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‘Porn for Geeks’ producer on why the Digital Economy Bill will kill British business

British porn producer Harriet Sugarcookie is no stranger to overreaching and economically damaging laws. Two years ago she moved her flourishing business overseas to avoid the talons of moral grandstanding on the part of UK legislation and has been very successful since. Now though, while she sees the Digital Economy Bill as something far more dangerous to British business, she’s just as concerned, but far less likely to be affected.

The Digital Economy Bill (DEB) is a currently under-debate piece of legislation that although initially designed to guarantee a minimum level of internet bandwidth for consumers, has been piggybacked by amendments that also see it trying its hand at moral policing and censorship.

The DEB now looks set to force ‘effective’ age gates on any site that profits from pornography and if they fail to comply, the British Board of Film Classification is going to have the power to force ISPs to block them. It can even initiate blocks against sites which host what it decides is ‘non-conventional’ porn too.

Age gating is something that no site has ever been able to effectively do, which is what has so many people concerned. Harriet Sugarcookie is too, but doesn’t have to be. While her industry friends back in Blightey will certainly be affected, The “Porn for Geeks” producer is, funnily enough, likely to benefit from the bill, should it be signed into law.

“My business partner has looked into the business side of this more than I have and he feels it could be a brilliant business opportunity, assuming all sites are treated the same,” she said to KitGuru. “Only larger sites like ours will be able to afford to comply. Smaller sites may not have the technical skill or they may not have the money.”

“Government regulation generally makes markets less competitive so why would porn be any different?”

Source: Harriet Sugarcookie/Twitter

Don’t confuse the facetious tone with apathy though. Harriet is staunchly against this sort of legislation and believes it’s important to say something about it:

“I feel a responsibility to my UK members and readers and my friends in the UK industry to do what I can to speak out against it,” she said.

But the reason Harriet won’t be as affected by this law as others, isn’t just because her site and service are bigger than most, but because she doesn’t work or live here anymore. Two years ago, she felt threatened enough by British legislative changes, to uproot her entire life and move from the UK.

In 2014, the British government introduced the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014, which effectively banned a number of pornographic practices from being filmed in the UK. They include face-sitting, female ejaculation and fisting among others, most of which seemed to relate to female enjoyment and empowerment during sex. They were considered unconventional, or potentially harmful to the participants.

While the ban had no effect on the ability for British consumers to view such acts, it did make the situation somewhat nebulously dangerous for porn producers. Therefore, even though Miss Sugarcookie herself doesn’t tend to err on the harder side of pornography, she was still scared enough by it that she took her business to Budapest, where it has flourished ever since.

“The wording of the rules seemed too vague and open to interpretation to me, especially things like “humiliation.” Could someone argue that all pornography is humiliating?” she said. “I’m naturally cautious so I decided it was better to move everything abroad just in case.”

And just like that, one of the most promising, young, pornographic entrepreneurs Britain had, took her business elsewhere.

Source: Harriet Sugarcookie/Twitter

Harriet is in her early 20s and has spent the past few years building a small pornographic empire for herself. She’s worn several hats over the years, running a webcam business, a successful blog, filmed real porn with famous porn stars and shoots safe for work videos for her Youtube channel. She’s also working on bringing back the concept of the porn magazine in digital form: combining informative articles, with images and videos of her and her contemporaries in various stages of undress and arousal.

Whatever your feelings about her career choices, the fact remains that Harriet is a successful entrepreneur and one of many, who has been entirely shunned by the British establishment on moral grounds alone.

When she moved her business and personal life abroad, Harriet really did move everything. She moved her home there, the headquarters of her business and relocated her servers to the United States. Perhaps more impactful though, is that she stopped directly catering to the UK. While her site and services are still some of the most popular of all independent platforms visited by British consumers, she sees it as far too risky a market to go after due to the way porn is attacked by regulators.

“Right now the UK makes up just eight per cent of our revenue. That seems like a pretty big number but really, losing eight per cent of our business isn’t going to affect us much at all. We just have to work out how much it will cost us to comply,” she said.

And that’s the biggest question here. How much will what the government wants to force upon pornography websites, cost them to implement it? If it’s more than those sites can hope to bring in otherwise, Harriet and her co-producers will likely self-censor to keep themselves from falling afoul of the law. Indeed the Sugarcookie empire may simply block all British visitors to avoid any problems in the future.

In such an environment, actors and would be producers like Harriet Sugarcookie would never be able to build a career as she did. Smaller producers will simply not be able to compete with the sites and services that can afford to comply with regulations.

It could be so impactful, that Sugarcookie’s business partner even wrote a *NSFW* tongue in cheek blog *NSFW*  about why such laws are actually great for established companies: because it will kill off their competition.

One of the main points highlighted by that piece, is that this legislation stands to stymy a change in the porn industry which is seeing actors and producers form their own independent organisations and business, much like Miss Sugarcookie has done. Doing things their own way lets members of the industry earn a much better wage for their time and give them more creative control; indie freedoms are championed in almost every other industry, but its rise in pornography may well be halted by the DEB. At least in the UK.

That ultimately means less work for the actors, producers, make up artists, camera operators, key grips, editors and many other people who work in the industry – despite the hits it’s taken in recent years.

To Harriet though, that seems to be what the government want to achieve with its legislation.

“If ISPs or the government did have to tell people “Watch out! There’s porn on the internet!” everyone with think it ridiculous,” she said. “For us it kind of proves that the bill isn’t about protecting children, it’s about hurting the adult industry.”


John Jonik hitting the nail on the head

But protecting the children is once again the wrapping that this bill has been cloaked in. Politicians claim that porn is still too easy to access online and following David Cameron’s mandatory porn filters and Theresa May’s own moral crusades, the DEB is just the next in line. As parliament’s own debates have shown though, porn is far too pervasive online to be stopped entirely. Banning Twitter would be an exercise in futility and yet pornography exists in spades on the social network.

So what can we do to prevent children from accessing it?

According to Harriet, there’s already a far more effective form of policing in place:

“Parents. If the government is really worried that some parents don’t realise that there is porn on the internet, then why not just make it law that ISPs inform people that there is content on the internet that may be harmful to children and offer a choice of content control software or an internet filter,” she said. “Or even do one of those awareness campaigns that has been so effective with smoking and drinking? It’s a much simpler plan than what’s proposed and removes all the extremely serious privacy and freedom of speech concerns the Digital Economy Bill brings up.”

Because that’s what it all boils down to. As we cautioned back in 2014 when certain pornographic acts were banned, pornography is once again at the forefront of British freedoms. Being able to view legal content online in your own home is an intrinsic right of living within a ‘free’ country. Freedom to choose what you watch, what you consume and what ideas you subscribe to are a keystone of the democratic society we are a part of.

“So let’s just stop being hysterical about it and trying to impose our morals on other people,” Harriet concluded. “Britain is supposed to be a tolerant country, isn’t it?”

You can find more about Harriet Sugarcookie on her various social networking profiles, her Youtube channel and on her website.

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