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Importing DVD's into the UK

Discussion in 'Movie Forum' started by PoochJD, Feb 25, 2002.

  1. PoochJD

    PoochJD
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    Hi,

    I already import DVD's into the UK, by using http://www.dc-dvd.net

    However, I want to find out more info on the perils of importing DVD's into the UK, from abroad, yet have failed to turn up much information on the Internet, regarding this topic.

    As such, I'm looking to you generous folks for help and guidance.

    Having checked both the BBFC site, and the HM Customs And Excise site, I'm still none the wiser as to why some horror material gets banned or seized, and other titles don't. So....

    1) Does anyone know of what criteria HM Customs use to decide what should or should not be seized?
    2) Do HM Customs have a list - available to the public - of titles that have been seized/prosecuted/seized but then let go as acceptable?
    3) Do HM Customs talk to the BBFC, expecially with the current change in certification of materials, here in the UK?
    4) Has anyone had any experience with importing a DVD and HM Customs, and wish to tell us about it, anonymously if you so wish?

    I'm only asking this, purely out of curiosity, after having read a report on this thorny issue on the Melon Farmers website.

    Cheers, in advance,

    Pooch
     
  2. alanrob

    alanrob
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    Customs don't check every package that comes in from overseas.
    General rule that most people follow is to keep the cost of the package below £18 so that you don't get a customs charge.

    No idea about what films are banned in the UK and unless Customs were opening every single package then how would they know what's in it?

    I think you'll find a good few have imported banned movies from the US etc..
     
  3. Lex

    Lex
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    I think it is the case that any film without a BBFC classification is inelligible for import.

    Could be wrong though:blush:
     
  4. Guest

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    Check Out http://www.melonfarmers.co.uk for customs and import type situations.
    Basically, you can import any film for non commercial use as long as it is not classed as obscene. There lies the rub. Customs have their own definitions of obscene (Reanimator!) and are basically unchallangeable, even in court, if one correspondant is to be believed. Remember also, these people need no warrant to raid a property and, once inside, can sieze pretty much whatever they like. Personally, I am a weed and buy anything likely to be 'dodgy' at film fairs etc.
     
  5. PoochJD

    PoochJD
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    HI Folks,

    Thanks for the help, but alas, none of what anyone wrote has left me any the wiser. Sorry. :(

    Who Cares - I did mention about the Melon Farmers website, and it was an article on their that got me thinking about this issue.

    I know that technically if a film doesn't have an official BBFC certificate on it, that it is therefore illegal to be imported, yet we all import material that has no BBFC certificates on all the time. (For example, it doesn't matter if the film we import is a double-DVD edition of "Disney's Atlantis" or the uncut, uncensored, full gore version of "Cannibal Holocaust". Technically, neither of the versions that are imported into the UK, will be the same ones that the BBFC approve and certificate.) Same as a lot of you, I too also import a lot of dodgy horror and exploitation material, but not porn (as it doesn't appeal to me in any way).

    I know for a fact, that under UK law, it is perfectly okay to import material on DVD or VHS for your own personal use. However, as most of that material is unlikely to have a BBFC-approved certificate on it, then surely the law's a little vague. Plus, there's the problem that some films won't be BBFC approved, purely because no one in the UK has asked for some of the more obscure material to be classified. (As for whether or not said material may be suitable for UK aduiences, and at what level, is another ball-game.)

    If Customs seize a certain film, and then deem it to be obscene or whatever, then surely they must have some kind of guidelines by which they judge this standard. And, I guess, that's the crux of my $64,000 question: how do the HM Customs people decide what should be allowed in and what is obscene, and thus ban-able?!

    Sorry to be such a git, and I don't want to sound ungrateful for your help, because I'm not, but maybe I should have explained myself more.

    Cheers, in advance,

    Pooch
     
  6. lechacal

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    Pooch
    There simply isn't a definitive answer. C&E do not have set, hard and fast guidelines as such, and this is the problem. If you went to C&E and asked them to give an opinion on particular material they wouldn't do it. The first you would know about whether they classify something as obscene or not is when you try and import it, they see it and decide to arrest you.
    The problem is the law just referes to material 'likely to deprave or corrupt'. This is as close as you get to a definition. What it really comes down to is whether someone at C&E decides that what you're bringing into this country. And what they say goes. Since there is no legal definition, how can you challenge it anyway? It's a ridiculous gap in the law that's needed clearing up for a long time.
    Most people do not realise just how far HMC&Es powers extend. They are truly frightening.
     
