Given our uncertain economic climate and with some parts of Australia still legally mandated to stay home, many people are turning to adult webcamming as a side-hustle.
OnlyFans, Chaturbate and a variety of other adult webcam platforms provide an avenue for people to make extra cash.
Here are some things to consider.
Is This Legal?
The legal status of pornography in Australia is a bit of a mess, with laws clearly targeting adult publications and films but having little regard for changes to the industry brought about by the internet.
For example, the ‘sale’ of material that would be classified X18+ (the category for sexually explicit media) is prohibited in every State and only allowed (in a very restrictive sense) in the Territories.
This was the reason the ACT was briefly considered Australia’s ‘porn capital’ as it allowed wholesalers and retailers the ability to import, distribute and sell X18+ videos and DVDs.
Under Schedule 7 of the Broadcast Services Act 1992 (Cth) online content classifiable as X18+ is prohibited, meaning it could be subject to a complaint or a takedown notice.
Because of this, most Australia-made pornography websites are hosted overseas where regulators have limited power.
Another confusing aspect of Australian pornography laws is the legal status of production.
Many States have criminal offences attached to making ‘obscene’ or ‘objectionable’ films.
For example, in Queensland s42 of the Classification of Films Act 1991 (Qld) states that ‘a person must not, for the purpose of gain, make or produce, or attempt to make or produce, an objectionable film’. Where an objectionable film refers to X18+ classifiable content. This offence comes with a risk of a $32,000 fine or 2 years imprisonment.
These offences may seem archaic and, although they are rarely enforced, there have been relatively recent prosecutions. Do these offences apply to internet streaming content? It’s unclear.
Making matters worse, certain types of adults content – such as the depictions of fetishes – are unlikely to me X18+ classification, being upgraded to the ‘Refused Classification’ category and running the risk of harsher penalties.
Finally, if you are a sex worker earning some extra money via adult webcamming it’s unclear how this service interacts with the heavy restrictions that apply to advertising sexual services.
In short: the legal status of adult camming is murky, and whilst consequences are very unlikely, it’s something budding Australian cammers should be aware of.
Before speaking on your legal rights in this area, it’s probably worth giving some practical advice: once something is uploaded or broadcast onto the internet, you have very little realistic control on its use.
Many adult performers are concerned that knowledge of their work (or hobby) could adversely impact their personal and professional lives. This is very understandable, but with the fluidity in which content is ripped off and shared on the internet, the odds of somebody you know finding out what you’re doing is very likely.
That out of the way, if someone rips off your content you may have legal recourse.
Copyright applies to adult webcamming content and provides you a bundle of rights on the use of that content.
The most common place performers find their content re-uploaded without their consent are on ‘tube sites’ such as PornHub.
If this not successful, or the website doesn’t have a complaints mechanism, you should issue a takedown notice to the website host. ArtsLaw has instructions on how to do this.
If this is unsuccessful, you may wish to see if the adult website is part of an industry association that has a disciplinary process.
The Australian industry association for adults-only businesses is the Eros Association. The North American equivalent is the Free Speech Coalition. However, these associations will only have recourse if the adult business is a member of their organisation.
Beyond copyright, the theft of the adult material may constitute a violation of the criminal law.
Most States and Territories now have criminal offences relating to the non-consensual distribution of intimate images (image-based abuse or ‘revenge porn’). Moreover, a Federal scheme allows the eSafety Commissioner to issue take own notices and apply civil penalties to people who share content without consent.
Whilst this has yet to be tested by the courts, given that performers only consent to sharing intimate images with subscribers, violating this trust by sharing to third-parties may constitute image-based abuse.
Finally, if the leaking of content is done for the purposes of harassment or blackmail (as happened recently to a Queensland performer), this is a clear breach of the criminal law and should be reported to the police.
Business Law and Partnerships
If you are adult webcamming you may be running a small business (whether you like it or not) with the responsibilities that incurs.
The difference between a business and a ‘hobby’ legally speaking is that a hobby is for ‘recreation or pleasure’ whilst a business aims to make a profit.
If you are running a small business you need to be aware of:
If you are working with other performers there should be clear written agreements when it comes to profit-sharing to avoid disputes.
Both ethically and legally speaking ensuring affirmative consent when working with other performers is paramount.
In 2018, Eros surveyed a number of Australian pornography producers and developed some basic standards for working with performers.
Finally, although use of a 2257 compliance and model release forms is not a legal requirement in Australia, it is considered best practice.
You can get specialist help on sex work related issues by contacting your relevant Federal, State or Territory sex worker organisation.
Free generalist legal advice can be obtained via Community Legal Centres.
Finally, each State and Territory has a number of general business advice lines that may assist.