Pornography in Europe
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Pornography in Europe has been dominated by a few pan-European producers and distributors, the most notable of which is the Private Media Group that successfully claimed the position previously held by Color Climax Corporation in the early 1990s. Most European countries also have local pornography producers, from Portugal (e.g. Naturalvideo) to Serbia (e.g. Hexor), who face varying levels of competition with international producers. The legal status of pornography varies widely in Europe; its production and distribution are illegal in countries such as Ukraine, Belarus and Bulgaria, while Hungary is noted for having liberal pornography laws.
- 1 Albania
- 2 Austria
- 3 Belarus
- 4 Belgium
- 5 Bulgaria
- 6 Croatia
- 7 Cyprus
- 8 Czech Republic
- 9 Denmark
- 10 Estonia
- 11 Finland
- 12 France
- 13 Germany
- 14 Greece
- 15 Hungary
- 16 Iceland
- 17 Ireland
- 18 Italy
- 19 Latvia
- 20 Lithuania
- 21 Malta
- 22 Netherlands
- 23 Norway
- 24 Poland
- 25 Portugal
- 26 Romania
- 27 Russia
- 28 Serbia
- 29 Spain
- 30 Sweden
- 31 Switzerland
- 32 Turkey
- 33 Ukraine
- 34 United Kingdom
- 35 See also
- 36 References
- 37 Further reading
- 38 External links
In Albania, pornography is illegal only for producing, delivery, advertising, import, selling and publication of pornographic materials in persons under 18 years old. Child pornography is strictly prohibited.
In 1990, the "Federal Act Against Obscene Publications and for the Protection of Youth Morally Endangered" was passed to regulate pornography in Austria. In 1994 a prohibition on child pornography was added to the law. Under these regulations the minimum age for buying softcore pornography in Austria is 16 and the minimum age for buying hardcore pornography is 18. Publication for profit of violent pornography or material depicting bestiality is illegal under the regulations, but possession and non-commercial exchanges of these types of pornography are legal.
Pornography is illegal in Belarus. Production, distribution, promotion, exhibition as well as possession with intent of distribution or promotion of pornographic materials or objects of pornographic nature is punished by Belarusian criminal law and results in compulsory community service, fine or up to 4 years imprisonment.
Pornography is legal in Belgium. Pornographic products, mainly magazines and DVDs, are typically imported from the 3 neighbouring European countries of France, Germany, and the Netherlands, or from North America. There is also a little local production, mostly amateur.
In the People's Republic of Bulgaria (1946–1990) pornography was only available to a comparatively limited number of people. What pornographic materials there were (mostly magazines and videocassettes) were smuggled into the country. The abandonment of censorship in the early post-communist period resulted in pornography becoming widely available. In the early 1990s pornographic magazines were sold at newsstands, pirated foreign pornographic videocassettes became available and foreign pornographic television stations were accessible. The first Bulgarian pornographic film was made in 1992.
The production and distribution of pornography is illegal in Bulgaria. The filming of pornography and the online distribution of sexual content are illegal. There are no Bulgarian pornographic production companies. Accessing, possessing or storing pornographic materials is not illegal (except for child pornography).
The penalty for production or distribution of pornography is up to one year imprisonment (or up to two years if the criminal used the Internet) and a fine of 1,000 leva to 3,000 leva. The penalty for distribution or possession of child pornography is up to one year imprisonment or a fine of up to 2,000 leva. Authorities tolerate illegal distribution of hardcore porn in designated shops, and on TV after 11 pm. Softcore material is rarely censored. Magazines and pornographic papers have become increasingly available since the fall of communism in 1989, and local editions of many international porn magazines are published. Society is often exposed to sexual content in advertising.
Pornography is legal in Croatia. Hardcore pornographic material may not be sold to persons under the age of 18. Distribution or possession of child pornography is illegal and punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.
