Web dominatrix wins David and Goliath battle with regulators

 

A dominatrix whose website provides paid-for bondage and sadomasochistic content has won her David-and-Goliath battle against a quango’s attempts to regulate her site in the same way as ITV Player.

Lawyers representing Ms Itziar Bilbao Urrutia, who runs the website The Urban Chick Supremacy Cell (UCSC), declared the ruling “a massive victory for freedom of sexual and artistic expression”.

Ms Urrutia, who described herself as a performance artist, has claimed that she had been victim to a crackdown on smaller, niche pornography providers by the Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD).

“Whenever I see who has been reported to ATVOD, it is usually material that could be classified as kink – especially femdom [female domination],” she said.

ATVOD, designated as the “co-regulator” of on-demand television by Ofcom, was founded in 2010 following an EU directive on the regulation audiovisual media. It is responsible for regulating on-demand services such as ITV Player and Channel 4’s 4oD – as well as paid-for content on websites which are deemed to be "tv-like".

In June 2013, Ms Urrutia received a letter from the regulators saying she had breached rules one, four and 11 of their code. While rules one and four related to the categorisation of her online content as TV on-demand, rule 11 relates to “material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of 18.”

Ms Urrutia said that as a small-time website owner she should not be regulated by ATVOD, which is funded by a service charge levied on all on-demand providers. She also insisted that her work, which she defines as performance art, did not contravene the Obscene Publications Act.

Ofcom upheld Ms Urrutia’s appeal, finding that her site did not constitute TV on-demand. Some changes had been made to the site since ATVOD’s initial investigation.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “Ofcom found that UCSC was not an on-demand TV service; and therefore outside of the remit to regulate. Where we do have powers, we take robust action when rules are broken to protect children.”

In the ever-changing world of media consumption, with lines blurred between television and the internet, the case highlights the difficulties of regulating sensitive material across different platforms.

Peter Johnson, chief executive of ATVOD, said: “There is sometimes a fine line separating adult services which are subject to the statutory rules from those which are not. UK services which feature the most extreme material are not subject to the video on demand regulations unless they are considered ‘tv-like’.”

Myles Jackman, an international specialist in obscenity law at Hodge Jones and Allen, the firm which represented Ms Urrutia, welcomed Ofcom’s decision.

“Together we won a decisive victory against the repressive regulation of sexual freedoms,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Creative Designer / Graphic Designer

Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Designer / Graphic Design...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - ECommerce

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers' in retail...

Reach Volunteering: Volunteer Marketing/PR Trustee for South Thames Crossroads

Voluntary, resonable expenses paid: Reach Volunteering: South Thames Crossroad...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue