A legal perspective on rated website content

So you want to set up a website which includes rated video blogs; live camera footage; and photographs. Here are some of the important issues to consider to keep your website on the right side of the law.

1. First and foremost in relation to children: it is of the highest importance that you actively protect children. It is recommended that you work with the police to help to prosecute any users that might be involved in harming children. The Protection of Children Act 1978 sets out the UK law. Other countries have their own stringent laws with regards to the exploitation of children.

2. UK law draws an important distinction between indecent content and obscene content. With the exception of the Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981, the law only prohibits the publication of obscene content. The difference between indecent and obscene is determined by a local cultural standard.

2.1 The test of obscenity is in section 1(1) of the Obscene Publications Act, 1959. Whether the effect of the article (article includes: images, videos, text, audio) is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who were likely to read, see or hear it. In other words the obscenity depends on the article and not the author. Therefore, the intention of the website owner is irrelevant.

3. In the case of Shaw v. Director of Public Prosecution 1960. Mr Shaw was convicted of a conspiracy to corrupt public morals and living off immoral earnings because he advertised prostitutes in a directory.

3.1 The prostitutes did not pay him but they paid him to advertise in the directory. The court held that paying him to advertise prostitution was an offence. The articles in question tended to deprave and corrupt persons who were likely to read them.

3.2 Further that he lived off immoral earnings because for the purposes of section 30 (1) of the SO Act, 1956, he was being paid by prostitutes out of their prostitution earnings.

3.3 Prostitution itself is not illegal in the UK. However, note that under s52 & 53 of the SO Act 2003, you cannot incite prostitution nor can you control the activities of a prostitute.

4. Under the Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981, it is a criminal offence to publicly display indecent material from any place where the public can access. This means that it is illegal to have your Website directly accessible by the public if it is displaying indecent material. Your business and you as an individual could be guilty of this offence. There is an exception where the public can only gain access by passing beyond an adequate warning notice and persons under the age of 18 may not enter.

5. If you will be collecting personal data and using cookies you need to consider the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Amendment) Regulations 2011 No. 1208 implementing the Citizens Rights Directive which amends the E-Privacy directive that was implemented on the 25 May 2011. You should also consider the Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (the “Directive” ).

6. Finally, but by no means least is extreme activity or violence or any exotic services defined by Section 63 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 as illegal. Further, under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and 1964, it is a criminal offence to knowingly publish obscene material. It is therefore not advisable to advertise or display extreme activity or violence through your website. You may also want to disclaim liability from third party sites.


The above issues are just some of the important challenges to avoid illegal activity in setting up a rated or dating site. Other issues include copyright abuse, trademark infringement and many more.

According to A Practical Guide to Business, law & the Internet, By Peter Adediran, the Internet is global by nature, and although most local communities have the same values for some public issues such as immigration and taxation, culture will differ from country to country. What is indecent in the UK may not necessarily be indecent in the Netherlands or the United States. It is also important to note that laws on rated activity are subject to continual change as society becomes more tolerant as to what is in-fact morally permissible within the relevant local culture, for example what is considered indecent in the UK has changed massively since 1959.

Internet Behavioural Advertising 



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