As previously reported, Australia has decided to put the issue of R18+ games out to public consultation.
The consultation was immediately criticised by both the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and the Eros Foundation, an adult industry lobby group.
Given what happens with R-rated films, we could have no confidence that the classification guidelines would be properly applied, ACL managing director Jim Wallace said in a statement. For example, due to loopholes in the guidelines, real sex is
sometimes being shown in R-rated films. What will happen if we have R18+ games, which have even greater impact because of their interactive nature.
A spokesman for Eros shamefully said the foundation backed the ACL stance. We support the Australian Christian Lobby's point of view. Because we believe that there's too much violence out there and there are more pressing issues for the
attorneys to consider such as the regulation of the X-rated film industry.
Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus said the consultation process would not deliver a final decision: This is not a consultation on a proposal to introduce an R18+ level for games . It is a public consultation process seeking community views to
inform our position."
Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls said he wanted censorship laws to strike an appropriate balance between freedom of expression and community concerns. It seems inconsistent that in Australia adults are allowed to view adults only films which have
been classified R18+ by the classification board but not computer games with an equivalent high level content.
The issue of whether to create an R18+ classification for video games will now be put to public consultation following a meeting of censorship ministers.
Specific details on how the public will be consulted have yet to be finalised but it is expected a consultation paper will be ready for the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting.
The only decision out of today's SCAG meeting was that there would be a public consultation.
Victorian Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls has pushed hard for an adults only classification for games but was greeted with significant opposition from South Australia's Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, who argued he was protecting
children from "harmful material".
In a statement today, Hulls said his department's analysis of research on the issue suggested there were persuasive arguments to support an R18+ classification. He said the latest generation of gaming platforms allowed parents to control their child's
access to appropriate gaming material and Australia was out of step with the rest of the developed world on this issue: I believe that censorship laws should strike an appropriate balance between freedom of expression and community concerns about
depictions that condone or incite violence, as well as the principle that minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them. It seems inconsistent that in Australia, adults are allowed to view 'adult only' films which have been
classified R18+ by the Classification Board, but not computer games with an equivalent high level content.
Ron Curry, CEO of the games industry body, the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA), welcomed today's decision to consult the public on the issue: Our belief is that good legislation comes from a reflection of community sentiment,
so the process that the attorney-general is outlining gives us the opportunity to move this into the public forum for discussion .
On Friday, Australian censorship ministers will gather in the Barossa Valley to discuss an R18+ rating for games, but South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson has vowed to block its introduction.
Any changes to Australia's censorship regime must be agreed on by all state and federal attorneys-general. Atkinson's long-standing opposition to an R18+ rating stems from his legitimate concern over harm to children from high-impact material. The
minister rightly argues adult freedoms should not be placed ahead of protecting children, but as I argued in my open letter to the minister, the two are not mutually exclusive.
An R18+ category would actually help protect children, as well as bring harmonization to the classification regime, acknowledge that games are important entertainment pastime for many Australian adults, and give Australian adults the right to choose the
content they wish.
The Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia and groups like Electronic Frontiers Australia support the introduction of an R18+ category, while groups like Young Media Australia and The Australian Christian Lobby share Michael Atkinson's
There is evidence to suggest a large majority of Australians support the introduction of an R18+ games rating: a survey by Bond University in 2005 of over 1600 random households found 88% of Australians supported its introduction.
Australia's Federal Parliament will be asked to investigate swearing on TV after the strong language in Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares .
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay used the word 'fuck' more than 80 times in an episode shown at 8.30pm last Thursday.
Not so Liberal Cory Bernardi will introduce a motion in the Senate today calling for a study of the effectiveness of the broadcasting code of conduct.
He said it was prompted by Ramsay's use of the word 'cunt' in an episode shown at 9.30pm earlier this month.
This was not a live show, so the station had censorship control. Channel 9 had the opportunity to beep out the word before putting it to air, Senator Bernardi said. The word used is grossly offensive to mainstream Australia. There is no
justification for the use of such language in the public arena, particularly by our free-to-air broadcasters. It is concerning that the acceptance of profanity is such that a television station deems it appropriate for such offensive language to be
aired, let alone relatively early."
Senator Bernardi said he was not a wowser: I like the show ...BUT... I recoil at the swearing because I think, 'Is this necessary? '
Nine Network chief classification officer Richard Lyle said Ramsay's use of the f-word was indicative of the high-stress environment in restaurant kitchens, and in another context might be bleeped out.
He said this was an example of one arm of Government not talking to the other, as the Office of Film and Literature Classification had rated the episodes M months ago. I was surprised Corey Bernardi wouldn't have checked with the OFLC, which viewed
series one and The F-Word (another Ramsay program) and passed both as M with consumer advice of moderate course language.
There were only two or three complaints when it was airing at 9.30pm and a total of 60 since it went to 8.30pm and more people started tuning in."
Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares was the No.1 program of the night last Thursday.
South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson was cut off by interruptions in State Parliament while arguing against an R18+ classification for games.
Atkinson is the most vocal opponent to a R18+ classification for games, which cannot be introduced without the agreement of all state and Commonwealth attorneys-general.
During the speech, Atkinson began to describe five games that had been banned in Australia. As he was describing drug use in the game Narc , he was cut off by raucous interjections and returned to his seat.
Atkinson said: I have consistently opposed an R18+ classification for computer games. I am concerned about the harm of high-impact (particularly violent) computer games to children. Games may pose a far greater problem than other media – particularly
films – because their interactive nature could exacerbate their impact. The risk of interactivity on players of computer games with highly violent content is increased aggressive behaviour.