  7. Matt

    Matt
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    I thought it was the sale of un-classified BBFC discs that was a no-no in this country. The actual import of non-obscene material for personal use was permitted, subject to the usual 18 pound customs limit.
     
  8. PoochJD

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    Techacal,

    Thanks for your response. I guess until someone decides that it isn't right or fair that HM C&E are essentially a law unto themselves, then we'll be stuck in this constant "define obscene" and/or "likely to deprave and corrupt" situation.

    I can't believe that HM C&E are able to just say something is "obscene" and not allow someone to query that decision, or get a fair hearing with an impartial party.

    Matt - technically, any material that is "unclassified" and has no official BBFC certificate on it, is illegal. As such, importing "Disney's Atlantis" on DVD is illegal, as the version on DVD has not been officially classified. However, whether or not Customs would a) stop you from owning the disc, or not, is where the problem lies.

    As for parcels that are under £18, this only refers to the limit of when taxation starts, but does not mean your parcel will or will not be opened and inspected!

    As far as I can tell, the whole situation of importing DVD's into this country is a complete legal grey-area! It seems that either:
    - you can import material, via DVD importation firms, as long as you don't get caught by HM C&E (for tax purposes) or for importing obscene material, or...
    - you can't import anything, because then the material you are importing doesn't have an official BBFC certificate on it.

    So, ultimately, everything appears to be in favour of customs, who - as far as I can see - can simply decide of their own free will that something is obscene / likely to deprave and/or corrupt / illegal for you to import because it has no BBFC certificate on it. And, they don't seemingly need to answer to anyone!

    What a sh*t* situation this is!

    Does anyone else have any more information on this issue, or can include some links to test-cases or other legal info, please?

    Pooch
     
  9. LV426

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    Lets get this straight.

    It is NOT currently illegal to personally import (when you travel, or by mail) uncertified video material - just because it isn't BBFC certified. It is NOT illegal to own such material, and it is not illegal to watch it.

    It IS, however illegal to do those things with OBSCENE material - and, as other posts here have said - the definition of OBSCENE is hard to establish.

    It does NOT follow that anything that isn't BBFC certified is therefore considered obscene.

    The only contravention of law that can occur with uncertified (but not obscene) material is the SALE of such material.

    It is illegal to SELL uncertified material. It is also potentially a breach of copyright to DISTRIBUTE material outside of its licenced territory.

    None of which makes it illegal to buy, own, transport or watch non-obscene material.
     
  10. lechacal

    lechacal
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    Yes, and that's why we have to use companies in other countries that provide a personal import service. It would be illegal to sell it here, but you're buying in America and having it shipped here.

    Going off at a tangent slightly...
    Is it technically illegal for the cameraman to sell you (uncertified) copies of your wedding video? And, if not, why not?
     
  11. Phil Hinton

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    I think we all need to relax a little here.

    It is perfectly legal to import DVD's from abroad as long as they are for your own personal use.

    You would have to import something really bad to have customs seize it. They do need a warrant to enter your property, and must prove to magistrates that you are selling dealing or using obsene material. Even then this course of action is very rare! And only against such companies who are selling illegal COPIES or blatently selling uncertified video over the counter or by mail order from inside this country.(i.e Laser Enterprises is a good example of where this happened)

    I have been Importing films for around 10yrs, starting with LD and now DVD. I have never had customs open one of my parcels and have never had anything seized.

    The companies you use play apart in this, i use www.futureent.com www.ringos.co.uk & www.discemporium.co.uk

    I have never had any problems, in 10 long years and i was even a Laser Enterprises customer for a long time!

