World Censors: Germany


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 Offsite Article: FSK film censors...

Link Here 8th December 2017
fsk 18 large An overview of film censorship in Germany

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28th August

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The German games censorship game
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Counter Strike game Germany's efforts to regulate the classification and sale of violent video games has brought a number of the country's authorities together to work on a set of legislation.

Legislation recently passed in Germany in July, for example, makes it easier to put such games on the banned list following the introduction of a rating index.

Games on Germany's banned list cannot be sold publicly. That includes any advertising and sales through mail order.

The decision to flag a game is made by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM). Since the July 1 revision of the Protection of Minors Act, the agency has been granted even more authority. That includes the authorization to list games that propagate vigilante justice as the only solution to a problem. The criteria have also been expanded for the automatic inclusion of specific games in the list.

A network of organizations decide on age classifications. Tthe age labeling system will be significantly broader in future. Some games are currently open to a general audience. The next levels are "6," "12," and "16." Any game assigned an "18" is banned for youths. There are also games that cannot be rated at all. Such titles require action by the BPjM frequently land on the index.

The labeling system is organized by the so-called Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK) in Berlin, with support until now from the Association for the Promotion of Youths and Social Work. Two industrial associations assumed sponsorship from June 1: the German Association of Computer Game Developers (G.A.M.E.) and the German Association of Interactive Entertainment Software (BIU).

The USK functions as a service provider, commissioning a circle of independent experts. These observers first play the game, present their results to a five-person committee consisting of at least four of roughly 60 expert appraisers from the USK, including teachers and employees of the youth agencies. The committee is then completed by a permanent representative of the Supreme Youth Agencies of the states. The majority decides, but the permanent representative always has a veto right.


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Video game censorship in Germany
Link Here  full story: Killergames...German politicians target video games

Counter Strike game Despite their popularity, violent video games are widely criticized in Germany and the country has some of the strictest video-game censorship laws in the Western world. For example, German laws prohibit the sale of Counter-Strike and titles with bloody graphics.

The Protection of Young Persons Act (PYPA)

The Act was enacted in 2002 and was Amended in 2003, 2004, and 2008.

The Act defines children as individuals under 14 years old and adolescents as those between 14 and 18 years old.

The Act requires business operations to publish legal notices with movie codes and ratings; they are also required to request identification from those with parental power accompanying minors. Children and adolescents are not permitted in public movie performances unless those performances are cleared for them by the Supreme state authority.

PYPA, section 12 establishes that video games or any other games cannot be publicly accessible to children or adolescents unless they are cleared and labeled for their appropriate age group by the supreme state authority.

PYPA 2008- Amendments Relevant to the Video Game Industry?

In 2008, an amendment to PYPA entered into force. Under the amended Section 15 of the Protection of Young Persons Act, a video game that contains exceptionally realistic, cruel, and lurid images of violence as an end in itself is automatically indexed and subject to severe restrictions on distribution and advertising. Further, these games may not be sold to underage persons. This kind of violent media is automatically indexed -- that is, it does not have to be assessed and rated by the supreme state authority that is generally responsible for indexing, known in German as the Bundesprfstelle.

PYPA Section 18 –List of Media Harmful to Young People- states: Data media and telemedia which might have a severely damaging impact on the development and education of Children and Adolescents to responsible personalities in society shall be registered by the Review Board and included in a List of Publications Harmful to Young Persons. Included are media and other publications with immoral and brutalizing content or those instigating violence, crime and racism. The 2008 Amendment added some requirements to this section regarding violent video games. German authorities are to index media that contain acts of violence like murder and mass killings as ends in themselves as well as media in which self-administered justice is presented as a successful and proven means for serving justice. This kind of media, according to the amendments, has to be assessed, rated, and placed on a list of media that is generally considered to be dangerous for young people.

Other Measures

The County Court in Munich decided to confiscate all versions of Manhunt in July 2004 because it violated a penal provision prohibiting the depiction and glorification of violence. Other games, including the violent video game Dead Rising , were placed in the Index and confiscated by a Hamburg County Court decision of June 2007.

 International: German Video Censorship

I have received word from Germany that the German censorship laws changed on April 1st 2003. The following debate has therefore been rendered obsolete.

I soon as I hear about the replacement laws I will get the site updated


Stu Watts

All rating and censorship IS voluntary; however, it is a 'hard' ratings system - if you are under the age given, you may not watch the film in question (this is enshrined in the law). The possible ratings are: suitable for all ages, 6, 12, 16 and 18.

