After announcing ATVOD’s final determination that Dreams of Spanking is in breach of their ridiculous regulations, and that I will have to take most of the site’s content offline by 27 August, I'm being asked the same two questions again and again. If I had a pound for every time someone asked me this I would be able to afford my own legal fees.
I've already answered these questions in previous blogposts, so apologies for the repetition, but apparently it needs saying again. Please read, digest, and kindly trust that I have in fact thought about what I’m doing.
Why don’t I move the site so it’s hosted out of the UK?
Simply moving the hosting of the site wouldn’t help. When ATVOD are determining where a site is based, they don’t just look at the physical location of the server on which the site is hosted, they also look at the where the service provider is based (that is, the person or persons who own or operate the site). The relevant phrase here is “editorial control”.
If a site is hosted out of the UK, but the service producer is a UK citizen, who resides in the UK and makes editorial decisions in the UK, then for ATVOD’s purposes, the site is based in the UK. If videos are produced and shot in this country, edited in this country, and uploaded from this country, all these things contribute to bringing the site under ATVOD’s jurisdiction. If meetings are held in the UK, business decisions are made in the UK, and the programming schedule of the video-on-demand service is planned in the UK, then editorial control is, according to ATVOD, based in the UK.
Some producers have successfully avoided ATVOD so far by moving their hosting overseas,but keeping editorial control in the UK and hoping ATVOD doesn't notice. This isn't an option for me. I was on Channel 4 News talking about the new regulations after the facesitting protest, I've spoken on BBC Woman's Hour, at Conway Hall and at the National Theatre about my work as a porn producer, and there is zero chance of ATVOD not noticing I existed. Once they started investigating Dreams of Spanking, they would have quickly worked out that I was still operating the site from a UK base, and all the hassle of moving the hosting would have been for nothing. I have called too much attention to myself as an activist to be able to escape ATVOD by hopeful half measures.
In December, when the law came in, I was given them impression by the people I consulted that moving the site was not an option. After I got the first letter from ATVOD in February, and replied to it from a UK address, I began to work out that it might be an option - but by then it was too late, they already knew I was based in the UK. To escape ATVOD at any point since then would involve not just moving the hosting - I would also have to give up editorial control.
Giving up editorial control would look like this: I would sell the site to a friend in another country, move the hosting, the CCBill account, and the payments to their name, sign over commercial rights to all the archive content and everything I'd shot but not yet edited or published. I would no longer be able to shoot for the site, edit video for it, decide the update schedule or have any say in the running of the site. I would have to completely distance myself from the project in every way. Dreams of Spanking is a personal project, and as far as I'm concerned, once this had happened the site would no longer be Dreams of Spanking. It would no longer be mine.
Selling the site would mean killing it, stepping back, and let someone else reincarnate it as something completely new, based in a new country, with new cast members, new performers, and a new creative vision. I would lose the site completely - more completely than from ATVOD forcing me to take it offline, because at the moment I have the hope of a successful appeal, but if I sold the site, there would be no hope, and I would lose it forever.
Dreams of Spanking is my erotic autobiography, the expression of my own personal kink and fantasies, and I don't want to lose it. That's the whole point. I don't want to have to comply with ridiculous censorship regulations that would change it beyond recognition, and I don't want to have to give it to someone else who would change it beyond recognition, either. I want to fight for my right to keep it. That means appealing to Ofcom, and if that fails, taking the AVMS regulations to Judicial Review. If I win the appeal I can re-launch the site and keep it online exactly as it always was, with no ATVOD censorship, no guidelines to comply with, no fees to pay and no-one else telling me what to do. If I lose the appeal but win a Judicial Review, then I can get the law changed for everyone in the UK. This is something worth fighting for - and it's a plan of action that depends on complying with ATVOD's demands long enough for the appeal process to be completed, and keeping the site in the UK and under my control in the meantime. If I move the site overseas now, there is no hope of winning either the appeal or a JR.
If, a few years from now, both of these options have failed, then as a last resort, I would consider selling the site. But everything I've done so far, all the choices I've made, have been geared towards the goal of defeating ATVOD in a legal challenge. It would be completely self-defeating to sell it now, without seeing the plan through to the end.
Why don’t I move myself overseas, and emigrate to a different country?
Of all the well-intentioned, idiotic questions I am asked, this one hurts the most. It’s ridiculously insensitive to tell me that I should give up my entire life and everyone I love - to tell me that it's my responsibility to give up everything I have, implying that by not emigrating, what's happening is somehow my fault. If you want to support me, do not suggest this!
Emigrating is one of the biggest, most traumatic things anyone can ever do. It’s my decision to make, and mine alone. Do you think I haven’t considered this possibility? Of course I bloody have - I considered it and rejected it months before you even found out was happening. You are idly suggesting the first thought that popped into your head, and I've been living the reality of this struggle for nine months now. When you ask me this, you are suggesting that you don't think I've thought of the idea - which is pretty insulting. You also make it clear that you are completely incapable of grasping the enormity of what you're suggesting.
I’ve said this before but apparently it hasn’t sunk in, so I’m going to quote my previous post about this:
Quite aside from the stress and ultimate futility of moving away, however, this question makes me furious. The UK is my home. Why should I be the one to leave? I grew up here. My life is here. My support network, my partner, my friends, my history and my family are here. My partner and lovers couldn't come with me, and I don't want to lose all the connections I've spent thirty years building on these shores. I love these islands and I want to stay here and help make them better. I don't want to jump ship.
Attempting to persuade me and other UK producers that we should willingly exile ourselves is traumatic, stressful and victim-blaming. By doing this you are helping the censors who want to cleanse the UK of anything they find distasteful. Stop it.
ATVOD are threatening the future of independent, alternative, ethical porn within the UK. This is an issue I have devoted years of my life to, and which I care deeply about. I don't want to spend my time, money and effort running away. I want to stand and fight.
So are you with me - or not?
I believe that I have strong grounds for appeal - and that even if Ofcom don’t agree, that there is a very real hope that I can get the AVMS guidelines overturned in a court of law. That is the process I’m now embarking on, and it’s going to be stressful enough without you trying to tell me that I should give up without trying and run away. If I sell the site I will lose Dreams of Spanking, and if I emigrate I will lose my home. Do me a favour and trust that I’ve thought about this already, and that I’m choosing the path that is best.
My goal is to stay in the UK, stay the sole owner of Dreams of Spanking, and successfully challenge ATVOD's censorship. I am taking legal steps to make this happen, and I am going to see it through. The only result of your “helpful suggestion” will be to waste my time and stress me out, which is the last thing I need right now. So please think before you speak, and understand that when someone is going through a difficult time, they have probably spent far longer thinking in depth about their options than you have.