DARTMOUTH, Nova Scotia—Topline Entertainment, one of Nova Scotia’s leading adult video distributors, is fighting mad after being taken to court for selling a porn tape that had not been classified by the Department of Labour and Workforce Development. In deciding to fight the charges, which could result in a fine of $25,000, Topline is arguing that the province’s rating fee is not only a backhanded way to restrict freedom of expression, but also a de facto tax that satellite companies offering the same fare are not required to pay.
While the province does not regulate adult material from satellite or pay-per-view sources, it does charge $3.47 per minute to rate adult videos destined for brick-and-mortar shelves or the big screen.
According to Topline lawyer Blair Mitchell, the uneven playing field has wreaked havoc with the business model for long enough.
“If nobody cares about television signals that are coming in and are unregulated, then the makers and distributors of adult entertainment are being treated discriminatorily,” said Mitchell, speaking on behalf of the company registered to Craig MacLean of Dartmouth.
On average, physical product retailers have to shell out more than $380 to have a 110-minute film classified by the province, almost 11 times more than is charged to rate non-adult films released to home video. This suggests that adult films are being targeted and the rating fee is really an indirect tax in disguise, said Mitchell.
Even worse, as the economy has worsened and the internet and other delivery channels have continued to take their toll on retail shops, many owners have stopped getting flicks classified at all. This trend led to a crackdown last year by provincial inspectors that landed 14 porn retailers in hot water, including Topline Entertainment, and resulted in license suspensions for seven of them.
According to Halifax Commoner, “Frank Rhyno, owner of the Sister Sarah’s chain of adult stores and one of the largest adult film retailers in Nova Scotia, has been making waves lately with his announcement that he may open porn theatres in several communities. By showing satellite and pay-per-view material, Rhyno says he intends to dodge the provincial regulations that smothered the Nova Scotia adult film business in the first place.
“They’ve been screwing us—literally—into the ground,” he says. “They’ve chased our business away.”