The BBFC is required to consider whether material submitted for classification is in conflict with the law, or has been created through the commission of a criminal offence.
Licensing legislation lies behind the BBFC's powers to regulate film in the UK while the Video Recordings Act (VRA) 1984 is the basis upon which the BBFC applies the test of whether a work is suitable for viewing in the home (taking into account the potential for under-age viewing).
Linked with this is the consideration of potential harm, whether to the viewer, or to society through the viewer's behaviour. In particular, works involving the depiction of criminal behaviour, illegal drugs, violent or horrific behaviour and human sexual activity are given special regard under the 'harm' test. All digital works that are submitted to the BBFC for age rating are subject to the same level of scrutiny under the VRA as DVDs and Blu-rays.
Other legal considerations include indecent images of children, animal cruelty, obscenity, racial hatred and human rights. BBFC Examiners analyse and make recommendations on the legality of a scene or work in the first instance. Then, if a particular legal question requires a more sophisticated and professional analysis, the BBFC may seek external expert advice.
If a work is found to contain material which falls foul of UK law, then it will be cut from the work. If the work as a whole is found to be in breach of the law, then it may be denied a certificate and rejected.