a point, but as it's Britain's choice to only allow laws to be legitimate if reported to Europe then it's still a sovereign nation.

        It can get out of this agreement any time it wants but there's not really any reason to as it's not a big deal. Besides, nowadays Europe does a better job of running Britain than the current Labour government does. Certainly the European court of human rights and the EU itself have done more to protect my human rights and civil liberties as a citizen than my own government which has repeatedly tried to violate them.

        Even if Europe was in control of Britain then and did actively choose not to ratify laws like this it could only be a good thing until unelected Brown and his unelected cronies like Mandelson get kicked out next year.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alzheimers (467217)

      Exploit it in the most outrageous and gratuitous ways possible, thereby giving ammunition to the very forces who want to take it away?

    • by chrb (1083577) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @12:14PM (#29188053)

      I added this as a comment to the original submission but it didn't get picked up.

      According to The Telegraph [telegraph.co.uk] this also means that there is now no copyright on DVDs. I'm not sure of the reasoning for this since copyright is supposed to be enforced by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 [wikipedia.org], but that's the legal system for you.

      So, apparently the UK is now (unwittingly) running the first national experiment in the abolition of copyright and age controls on DVDs. Should be interesting!

    • The same thing that chickens do who sat in a tiny cage for their whole lives:
      You will just sit there, not knowing what to do. Until you're put back into the cage to work your asses off ("normal"), or killed to be feasted upon by large ugly beasts ("economy crisis"). :P

  • so who will (Score:2, Insightful)

    by acrobg (1175095)
    be the first to sell pr0n to little kids without any age-rating?
  • Hang On (Score:4, Insightful)

    by totallyarb (889799) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:21AM (#29187179)
    Can a British lawyer please tell me at what point notification of the European Commission became a requirement for an Act of Parliament to become legally binding? Surely such a surrender of sovereignty was exactly the sort of thing Thatcher opposed?
    • Re:Hang On (Score:5, Informative)

      by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:34AM (#29187369) Homepage Journal

      IANA(British)L, but here's the gist:

      The UK joined the EEC in 1973. Council Directive 83/189/EEC was passed in March 1983. It says that if a country passes "standards" it has to notify other countries.

      See, the EEC (now the EU) is designed to allow freer trade between countries. You can't do that if you're implementing standards that you're not telling other people about. It makes for a "gotcha" situation: "Hey, you didn't follow the standard, and we're going to prosecute you under our laws, even though you followed all the rules you knew about."

      • Re:Hang On (Score:5, Funny)

        by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:50AM (#29187619) Journal
        Ah! So if they up their standards they are legally required to tell other countries "Up yours!"
      • by Mikkeles (698461)

        I'm curious as to why "Ignorance of the Law" is no excuse for citizens, but must be specially handled for companies.

      • Re:Hang On (Score:4, Interesting)

        by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:57AM (#29187737) Journal

        >>>the EEC (now the EU) is designed to allow freer trade between countries. You can't do that if you're implementing standards that you're not telling other people about
        >>>

        Well that's stupid.

        The State of Utah can ban playboy from bookstores (and they have), but they are not any obligation to inform the other 49 states or the U.S. Congress about this change in law. It's called sovereignty - Utah does whatever it pleases within its own boundaries. I'm surprised to hear that the UK has less power over its own laws than does Utah, and I wonder if the EU may be exerting too much power.

        Aside-

        One cool example is when Delaware passed a law forbidding building new chemical plants without the DE Legislature's permission. Well just a few years later New Jersey built a new plant along the Delaware Bay. Delaware immediately sued NJ, and the NJ governor told delaware to fuck off, and so on. The U.S. Supreme Court dug-out 400 year old documents, reviewed the original charters, and proclaimed Delaware was correct - they own that beachfront. So New Jersey was forced to dismantle their construction and restore the waterline to its original appearance.

      • Council Directive 83/189/EEC was passed in March 1983.