Pornography in the Czech Republic was legalized in 1993 following the Velvet Revolution, when the country ceased to be a communist state and returned to liberal democracy. Among the Czech companies that produce pornography are LegalPorno Studios, based in Prague.
The sale and distribution of child pornography is illegal and is punishable by imprisonment for up to 3 years. Possession of child pornography was made illegal in 2007 and carries a penalty of up to 2 years in prison. The Czech penal code also bans the sale and distribution of pornography depicting sexual intercourse with an animal and pornography depicting violence or disrespect to human beings, with a penalty of up to 1 year in prison.
A ban on pornographic literature was lifted in 1967. In 1969, Denmark became the first country in the world to legalize pornography. People in Denmark have free access to pornography. Pornography including minors younger than 18 years is prohibited, and possession of the same is also illegal.
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Pornography is legal, distribution or production is regulated by law.
In Finland, child, violent, and bestial pornography is banned. It is legal to sell pornography in any store, but magazines may not be sold to buyers less than 15 years of age, and hardcore is restricted to buyers aged at least 18.
Prior to 1 January 1999, all indecent publishing, including the import and export thereof, was banned.
In 1976, a law that put considerable sanctions on pornographic films in distribution and taxation, known popularly as Code X was imposed, creating a situation that led pornography to develop itself on its own right. Since then, pornography has been a growing economy in France, now existing in various forms from magazines to satellite TV broadcasting.
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In the early years of German pornography began with the softcore film Graf Porno und seine Mädchen (Count Porno and his girls) in 1968. The movie's success (more than 3 million admissions) lead to a whole series of films that was and is referred to in German media as the Sex-Welle (sex wave). The most well known film of this period is Schulmädchen-Report: Was Eltern nicht für möglich halten (The School-Girl Report, what the parents don't believe possible) by Ernst Hofbauer in 1970. The sex scenes had become bolder with time and by 1975, when the legal ban of pornography was lifted, the era of German hardcore pornography began.
Director Hans Billian was the protagonist of the period and the films were usually in line with the so-called "Bavarian porn sex comedies", often depicting male performers as comic characters, like Sepp Gneißl in Kasimir der Kuckuckskleber (1977). This era was also characterised by several Josephine Mutzenbacher films.
Today's German pornography is generally very similar to the American "glamour" pornography though often tailored primarily for the German market. In contrast several German labels focus on a more "home-made" amateur flair, often focusing on intense hardcore themes such as gang bangs, bukkake and urine fetishism; most notably 'German Goo Girls' and other series by John Thompson Productions.
Due to popular belief outside of Germany, fecal pornography known as "Scheisse porn" (using the German slang word for faeces) or, more commonly, as "Kaviar" (a generic term) supposedly is particularly popular in Germany, with companies like SG-Video and performers like Austrian Veronica Moser and Simon Thaur or English Ben Chambers specializing in the concept. Although German companies have their fair world market share in producing for this niche market, the major percentage is sold into export.
In Greece, selling pornographic material to people under 18 years old is illegal, but in practice the law is not always enforced. Since 2008 there is also a legal little local production. Child pornography is strictly illegal.
In Hungary, the production of pornography mainly dates from the period after the fall of communism in 1989. The production and distribution of pornography was illegal under communism, but the laws were liberalised with the emergence of democracy. Permissive government policies soon propelled the country to the forefront of the European pornography industry. Several foreign directors were attracted to the country's liberal legislation, cheap production costs and large supply of attractive female performers. Eventually, domestic producers began to prosper as well, and several female actresses made big names for themselves within the industry. Hungarian pornography is different from that produced in America in the more natural appearance of its performers. The sex scenes also tend to be more extreme, with frequent use of anal sex and various forms of multiple penetration.
Publication of pornography is illegal in Iceland, and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to 6 months. Publication of child pornography is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to 2 years. In 2013 the Icelandic government proposed banning violent Internet pornography and Iceland's parliament began debating a ban on online pornography.