    Relax, order you movies and enjoy them when they arrive.:D
     
  12. Guest

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    Customs & Excise need no warrant to raid a private address. They answer to no-one, but the Home Office and make their mind up on an individual basis about obscene items. I don't know what you would classify as 'really bad', but there have been incidents when films as inocuous (my opinion) as Reanimator have been siezed.

    Many individuals have been raided as a result of importing porn, but not, so far, for horror films. But is it just a question of time? I remember a harrowing story on the melon farmers web site about a case involving a porn film. Basically, this individual was a law student and decided to fight the case. Everything was going well, The Justices and even the Clerk of the Court sided with the student, until there was an interlude and the student was told that even if they won at this level, there would be an appeal, and the would go all the way to the House of Lords if necessary. With the extra costs this would result in if the student lost they had no option but to drop the case and relinquish the DVD. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds here.

    Of course, there was a slight chance of winning, but what a gamble. In other words, C&E used the states muscle, and taxpayers money, of course, to intimidate an individual over a porn film. Amazing.
     
  13. PoochJD

    PoochJD
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    HI,

    Thanks again, for all the replies. Somethings have now been cleared up for me, but the problem ultimately seems to be this:

    "What is classified as obscene?"

    Also, if anyone does have any stories, that may be of use to those of us who do import horror and exploitation material, (but not porn), then please share them in this thread, as I think it could be useful.

    You may post anonymously, if you prefer.

    I think I'm going to get in touch with HM Customs' "Criminal Justice and Pornography Team" at Dover, to see if they are willing to elucidate on this matter.

    Pooch
     
  14. LV426

    LV426
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    PLEASE post their response (if any). It should make interesting reading.
     
  15. Matt

    Matt
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    Would make for a good article in HCC
     
  16. lechacal

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    You can only say with certainty that something is 'obscene' (as in law) if it is currently banned on the grounds of contravening the obscene pulications act. If it's banned it's obscene, if it's not banned then no-one's decided it's obscene yet.

    You get interesting situations. For instance, Lady Chatterly's Lover *was* obscene - but now it's not. A lot of stuff that the BBFC passes these days would have been obscene accoring to the law a few years ago. In fact there was a time when the BBFC relaxed it's regulations, certified a load of porn as 18R, and the Customs impounded it and prosecuted people for importing on the grounds that, as far as they were concerned, it was obscene.

    If it's a clear line of division you're looking for, you're not going to find it, because there isn't one. Mad, but there you go. That's Britain for you.
     
  17. Dirk 2

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    As this matter is (and always has been) a grey area, I actually think it's best left alone.

    IE Don't go out of your way to draw attention to yourself etc.

    There's nothing more the gutter press and the current government likes more, than scare stories that can be splashed across the tabloid headlines, to take the publics mind of the fact that no one tackling the important issues.

    Lets not go back to the bad old days of the 1984 VRA.

    I've been ordering a wealth of diverse material from outside the UK for nearly a decade now, and touch wood, have never had a problem. It's a question of using your common sense.

    Porn can get through, if you order in sensible quantities and it's standard material. If you enter the realms of the "niche market" and we all know what sort of material that is, then your gonna get burned.

    Stick to the reliable importers. Keep a low profile and don't blag too much and bring unwarranted scrutiny to yourself or these forums.

    A smart man knows when to stay "schtum".
     
  18. PoochJD

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  19. danielzavitz

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    i have never had anything opened by customs and i don't know anyone who has.
    everyone gets hit with customs charges now and then but how often do you hear about people having their packets actually opened?
    if you're worried then just buy all your dodgy dvds from people who repost from the uk and let them deal with customs.
     
  20. PoochJD

    PoochJD
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    DanielZavitz,

    You said: "if you're worried then just buy all your dodgy dvds from people who repost from the uk and let them deal with customs."

    Umm... that doesn't solve the problem though. Under UK postal law, it is an offence to send any "indecent or obscene" material through the UK postal system, be they photos, written descriptive material, audio items, videos and DVD's, or any other kind. Hence, if the UK postal service decided to open your packet, they could just call the local police, and then you'd still be in deep doggy-do!!

    Technically, therefore, importing DVD's that aren't classified by the BBFC, could be classified by the Royal Mail, police, HM Customs, or any other legal-based people, as importing "obscene or indecent material". Whether you would be punished for importing, say, a deluxe collector's edition of the uncut version of Disney's "Mulan" is another matter.