        Surely, though, an EEC Directive can only govern issues pertaining to trade between EU countries? I can see how under this directive other countries in the EU could be freed of the requirement to comply (or at least, protected from prosecution if they failed to comply), but I don't understand how non-notification would invalidate the law itself.

        True or false: If I, a British Subject, today sold an 18-rated DVD to a 12-year old, I could not be prosecuted because some civil servant forgot to tell Brussels tha

    • Re:Hang On (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dr. Hok (702268) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:41AM (#29187481)

      Can a British lawyer please tell me at what point notification of the European Commission became a requirement for an Act of Parliament to become legally binding? Surely such a surrender of sovereignty was exactly the sort of thing Thatcher opposed?

      You call that surrender of sovereignty? Think again. The government didn't have to ask for permission to pass this law, it was only supposed to inform the European Commission. In other words: make it public, so their European partner countries know what's happening in their neighborhood. That's just common sense.

      • Since it refers to sales which take place wholly within the UK it has zero cross border implications. There are no important international implications - it's not like the straightness of cucumbers or whether carrots are a fruit which obviously everyone in the world needs to know.

        • by Dr. Hok (702268)

          There are no important international implications

          That's probably true for this particular law, but there may be cases where it isn't, and there may even be cases where the international implications are not easy to predict. So IMHO it is a good thing to publicise laws as a general rule. Do you think it is necessary to keep laws secret?

          And, it's the rule. A law is not passed if the rules are not followed. Evidence is not admitted if it was obtained illegally. Etc. It may hurt sometimes, and even seem stupid, but rules should be followed. Especially by gove

        • you are missing the point of cross-border trade.

          this is important if you are a belgian dvd shop that wants to sell over the internet to the UK.

          Fair enough that if the UK passes some law restricting who/how a belgian store can sell dvds - then they should at least add it to a register of 'things you might want to look out for'

      • If we were only talking about a requirement that made the law unenforceable when applied to importers from elsewhere in the UK without notification, you would be right. But in this situation, application of a law domestically becomes impossible without reference to an outside party. You don't think that limits sovereignty?

        I'll admit it's a subtle difference, but I don't think a country can truly be considered sovereign when its internal laws can be invalidated by a failure to notify an external party.

    • Can a British lawyer please tell me at what point notification of the European Commission became a requirement for an Act of Parliament to become legally binding? Surely such a surrender of sovereignty was exactly the sort of thing Thatcher opposed?

      IANABL. In fact, I am neither British nor a lawyer. I was wondering the same thing as you - since when was it a requirement that an Act of Parliament could not become legally binding until a supranational body is notified?

      A bit of Wikipediaing and then Googling turned up that: It is Directive 83/189 from the European Committee for Standardization that required this. It only applies to technical standards and regulations, not all statutes. Presumably, the requirement for notification is so that the di

    • Re:Hang On (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eln (21727) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:54AM (#29187677) Homepage
      The EU is designed in part to be a very close union between member states, in order to combat the extreme nationalism that predicated two major ruinous conflicts on the European continent in the 20th century. Every EU nation gives up some measure of sovereignty (although really not that much in the grand scheme of things) in order to promote the greater good.

      Even having said that, though, I would argue that the simple requirement to inform other nations of standards and laws you pass is not really any more of a surrendering of sovereignty than most other provisions in any other treaty between nations.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Dupple (1016592)
      Except it was the tories that signed the Maastricht treaty under John Major, which gave up more british sovereignty than anything else. Not saying Labour would have been any better, but it was the tories that gave up a lot of our indepenance
      • I thought that "independence" was a French word, but clearly it must have drifted quite a lot in meaning since king William. From New Labour to the Tories and the fucktards at UKIP, it seemed quite compatible with bending over backward to please GWB and begging for more. Now when Brussels asks you to follow simple rules you agreed to and 24 other countries have no problem adhering to, that's an outrage.
        What a joke.