Although Italy had accumulated a lot of softcore pornography in the 1970s, hardcore pornography was not a usual trend until the 1980s. The first pornographic film in Italy was Il Telefono rosso (The red telephone) in 1983 by Riccardo Schicchi with Ilona Staller (aka "Cicciolina"). The film caused much controversy and it was restrained from legal release until 1986 with an alternate revision of Italian censorship laws.
In Latvia, the distribution of pornographic material is allowed under very similar legal conditions as in Poland. Pornographic or erotic material is rarely to never sold in places accessible to general public.
In Lithuania, commercial distribution of pornographic material is prohibited by the Article 309 of the country's Criminal Code which states that "A person who, for the purpose of distribution, produces or acquires pornographic material or distributes such material shall be punished by community service or by a fine or by restriction of liberty or by imprisonment for a term of up to one year".
In Malta, pornography and obscene material was outlawed until later 2016, regardless of whether it has a commercial interest or whether it is directed to an adult audience. The relevant law in this respect was Article 208 (1) of the Criminal Code of Malta which prohibited the manufacture, print, importation, circulation and exportation of pornographic or obscene print, painting, photograph, film, book, card or writing, or any other obscene article whatsoever, whether for gain, or for distribution, or for display in a public place. In a decision given on 21 February 2011, the Maltese Court of Criminal Appeal upheld the criminal conviction of Mr. Alexander Baldacchino who was found guilty of exhibiting soft and hardcore pornographic films at the City Lights Theatre in Valletta. In another judgement, student editor Mark Camilleri and author Alex Vella Gera were found not guilty under Article 208 (1) of the Criminal Code and Article 7 of the Press Act (obscene libel) for the publication of an obscene story entitled Li Tkisser Sewwi (translated in English to 'Repair that which you break') in student newspaper Realtà (distributed for free on campus at the University of Malta) by the Court of Magistrates (Malta). The decision was upheld by the Court of Criminal Appeal.
In 2015 the Minister of Social Justice Owen Bonnici started to work on legislation to allow both services or art to create pornographic material while also giving official right to access pornographic material. By late 2016 the parliament of Malta gave the green light for most pornographic material. Pornography involving minors, disabled and extreme forms of expression, including threats with the use of such material, remain illegal.
- Article 240a indirectly prohibits giving pornographic pictures to children younger than 16 years. Maximum imprisonment is one year, or a fine of the 4th category (€19,500).
- Article 240b prohibits child pornography, which is defined as a picture showing a person younger than 18 performing sexual acts. Maximum imprisonment is 4 years or a fine of the 5th category (€78,000). It also prohibits making a profession or habit of it. The maximum imprisonment in that case is 6 years or a fine of the 5th category (€78,000).
- Article 248e prohibits online dating with minors (0–15 years old) in order to have sex or to make porn with him/her. The maximum imprisonment in that case is 2 years or a fine of the 4th category (€19,500).
- Article 254a prohibits bestiality porn. Maximum imprisonment is 6 months or a fine of the 3rd category (€7,800).
In Norway, hardcore material was illegal until 2006 de jure to distribute, or sell, but legal to possess. Production, however, was not explicitly illegal, thus both photo and movie shoots occurred. One could acquire pornography abroad, on the Internet, or via satellite TV. Illegal porn shops also existed, especially in larger cities. To satisfy legal requirements, editors of erotic magazines, domestic TV channels, and cable TV obscured sexual organs in activity using black rectangles and the like. After the Supreme Court of Norway unanimously acquitted a former magazine editor on 7 December 2005 for publishing unobscured hardcore pornography in 2002, it became understood that printed hardcore pornography was no longer illegal. Pornography became legal on March 14th, 2006. Regular and cable TV tend to abide by the old standards, seeing that edited TV is regulated by a separate law and thus is not affected by the Supreme Court decision. Video-on-demand, however, is not regulated by the TV laws, and, thus, pornography is legal to order.
