Steamy cellphone pics could mean cell time

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 12 Dec 2006

Transmitting sexually explicit pictures or MMS video over cellphones could land the senders in jail, says the Film and Publications Board (FPB).

FPB spokesman Iyvar Chetty says the act of transmitting a picture to another person amounts to the distribution of that picture.

"If the picture is of explicit sexual conduct, then it would be an offence in terms of section 26(1) of the [Film and Publication] Act unless that picture has been approved for distribution in terms of a decision of the board."

Chetty says the question is whether that picture falls within the definition of "explicit sexual conduct", as defined in the Act. "Nudity, per se, is not necessarily explicit sexual conduct. But nudity which focuses on the genitals may amount to explicit sexual conduct," he says.

Chetty concedes that enforcing the law on this point could be problematic. "We would like to be in a position to be able to police the distribution of pictures via cellphones. But we do not have the resources, and I am not sure if, given that most distribution is peer-to-peer, it is possible to police cellphones. We are discussing issues with cellphone content providers and hope to have a workable system in place early in 2007," he adds.

Total ban

Adultlinks webmaster "Ian", who asked that his surname be withheld, supports the FPB in this regard. "I think the FPB is faced with a problem in that porn is becoming more accessible to children and they need to do something to stop this," Ian says. "In the olden days, the only way to get access to online adult material was by having a credit card. Nowadays a lot of sites offer access by cellphone, and more and more children have got access to cellphones, either their own or as provided by parents," he adds.

"I fully agree with the FPB that children should be prohibited from accessing adult material, but I do not agree with the way they are trying to solve this issue - by [attempting to] place a total ban on SA-based online porn," he says. This is in reference to an FPB edict that Web sites stop selling DVDs and other explicit material in SA by 31 December, and that explicit online content be vetted by the board prior to publication.

Ian says the FPB currently has no mechanism he can use to have his content approved. He adds that attempts to liaise with the board on the matter have so far been unsuccessful.

"In short, their actions are causing adult webmasters to look for loopholes - and there are many - on how to circumvent the law, instead of regulating the industry - which most SA webmasters are open to," he says. "There are measures that can be taken to ensure that only adults gain access to online porn, which is much more effective than simply trying to shut down the industry."