  • This is absurd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mpeskett (1221084) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:22AM (#29187183)

    How exactly do 25 years pass without anyone noticing that a law, that's supposed to be official and in force, hasn't actually been enacted?

    It's beyond a joke... although I'm sure there will be plenty of jokes.

  • Scandalous (Score:5, Informative)

    by RobVB (1566105) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:23AM (#29187191)
    FTA:

    "Our legal advice is that those previously prosecuted will be unable to overturn their prosecution or receive financial recompense," she said.

    So people who were previously prosecuted for breaking a non-law will be unable to overturn their prosecution.

    • Re:Scandalous (Score:5, Informative)

      by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:25AM (#29187243) Journal

      Of course not.

      "An emergency Injunction was passed until a formal law could be passed."
      The Censorship Nazgul don't give up that easily.

    • FTA:

      "Our legal advice is that those previously prosecuted will be unable to overturn their prosecution or receive financial recompense," she said.

      So people who were previously prosecuted for breaking a non-law will be unable to overturn their prosecution.

      It seems very unusual that you can argue that past convictions for violating an invalid law are valid, unless the Government will argue that it was an Act of Parliament and so was really legally binding, but now it is being rescinded non-retroactively and will be re-enacted in order to meet their treaty obligations. To me, that seems like the most reasonable position that is consistent with the Government's actions on this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      >>>people who were previously prosecuted for breaking a non-law will be unable to overturn their prosecution.

      Jeez. More stupidity. People should not be forced to adhere to a law, or be punished by a law, that has been declared unconstitutional. "All laws, rules and practices which are repugnant to the constitution are null and void." Marbury v. Madison, early 1800s.

      "The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly v

  • Wouldn't that mean that everyone prosecuted under it for the last 25 years is also innocent?
  • They probably have 10 different laws on the books that overlap. They can just pick one of the others to charge you with.

    It's like when you get a DUI, and they charge you for both "drunk driving" and "driving with a BAC of .08".

  • My first idea in such a case would be "so the UK has violated the EU treaty, but the law is still valid".
    That a law can actually be invalid because of such an administrative error is surprising and I wonder what other things like this are hidden in the legalese of the EU treaty.
    I also wonder why a national government accepts this so easily. Do they, perhaps, hope to upset the balance of powers through the EU?

    • I see stories like this and wonder about the people who argue that member countries of the EU are not the equivalent of U.S. states. This actually makes them less sovereign than U.S. states, since U.S. states don't need to "inform" the federal government when they pass a new law for it to be a law.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Desler (1608317)
      The point of such a clause is so that every member country in the EU is notified of any regulations you have passed that affect doing commerce in your country so that they know all know about. Seems to be a rather sane idea contrary to the usual knee-jerk anti-EU hysteria that will come about in this thread. Would you like to be sued because you sold something in the UK, for instance, and didn't know they had passed some new regulation that required you to jump through some legal loophole before you could
    • by Dr. Hok (702268)

      I also wonder why a national government accepts this so easily.

      Um, perhaps because it is a union. Where countries cooperate.

      But actually, I am quite surprised that the British government does not simply ignore this little mistake. Britain has not exactly been the model EU member with all its exceptions and vetos. At times I thought they only joined the EU because it'd be easier to sabotage it from the inside.

  • Hurray?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:30AM (#29187325) Journal

    So when society DOESN'T collapse into anarchy, are they going to realize this law was idiotic and unnecessary and not pass it again?

    • by AndyboyH (837116)

      It's a shame there's not a Score: +1 Optimistic...

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:48AM (#29187587)

      during those 3 months until Parliament can scramble together a Save the Children act.