Once a film has been rated, that is its rating for both cinema and video. It is quite legal to have two versions of a film. Quite often there is a cut 16 version and an uncut 18 version on video. With few exceptions, they tend to be less strict here, e.g. Face/Off was rated 16 with no cuts.

It is a bit harder to get hold of 18 vidoes - many shops do not stock them. Nevertheless many video rental stores do - both for hire and for purchase at standard prices (comparable/cheaper than UK).

There is also a category above 18 - 'indiziert', or 'on the index'. You cannot advertise these films, nor can they be openly on display - unless a shop is open to 'adults only'. However, it is quite legal to sell and buy such material. Simply ask at a shop counter; if they have such films, and you are obviously above 18, they will let you browse. Many video rental stores have back rooms/basement for such stuff.

Examples of 'indizierte' films - Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, Last House on the Left, The Exorcist, From Dusk till Dawn, Profondo Rosso. All these films are fully uncut, but subject to the limitations listed before.

'Indizierte' films cannot be ordered by post - you have to prove in person that you are 18 or over. This is adhered to very strictly by the larger Lasrdisc/Video/DVD supliers; the smaller, less well known ones will ignore this rulling if you a known, good customer.

Any foreign home video material (be it US, GB, Dutch or whatever) will only be sold to you if you are 18 or over; however, unless 'indiziert', it will be openly desplaid and advertised.

Finally TV: Any film rated up to 6 can be shown at any time; 12 only after 8 pm (correction: 12 are allowable any time of day); 16 only after 10 pm; 18 only after 11 pm. As far as I know, the 'indizierte' version of a film will NOT be shown on TV (correction: may be edited down to TV standards and shown after 11pm) - though I have heard rumours of exceptions concerning Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2.


Ingo Kiessling

First, the information you have written on your page is not wrong but censorship in germany is more complex. No film/video label is FORCED to go to the german FSK (which means Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle = voluntary self control) with a film but such movies that opt out are automaticly only for persons of 18 years and over. So if you want films to be shown to a younger audience the film/video
label MUST go to the FSK.

The only reason to go to the FSK for an 18 certificate is because two german paragraphs of German law (§131/violence and §184/pornography) could be used to ban the film. This happend to such movies like Halloween II, The Evil Dead (uncut version, the new version with an FSK18 certificate is cut), Dawn of the Dead (uncut version), Day of the Dead and lots more (actually there are over 130 movies banned in germany most of them because of violence). To avoid such trouble most video labels go to the FSK to be on the safe side, i.e. films with an 18 certificate are NOT automaticly uncut!

The second problem is that it is strictly forbidden to sale videos with an 18 certificate via mail order. This is the reason for the problem with cut versions and FSK16-certificates in these mail order shops. You will only able to find films with an 16 certificate (or lower, i.e. 12, 6 or 0/suitable for all ages) in mail order shops. Sometimes movies are cut to get in the next lower certificate region, e.g. Beverly Hills Cop has been cut to get an FSK12 certificate so it has been watched by more children.

The biggest problem for the german censorship is still violence so lots of movies with an FSK18 certificate have been cut (e.g. RoboCop, Terminator, Cobra, Predator) and lots of them have also been put on the "index" which means that anyone who sells, rents or hires such a movie to a person under the age of 18 will be prosecuted an could be sent to prison for up to one year, i.e. all indexed movies are still available for adults, all banned films are unavailable. Therefore all indexed movies have an 18 certificate you will also unable to buy the via mail order in germany.

The biggest problem for fans of video nasties is that is strictly forbidden to import films via mail order (e.g. per internet) which are on the index or even banned in germany; this problem also occures to all porno videos because of the §184 described above.


Ingo Kießling

I read the extended german censorship section, itīs ok except of the following:

Examples of uncut 'indizierte' films - Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, Last House on the Left, The Exorcist, From Dusk till Dawn, Profondo Rosso.

All these films are NOT uncut in germany except "The Exorcist" ...

  • Cannibal Holocaust was released cut under the title "Nackt und zerfleischt", it was re-released this year uncut by another video label but is still indexed,
  • Last House on the Left was released cut under the title "Mondo Brutale",
    it was re-released uncut this year by the same video label,
  • From Dusk till Dawn was NOT released uncut on video in germany - this didnīt stop the BPS from indexing the film,
  • Profondo Rosso was released cut by 22 minutes (!) and was re-released uncut by Screen Power this year

All re-released versions are NOT for video rental shops it is very difficult to get them, all these videos have no FSK-certificate i.e.
the german censors could bann them anytime. Most of the movies re-released uncut on video are produced as export versions by the german video labels therefore they are all indexed or even banned in germany e.g. Cannibal Ferox - this movie is banned in germany -
not just indexed, thatīs what I know.

