Roku’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Porn Policy

EVTV on Roku

EVTV on Roku

A new channel popped up on Roku yesterday called EroticVision.TV that makes adult content available on the broadband set-top box for the first time. But the new “adult entertainment” channel hasn’t actually been approved by Roku, and it operates in a kind of limbo where the app is publicly available but not publicly listed.

The EVTV channel isn’t available through the Roku channel store; unlike apps from approved content providers and partners like Facebook, Blip.tv and Major League Baseball, the EVTV channel can only be accessed once you’ve navigated a complicated installation process that entails first entering a channel code on the Roku site and later linking your Roku account to the EVTV service. That’s because EroticVision never actually applied to be in the channel store — and it didn’t have to, due to a loophole in Roku’s approval process.

Roku places a few restrictions on channels that make it into the store. For one thing, the content has to have a certain level of video quality. Second, anyone that submits a channel for review has to actually own the copyright or have licensed the content they wish to stream. Third, in the hopes of keeping it a clean, well-lit place, Roku prohibits adult content from the channel store.

But according to Jim Funk, Roku’s vice president of business development, not all channels actually go through the approval process. There are, in fact, two type of channels that can be accessed by the Roku player: those that are available in the channel store, and private channels that have been uploaded to the system but haven’t actually been reviewed or approved by the company.

There are a few reasons why a company might have a private channel. It might still be in development, so the code is only available to certain people to test it out. Or the channel might be used for private use within an organization — for instance, for the distribution of educational materials through a corporate channel. Or, like EVTV, it could be offering adult content that Roku has said specifically that it won’t approve.

Regardless, these private channels aren’t actively reviewed before they become active, which means that anyone with the SDK could build one to serve porn or other illicit content. That’s not to say that Roku isn’t aware of these channels. Funk says if content on a private channel were found to be illegal, or if it violates someone’s copyright, then Roku would act to take it down.

For the time being, Roku seems content to let EVTV and other adult content sites operate private channels, so long as they’re not broadcasting child porn or other illegal content. And why wouldn’t it? After all, EroticVision prominently advertises the Roku player on its web site (“starting at just $79.99!”) and even has a pretty hilarious (if NSFW) video pitching the service. If having a “back door” to porn leads to more set-top sales, Roku can’t exactly complain.

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