Web-delivered films do not have to be passed by the censor either for cutting or for classification in the UK, which the BBFC believes could lead to consumers being misled.
"People do not know what they are buying into at the moment," said BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark. "It is one thing to go to a web page you don't know and just surf away, but if you pay for a film and download it you want to know what it is."
"Video on demand is in its early stages and at some point in the future it will need to be regulated," said Clark. "We are not talking about regulating the rest of the internet, just when people have films delivered to their computers."
The BBFC regulates films, DVDs and computer games in the UK, giving them age-appropriate classifications and cutting them where necessary. Clark said that the bulk of its work is classification. "We cut very, very little," she said. "About the only reason something is cut from a film is because the distributor wants a lower rating."
Material which would currently be banned or at least not receive a classification can be distributed online into the UK. The BBFC said that it knew of at least one distributor who uses video on demand in order to skirt laws on pornography.
Clark said that the body was raising the issue so that it could be discussed, but did not know whether new legislation would be needed or how such a system would be policed. "Most people use the internet for email, surfing, they are not yet downloading whole films, but this is something we should be looking at and preparing for. It is time to discuss it now before it gets settled in and too difficult."