As I told you already german videos with an FSK18-certificate are NOT automaticly uncut also indexed movies are not. It is very difficult to get information because cut videos are of course not wanted by the fans of this kind of films so the video labels donīt write this information on the covers - unless the movie is uncut / the directorīs cut. But thatīs the next problem: e.g. the film Scream was released in germany with "Directorīs Cut" written on the cover - but it wasnīt the "real" un- rated US directorīs cut! Directorīs cut means in this case uncut cinema version which was the same as the R-rated US-version which was cut also. I think thatīs the same version released in the UK. You have to compare the running times to get all information about cut/uncut films in germany, UK or wherever.

The german FSK was previously cutting more than the BBFC, but this was changing, over the last two years lots of movies got FSK18- certificate without cuts - like Starship Troopers. Therefore lots of the good horror films from the 70's and 80's  are cut or banned in germany [e.g. Hellraiser, Hellraiser 2, Halloween 2 (also banned), Friday the 13th (the uncut part 3 was banned, also the cut part 4), Pet Semetary 2 (uncut in cinema !), Scanners, Intruder, A Nightmare on Elmstreet 2 (cut down to a 16-certificate to avoid being indexed), A Nightmare on Elmstreet 4 (same version in cinema as on video, but 16-certificate in cinema/18-certificate on video !) and and and ...

Since 1997 there is a new certificate for video films from the "Spitzen- organisation der Filmwirtschaft" (SPIO) which certificates that the film does not break german law (§131/violence only). I donīt know a correct translation for it because it contains juristic terms so here it is written in german: "Strafrechtlich unbedenklich / SPIO/JK" - "JK" means "Juristen-kommission". There are a lot of newer movies (e.g. Dead Presidents) with this SPIO-certificate, there is just one problem: the video label has no "insurance" for the film not being banned.

All movies with an SPIO-certificate are handled like movies without an FSK-certificate, i.e. only suitable for persons of 18 years and over. All movies without an FSK-certificate could be indexed AND ALSO banned. Movies with an FSK18-certificate could just be indexed. It is important to understand the difference between "indexed" and "banned" because even here in germany people think it means the same - but all indexed movies are still available in almost every video rental shop, banned films are of course unavailable.

On TV 18-films are often cut to be broadcast earlier (after 22:00), also 16-films are cut to be broadcast after 20:00. Indexed movies MUST be cut to be braodcast because it is strictly forbidden to show these films on TV.

Unfortunately I canīt say anything about Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2, but I canīt believe that these movies are shown UNCUT on television in Germany.

Jaques Molitor

Censorship is voluntary, fair enough, films and videos are indeed never refused in the way that they are in Britain i.e. 'no certificate, that's it folks' however they can be banned or indexed afterwards. The list of banned movies has a count of at least 250 (including illegal pornography) and there are nearly 3000 indexed videos. So as a distributor you can never be sure if your movie will stay on the market...

That classification is less strict may be true at the moment but it wasn't some time ago, especially horror films get cut to shreds (Hellraiser 5 minutes, Hellraiser II 12 minutes) a lot of movies that have 18 certs in the UK are cut more heavily in Germany, also action movies more often got 18 ratings in Germany than in the UK. Where Germany is a lot less strict is for language(nearly no special restrictions) and for sex. 'Thoughtful' movies also nearly never get 18 certs even if they're quite violent, which weighs things up a bit. On the otzher hand, they're NOT consistent over there especially direct-to-video movies are treated very unfairly. *Indeed 18 cert videos cannot be sold in normal video shops only in rental outlets

'Indiziert' doesn't mean higher than an 18 cert. but it means the film came out on video and some months or years later it was submitted to the BPjS (organisation to set on the index material that's considered harmful to minors) and was duly indexed. The organisation to give out certificates is the FSK and has nothing to do with the index! Indeed most other media(CDs, books) can alos be put on the index (eg American Psycho, Naked Lunch) with the same restrictions applying.