    Basically, importing DVD's is a legal nightmare! And I think that we all need some proper rules and legislation that clearly states what is or is not acceptable! I'm not trying to censor adult's viewing choices, but to make importing DVD's from abroad less of a hassle for the importers and film fans who want specific titles not available in the UK.

    Who else here, thinks Home Cinema Choice should do a really in-depth investigation on this matter?!

    Pooch
     
  21. danielzavitz

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    if we had proper legislation then we would be able to import NOTHING.
    it may not be against the law to import unclassified material but there is a case going on at the moment, i believe in Australia, where warner are trying to stop importing of dvds under copyright laws. the copyright on dvds is for a specific country and watching the dvd outside that area is technically in breech of copyright. proper legislation would do exactly what warner are trying to do and make it illegal for copyrighted material to be supplied to people outside the specified region. nobody would be able to run importing businesses as they would be breaching copyright just by sending it to you.
    be careful what you wish for.
     
  22. PoochJD

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    Daniel,

    I agree with what you say. In theory, importing any DVD is technically a breach of one law or another. What I was trying to argue, was that we need concrete rules, and not this kind-of half-baked existance we have at the moment, where everything is random as to if a film is obscene or not, okay to import or not!

    I was not suggesting that importation should be banned, as then we'd never have a lot of goods, and the Tax people wouldn't get their hefty income each month, either! :D

    I just feel that at the moment, there is too much of a grey area. The rules seem to be designed to be as ambiguous as is humanly possible, in an effort to suit lawyers, solicitors, HM Customs, local authorities, governments and law-enforcement agencies (of one kind or another) and make their job as easy as possible, and to give them as much leeway in whether or not to prosecute or fine someone for importing a horror movie on a shiny silver CD!

    It's all rather stupid and pathetic, that the laws that are meant to clarify issues, actually end up making things harder!

    Pooch
     
  23. encaser

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    Ignorance of the law is no excuse:p
     
  24. danielzavitz

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    the gray areas are exactly what keeps us able to import dvds. if you turn these into black and white laws it will be us that ends up on the wrong side of them not the film companies.
    I'd rather chance loosing a dodgy horror movie now and then than never be able to buy another criterion disc!
     
  25. Guest

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    Trouble is, by and large, it is legal to do anything in the UK as long as there is no law that says you can't. Thus, any attempt at legislation would, by definition, be a limitation on the 'freedom' we already enjoy. No law is made to 'clarify matters' as they depend upon the interpretation of the courts which do not always act in ways forseen by the legislators.

    At the moment, its pretty sweet. I have only ever had one disc siezed and I ordered a replacement straight away and got it no problems. (Last House on the left, for the curious). The more fuss people make, the more HM Customs will realise the extent of importation. Surely no-one wants them to decide to crack down on it? Let's keep quite and let them worry about fags and booze instead?
     
  26. Lex

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    I would like to nominate this statement as the cleverest and most insightful comment ever posted on these boards! How did you do it who cares?!!!

    (Just teasing!) :D :p :D

    Lex.
     
  27. Phil Hinton

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    LOL:D
     
  28. PoochJD

    PoochJD
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    Lex (and everyone else!),

    Who cares actually said: "Trouble is, by and large, it is legal to do anything in the UK as long as there is no law that says you can't. Thus, any attempt at legislation would, by definition, be a limitation on the 'freedom' we already enjoy."

    1) I love the way he/she says "By and large" before the "It is legal to do anything in the UK as long as there is no law that says you can't". Does this mean then that some things are "in-between", so to speak, i.e. neither legal nor illegal?!

    2) Then we get the icing on the proverbial cake with: "Thus, any attempt at legislation would, by definition, be a limitation on the 'freedom' we already enjoy." Ummmm... isn't that the idea of laws and legislation? to restrict something?!

    Maybe "Who Cares?" would like to come up to the podium, and accept his/her award now, please?! :D

    Sorry, Who Cares. No offence intended. We're just messing with you! :)

    Pooch
     

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