3 min

Straights chip in for Glad Day

They're tired of the Ontario Film Review Board, too

Credit: Jan Becker

Glad Day’s battle against the Ontario Film Review Board has attracted some monied allies.

Adult video retailers and distributors, fed up with the seizure of their movies and high viewing fees by government authorities, are backing Glad Day’s battle against the board.

John Titulis, owner of the Toronto-based VXI Multimedia, a distributor of adult movies on DVD, has organized a group of sex film distributors and retailers to raise money for Glad Day’s legal fees.

According to Toshiya Kuwabara, manager of Glad Day Bookshop, pornography distributors and retailers have raised $10,000 for the store as of late last year. Titulis places the figure at almost $14,000, of which his company donated $2,000.

Glad Day was charged in the spring of 2000 with selling the adult video, Descent. Three undercover inspectors purchased the movie at Glad Day. The US-made video didn’t have the OFRB approval sticker, which all videos sold and rented in the province must carry.

An OFRB sticker comes at a viewing cost $4.20 per minute of film, usually charged to the distributor. Distributors who do not comply with the act can be fined $100,000. Stores can also be fined with that amount for selling unclassified adult films.

Descent does not have a Canadian distributor, says Kuwabara. As a result, Glad Day could be fined the $100,000 – which could bankrupt the store.

The store is being defended by lawyer Frank Addario at a substantial discount. Kuwabara doesn’t know how high the legal fees will go. It depends on how long the case is drawn out. They were in court in October and November and expect that, no matter the decision, there will be further appeals.

“This is something I wish I could give an estimate on. My only problem is that one of the tactics that the crown has taken is to drag things out,” says Kuwabara, “and by dragging things out as long as humanly possible, they raise our legal fees astronomically.”

Glad Day has discovered that it’s not just the gay and lesbian community that cares about the case.

Norman Goldstein of Canamicro, which distributes adult DVD and videos, donated $1,000 to the legal defence fund.

“The OFRB is a bureaucratic waste of taxpayer’s money. The fees charged to a distributor… inflate the prices of videos and DVDs to the consumer to such an extent as to make the purchase of these products in Ontario uncompetitive with neighbouring markets,” says Canamicro. “When you factor the exorbitant daily fees given to the screeners to review the movies, as well as the administrative personnel paper-pushers, you get a government agency that is superfluous.”

Titulis adds that an OFRB sticker doesn’t necessarily guarantee the public’s access to all adult films. In 1991, he says that he had 7,000 OFRB-approved films seized from him by police under Project P, an operation whose official mandate was to target child pornography. In the 1995, a case by Adults Only video went to the Supreme Court Of Canada; judges ruled that approval or rejection by an film board has little bearing on whether a video is obscene or not by legal standards.

“If the sticker doesn’t provide any protection, then why pay $4.20 per minute?”

Titulis says unstickered films can be ordered by mail or through the Internet.

Christian Bode, spokesperson for the OFRB, said in a telephone message that the board charges high fees to pay for its expenses.

“It’s a self-financed authority and the money is used for viewing, stickering and, in some cases, investigation,” says Bode.

Another company that lent financial and moral support to Glad Day was the co-operatively-owned sex store Come As You Are. The owners donated money to Glad Day’s legal defence fund, and sold tickets for and donated prizes for its fundraising auction.

Come As You Are co-owner Cory Silverberg, also helped by testifying at the trial. He says Ontario regulations make it too expensive to become a film distributor – a designation that’s needed to be able to import videos and get stickers. Businesses catering to minority tastes can’t play the game.

“For a store of our size, and even Glad Day which is bigger, we would have to put money up front, submit the tapes and [the cost would be] more than we could say we’d ever recoup,” Silverberg says.