The examples for indexed films are not really correct, 'The Exorcist' and 'Profondo Rosso' are not on the index, while Cannibal Ferox has been banned entirely. These films are NOT all uncut, they are the normal German video versions, for example Cannibal Holocaust was cut by 7 minutes, PR by over 20 minutes including dialogue etc. A great number of indexed films are cut like the Hellraiser movies. The cuts were inflicted in hope that the film wouldn't be banned entirely(a fact of which one can never be sure as I said because every court may decide otherwise just as in the UK Video Nasty era, and since the films can only be banned after release, unlike in the UK)

TV: Actually films up to 12 can be shown anytime, indexed films may be shown on TV but only in cut versions and if submitted to a TV monitoring board like the ITC called FSF. 'Nekromantik' 1 and 2 would never, believe me be shown on German TV. Cut films include 'Hard-Boiled' which was cut by 12 minutes at 12 am! Films rated too strictly for the time at hand (e.g. rated 16 for a showing at 8 pm) will be cut, and lots of action/horror movies are cut for this reason (eg Indiana Jones)


Michael Stach

Additional Information: It is legal to own banned videos.


Stu Watts

I am grateful to both Ingo and Jaques for their comments concerning the original 'German censorship' notes; thanks for expanding on, clarifying and correcting some of the points. One area where I have to disagree with both is the availability and form of certain films, 'Cannibal Ferox' in particular.

The film may well be banned, but it is available - from the German 'Astro'video company. I can attest to this because 'Ferox' is present in both my local video stores.

'Astro' appears to specialise in classic/cult horror/violence films. A few of their releases are classified 18 (e.g. Wild at Heart; Angelheart). However, most of them (Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, Last House on the Left, Cannibal Man, The House by the Cemetary, Aenigma, Manhattan Baby, Mangiati Vivi (?), Mark of the Devil, Braindead) simply carry the warning (translated into English) 'Do not sell or rent to minors' (i.e. people under 18). I have always taken this to mean that the films were 'indiziert' and not banned.

All the films in question are advertaised as uncut; many are additionally advertised as containing scenes previously not shown in Germany (e.g. 'Ferox'). I have watched 'Last House on the Left' and I believe the claims - the running time suggests that the print is uncut; moreover, at certain points in the film, the dialogue is not German but English with German subtitles - implying material has been added at a later stage.

I do not reckon they were prepared for export. Firstly, I doubt the export market would be big enough (remember, these films are dubbed); secondly, the above-mentioned warning looks too similar to standard German video ratings symbols - black writing inside a bright red square.

I am at a loss to explain why these films are being rented/sold. Anyonegot any ideas?


Ingo Kießling

Bad news from Germany: The german video label Astro started to re-release banned movies in the so-called "Black Series" at the beginning of 1998. All uncut and without any FSK- or SPIO/JK-certificate. It seems that all these movies have again been banned and that all of them will be part of the new prosecution process against Astro Video.

This series included movies like:

  • Cannibal Ferox
  • Geisterstadt der Zombies (LīAldilá - The Beyond)
  • Maniac
  • Muttertag (Motherīs Day)
  • Nackt unter Kannibalen (Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali)
  • New York Ripper
  • Sado - Stoß das Tor zur Hölle auf (Beyond the Darkness - Buio Omega)
  • Die Weiße Göttin der Kannibalen (La montagna del dio cannibale)
  • Zombie (Dawn of the Dead)
  • Ein Zombie hing am Glockenseil (City of the Living Dead)
  • Mangiati Vivi

Other just indexed Astro videos are still available though, eg:

  • Last House on the Left
  • Aenigma
  • Cannibal Holocaust

The banned movies were produced as export versions with "Not for sale in the Federal Rebuplic of Germany" written on the cover, this didnīt stop the prosecutors from banning them all. One reason could have been the fact that some video shops did sell them in germany.


Jacques Molitor

Having read the second contribution on German censorship by Stu Watts, I think I can answer his question as to why the 'Astro' company is able to sell copies of allegedly banned films. The answer is simple: They can't! Indeed only about 8 or so of the movies they distribute (the so-called 'Black Series') have been banned by the German government, e.g. 'Paura nella cittā dei morti viventi' (City of the Living Dead), 'L'Aldila' (The Beyond) or 'New York Ripper'. I don't know why exactly they sell copies of films ('Wild at Heart') that have been available uncut through regular means....

Some films like 'Last House' are 'only' indexed, but now Astro is to be dragged to court(this is no joke), and half a dozen of their titles have been snatched by police throughout Germany. While some bans may not be upheld by courts, a lot still are(e.g. 'Maniac', 'Dawn of the Dead') and it is still illegal to just try and sell nearly identical versions to the ones that have been banned.

Astro were very courageous, and were all the time walking on thin ice, and I think even the rest of their catalogue is being seized from video shops. Actually there is a very small note on the back cover of the 'Black Series' videos that they are not for sale in Germany, only in Austria and Switzerland(I think), this hasn't been adhered to however... This whole affair proves again that you may, indeed sell uncertificated material in Germany but if you get caught, and if the films are then deemed obscene, that was bad luck.


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