In Poland, as of September 1998, Article 202 of the national Penal Code makes pornography legal except for the production or possession of pornographic materials containing minors, bestiality (zoophilia), and "scenes of violence/rape". Also illegal is presenting or showing pornographic materials to people who do not want to have any contact with them, and to persons under 15 years of age.
In Portugal, hardcore pornographic movies can only be shown in adult cinemas. Videos and magazines are openly sold in newsstands but are forbidden by law to be supplied to minors under the age of 18 years. Additionally, hardcore pornographic movies are banned from open-channel TV and can only be broadcast through encrypted/pay-per-view channels.
Child pornography (i.e., pornography depicting children or juveniles below the age of 18) is illegal. Although the national age of consent is 14, the age of legal responsibility (i.e., the age a person can sign contracts consenting to appear in pornography) is 18.
Pornography is legal in Romania. Magazines must be enclosed in plastic bags (or something equivalent) with a small red square printed on the enclosing material. Pornographic TV channels offered by cable operators must be encrypted. Pornographic materials cannot be sold to minors under 18.
Most Russian pornography is produced in Moscow and in St. Petersburg where the largest adult film producer, SP-Company, is based. The types of Russian adult films may range from gonzo pornography to adaptations of Russian classics (Eugene Onegin (by Tatiana Taneyeva (2003)), The Master and Margarita (by Armen Oganezov & Sergei Pryanishnikov (2002)) etc.) and these productions basically aim the domestic market. Much of the pornography is produced for the international internet market.
According to Russian law, consumption of pornography is allowed though the production of it is not. The illegal production, distribution, and "public demonstration" of pornography is punishable by a 2- to 6-year prison term. Roskomnadzor, the Russian government's media overseer, has the power to order the blocking of pornographic websites. In 2015 the agency required the blocking of the Russian-language version of Pornhub and 10 other pornographic sites on the basis of a court ruling.
Pornography is legal in Serbia. Hardcore pornographic material may not be sold to persons under the age of 18. Distribution or possession of child pornography or pornography involving minors (under 18) is illegal and punishable by law.
Pornography was illegal in Francoist Spain, although some people travelled to France to see films such as Last Tango in Paris and some group tours to French X-rated cinemas were organised. For climate reasons, a number of Private movies were shot though not released in Spain.
The censorship of that period ended with Franco's death in 1977. For less than a year there was no censorship at all, and hardcore porn was sometimes shown in main cinemas. Subsequently the S-rating for films was introduced, allowing softcore pornography to be shown in mainstream cinemas. The film genre that arose was known as destape (undressing) and included popular films such as Las eróticas vacaciones de Stela (Stela's Erotic Vacations), El mundo maravilloso del sexo (The Marvellous World of Sex), Trampa sexual (Sexual Trap) and La orgía (The Orgy). The magazine Interviú, founded in 1976, had revealing covers of famous actresses and included nude photographs inside. In 1983 the S-rating was replaced by the more permissive X-rating.
Barcelona has long been the most liberal major city in Spain; the Club Bagdad and an open prostitute quarter are there. The pornography industry in Spain has been located in or near it, with little in the – by comparison – more conservative Madrid.
Pornography is now legal in Spain, and enforcement of obscenity laws is lax. It is illegal to display pornographic material at newsstands, but it is commonly found there. In many cities and towns there is a variety of sex shops. E-commerce merchants from all around the world use I.P.S.P. (Internet clearing services) from Spanish banks. The headquarters of Private Media Group, Europe's biggest pornographic company, are in Barcelona.
Like Denmark and the Netherlands, Sweden does not regulate pornography and the country has no age laws for the possession or viewing of pornography. Some shops follow a voluntary limit and do not sell to minors. Material that involves animals is legal, though it is subject to animal-welfare laws. BDSM is classified as an "illegal depiction of violence" (olaga våldsskildring).
