• Adult DVDs are easily available on the Internet, but it's not always clear which movies can be supplied legally in the UK.

    Buying X-rated movies on the Internet is confusing at best and downright baffling at worst. Different rules apply to different rating certificates and different countries.

    We spoke to Customs and Excise and the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to get the facts.

    Does Lovehoney sell R18 adult DVDs and videos?

    No, Lovehoney does not sell R18 adult DVDs and videos. We sell a small selection of 18-certificate couple-friendly educational adult DVDs.

    What is the 18 Certificate?

    18-certificate films can be sold by any UK shop, mail order catalogue or website. 18 films do not feature graphic depictions of sexual activity unless the context is justifiable - for example sex education - and as long as the purpose of the film is not purely for sexual arousal (softcore porn to you and me). Erections are now allowed to be shown but no graphic images of spread female genitals, anuses or anything that is or replicates semen or ejaculation.

    What is the R18 Certificate?

    In August 2000 the law was changed to allow films featuring graphic depiction of sexual activity between consenting adults to be sold in the UK - hardcore porn to you and me. These films have an R18 - Restricted 18 - certificate.

    What are the restrictions on R18 films?

    They have to be bought from a licensed shop or shown in a specially licensed cinema and cannot be sold via mail order. Websites cannot have a license to supply R18 films within the UK, even if the company that owns the site runs a licensed sex shop. If a UK-based website sells R18 films for delivery in the UK it is breaking the law.

    Why do they have these rules?

    The BBFC's primary concern is to protect children, so it does whatever it can to prevent hardcore films being accessible to children. Clearly, it's easier for youngsters to buy films over the web with dad's credit card, than it is to saunter into a licensed sex shop.

    Who is responsible for enforcing the law?

    The police and local trading standards officers. The BBFC has no enforcement role at all. Site operators face a potential £20,000 fine and up to six months in prison for breaking the law.

    Can I import hardcore sex films from abroad?

    Yes you can, with certain limits. Even though UK-based companies aren't allowed to sell R18 films over the web, foreign companies are allowed to send hardcore films to private individuals in the UK for personal use as long as they have the R18 certificate.

    Can any type of film be imported?

    No. Customs and Excise will only allow material featuring sexual activity between consenting adults. Films featuring rape, violence, mutilation, sadomasochism, urination, scatology, bestiality or animal cruelty would be liable for forfeiture. Its priority is in tackling paedophilia and other material involving children.

    Can Customs seize films?

    Yes. Customs has the power to search goods arriving in the UK and often does. Customs is not interested in films showing sexual acts between consenting adults -- films won't be seized if they don't contain prohibited material listed above.

    In summary

    It is legal for UK-based websites to sell 18-certificate films.
    It is illegal for UK-based websites to sell hardcore R18 films.
    It is legal for UK individuals to buy hardcore films from overseas websites for personal use as long as the films have been given an R18 certificate by the BBFC.