      I heard that the FBI kept on relying on parts of the (un)Patriot(ic) Act long after the Supreme Court overturned those same parts of it. Business as usual, carry on.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      I imagine that the MPs won't be able to distinguish "idiotic and unnecessary" due to the high background levels of idiocy and superfluousness built into the Commons.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hoplite3 (671379)

      The Roman Republic lasted some five hundred years without criminal law. From this, you could conclude that the modern notion of criminal justice is unnecessary, even in a large society. But a look inside of Rome might change your mind. Just because the system didn't collapse without this law doesn't mean the law is worthless. It also doesn't mean it's any good, either.

  • Just watch... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by damburger (981828) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:32AM (#29187349)
    When the British Video Recordings Act 2009 is passed, it will be more restrictive than the original 1984 verson. I mean, why would any good centre-right, middle-class courting, focus-group driven pack of fear-mongers pass up a perfectly good opportunity for a moral panic? Won't somebody PLEASE think of the CHILDREN!?
  • Now I'll finally be able to buy that copy of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre I was too young to buy when I was 17 in 1991!
  • Retroactive courts? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mwvdlee (775178)

    Does this mean that anybody found guilty and punished for breaking this law in the past 25 years will now be paid back by the government?

  • Giving legal advice is rather dangerous. She may have just entered herself into a client/lawyer relationship with anyone that was in the room and maybe even reads the article. IANAL so I have no idea what it implies, but it is on every single lawyer site that I read that a relationship has not been created.
  • A shopping list. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @12:26PM (#29188301) Journal

    Wikipedia has a List of Video Nasties [wikipedia.org]. If you live in Britain, but have never seen La Maldicion de la Bestai [wikipedia.org] or La Bestia in Calore [wikipedia.org], you may have a window of opportunity.

  • by realsilly (186931) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @12:28PM (#29188337)

    I think Tom Lehre said it best in his song called Smut.

    I do have a cause though. It is obscenity. I'm for it. Unfortunately the civil liberties types who are fighting this issue have to fight it owing to the nature of the laws as a matter of freedom of speech and stifling of free expression and so on but we know what's really involved: dirty books are fun. That's all there is to it. But you can't get up in a court and say that I suppose. It's simply a matter of freedom of pleasure, a right which is not guaranteed by the Constitution unfortunately. Anyway, since people seem to be marching for their causes these days I have here a march for mine. It's called...

    Smut!
    Give me smut and nothing but!
    A dirty novel I can't shut,
    If it's uncut,
    and unsubt- le.

    I've never quibbled
    If it was ribald,
    I would devour where others merely nibbled.
    As the judge remarked the day that he
    acquitted my Aunt Hortense,
    "To be smut
    It must be ut-
    Terly without redeeming social importance."

    Por-
    Nographic pictures I adore.
    Indecent magazines galore,
    I like them more
    If they're hard core.

    (Bring on the obscene movies, murals, postcards, neckties,
    samplers, stained-glass windows, tattoos, anything!
    More, more, I'm still not satisfied!)

    Stories of tortures
    Used by debauchers,
    Lurid, licentious, and vile,
    Make me smile.
    Novels that pander
    To my taste for candor
    Give me a pleasure sublime.
    (Let's face it, I love slime.)

    All books can be indecent books
    Though recent books are bolder,
    For filth (I'm glad to say) is in
    the mind of the beholder.
    When correctly viewed,
    Everything is lewd.
    (I could tell you things about Peter Pan,
    And the Wizard of Oz, there's a dirty old man!)

    I thrill
    To any book like Fanny Hill,
    And I suppose I always will,
    If it is swill
    And really fil
    thy.

    Who needs a hobby like tennis or philately?
    I've got a hobby: rereading Lady Chatterley.
    But now they're trying to take it all
    away from us unless
    We take a stand, and hand in hand
    we fight for freedom of the press.
    In other words,

    Smut! (I love it)
    Ah, the adventures of a slut.
    Oh, I'm a market they can't glut,
    I don't know what
    Compares with smut.

    Hip hip hooray!
    Let's hear it for the Supreme Court!
    Don't let them take it away!

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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