It is illegal for people under the age of 18 to act or pose for pornography in Sweden. Pornographic photographs and films depicting children are illegal even if the material was legal in the originating country. Examples of Japanese Hentai and Lolicon have also been deemed to be illegal in Sweden as a result of court judgements. In cases when the court has considered them to represent persons under 18 years of age they have been treaded as instances of child pornography.
Pornography in Switzerland is defined by the Article 197 of the Swiss criminal code. The first alinea states that «Any person who offers, shows, passes on or makes accessible to a person who is under the age of 16 pornographic documents, sound or visual recordings, depictions or other articles of a similar nature or pornographic representations, or broadcasts any of the same on radio or television is liable to a custodial sentence not exceeding three years or to a monetary penalty.» Furthermore, it is illegal to produce, import, store, market, advertise, exhibit, offer, show, pass on or make accessible pornography that depicts sexual acts involving children (under 16 years old) or animals, human excrement, or acts of violence, called "hard pornography".
Since July 2014, human excrement and urine are not considered being "hard pornography" anymore. Until June 2014, actors aged 16 and above could participate in a pornography production; however, since July 2014, if a person "looks" or is under 18 years of age, the material is considered as pedo-pornography. This is due to the Swiss ratification of the Lanzarote Convention.
The age of viewing pornography stays fixed at 16 years old (Art. 197 al. 1 of the Swiss criminal code).
The same materials cited above are nevertheless not regarded as pornographic if they have a cultural or scientific value that justifies their protection by law.
Turkey, which is a secular state with a Muslim majority, was the first country to legally produce pornographic materials in the Muslim world. After a long period of producing Italian-inspired softcore comedies in the 1970s, the hardcore film Öyle Bir Kadın Ki was distributed in 1979.
Pornography was outlawed in Ukraine in 2009 when the then president Victor Yushchenko signed new legislation. The law has been overwhelmingly approved by the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament). The possession, distribution, sale and manufacture of pornographic materials are illegal, with laws strictly enforced. Possession of pornographic material can carry a fine or up to 3 years imprisonment. Pornography is defined by the law as "vulgar, candid, cynical, obscene depiction of sexual acts, pursuing no other goal, the explicit demonstration of genitals, unethical elements of the sexual act, sexual perversions, realistic sketches that do not meet moral criteria and offend honor and dignity of the human by inciting low instincts". Pornography for "medical purposes" remains legal.
Wiska, one of Ukraine's internationally known pornstars, alleges continuous and unconstitutional persecution for her work abroad, and has unsuccessfully applied for political asylum in the European Union.
"In Britain, where pornography is already more restricted than it is anywhere else in the English-speaking world or in Western Europe", wrote Avedon Carol in 1995, "sexual media is easily smeared for an audience that is seldom given an opportunity to see what really is sold under the name of 'pornography'". However the current British legislative framework including the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (in England and Wales), the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and the Video Recordings Act 1984 leads to a confusing situation in which there is a theoretical ban on the publication and distribution (but not possession) of pornographic material in any form, which is in practice unenforcable due to the vagueness of the legal test of material that "depraves and corrupts". In practice, hardcore material on video and DVD was until recently banned by the requirement under the Video Recordings Act to be certified by the BBFC, while mainstream hardcore material in other forms such as magazines and websites is essentially unrestricted. Continental European, American and British hardcore pornographic magazines are now openly sold in many British newsagents, for instance. Due to liberalisation in BBFC policy, mainstream hardcore DVDs now receive R18 certificates, legalising them but restricting their sale to licensed sex shops such as those in Soho.
British-made pornography tends to focus on a rough-and-ready semi-amateur look rather than the more stylized glamorous look of Continental European pornography.
The UK is still the only Member State of the European Union that prohibits private imports of adult pornography by consumers coming from other Member States of the European Union. In the 2004–2005 fiscal year, the agents of Her Majesty Revenue & Customs seized 96,783 items of pornographic media carried by people travelling into the UK.
In 2005, the UK porn industry was estimated to be worth about £1 billion.
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