I do not want children to be able to get their hands on R18+ games easily. I understand that the lack of an R18+ classification denies some adults the chance to play some games, however, the need to keep potentially harmful material away from children is
far more important.
Proponents for the classification say the latest technology allows gaming platforms and computers to be programmed to allow parental locks. Today’s children are far more technologically savvy than their parents. It’s laughable to suggest that they
couldn’t find ways around parental locks if R18+ games were in the home.
I have mentioned that, despite there being thousands of computer games available to consumers, only a handful are banned. I want to give some examples of games refused classification in Australia because I’m certain that fair-minded people would not want
the kind of content in them to be available to children.
Blitz: The League
50 Cent: Bulletproof
Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure
I contest any idea that it is necessary for games to include material of this kind and that a game is more interesting to an adult because it contains extreme violence, explicit sexual material, instruction in crime or characters using illicit drugs.
I remain firmly opposed to changing the classifications of computer games to allow an R-rating for games with such content.
This is a carefully considered position I have held for six years and other attorneys-general around Australia may now be coming to the same view. There are not adequate safeguards that can properly protect our children from those disturbing scenes and I
know how computer-literate they are. Like other parents in Australia, I want to try to protect children from being able to access computer-generated pornography and violence.
I have not been persuaded by arguments for an R18+ classification for computer games and I will continue to oppose it.
The Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) has had to cancel a film presentation due to government censorship, following a decision by the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) to deny exemption from classification for the shorts package, The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome.
The MQFF is terribly disappointed not to be able to show Melbourne audiences the Peter de Rome shorts compilation, Festival Director Lisa Daniel said in a statement: It provided a fascinating contrast with contemporary gay erotic cinema, and De
Rome’s art-house influence was obvious and inspiring.
A spokesperson from the OFLC told MCV she did not have specific information on why De Rome’s films had been denied exemption.
The Erotic Films Of Peter De Rome
Directed by Peter De Rome
From 1969 to 1972, amateur filmmaker Peter De Rome crafted eight highly stylized 8mm sex films, mainly for his own amusement, which now remains one of the most highly regarded gay art films of its day.
A few highlights:
Hot Pants: A naked black man gyrates to a jazz soundtrack, then masturbates to climax. The camera stays fixed on his bouncing genitals, abstracting them from the whole man, for an effect that is both funny and slightly hypnotic.
The Second Coming : A naked man bound Christ-like on a cross is presented in various states of arousal. His hands are restrained and he cannot touch his penis, the “punishment” for his desire.
Underground : The most daring film in the collection. Two men on a New York subway car cruise, strip and have sex. DeRome shot this film on an in-service moving train, creating a real fear of discovery that radiates off the men.
Bijou Video released the collection on DVD in 2007.
Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney Julian Porteous says desensitisation to violence or sexual imagery does not promote the dignity of the human person and is not in the best interest of society.
While Bishop Porteous believes the causes of violence and crime in society is a very complex problem, the problem should not be compounded by video games that numb our natural repulsion to violence, he told The Catholic Weekly.
In regard to sexually explicit games, it reduces women in particular to mere objects of instant self gratification, Bishop Porteous said: We know from psychological research that exposure to violent video games can desensitise people to
real-life violence .
The Australian government's plan to have internet service providers filter pornography and other internet content deemed inappropriate for
children is going full-steam ahead.
The Government wants to evaluate content filters in a controlled environment. Trials are to be conducted soon in a closed environment in Tasmania.
ISP-based filters will block inappropriate web pages at service provider level and automatically relay a clean feed to households. To be exempted, users will have to individually contact their ISPs.
The testing is slated for completion by July and will be followed by live field trials.
Privacy advocates have long argued that ISP-based filters are too onerous and web users should be free to choose what they want to access online. They also say several measures, including PC-based filters, would be more effective in protecting
The internet sector has consistently voiced concern about the Government's ISP filters. Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos has said any clean feed policy would have to be balanced against the likely financial and
performance costs, and ACMA's first annual report to Senator Conroy confirmed his fears.
The report, released last week, also conceded that Web 2.0 technology poses the greatest threat to the younger generation. The rise in popularity of social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace, coupled with a dive in the use of email,
has made it difficult to filter content: Filters are currently unable to sift the content of communication between users using instant messaging or chat services, ACMA said.
The agency concluded that education was the most effective way of addressing risks associated with illegal contact online.
Adult classification for games will be raised at the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) on March 28th.
But a spokesperson for Michael Atkinson, the South Australian Attorney General, has confirmed that he will maintain his long-running opposition to the proposed system.
The attorney-general remains very firmly opposed to introducing an R rating for computer games in Australia, the spokesperson said.
Minister Atkinson would not consider an 18+ rating even if there were measures to protect children from being exposed to adult content, the spokesperson said: He doubts whether any safeguards could be put in place to deter young people, who
after all (are) the most computer literate and savvy in our society, from being able to access material.
While various Australian media outlets are reporting today that a change is soon to come, a decision to introduce an R18+ rating down under still looks like it is months to years away from actually happening.
For an R18+ rating to be introduced, all of Australia's State Attorneys-General and the Federal Minister for Home Affairs would have to agree on the change before it can be passed into law. But a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Minister, Bob
Debus, said no decision should be expected to come from the March 28 meeting.
According to the Minister's spokesperson, in a 2005 SCAG meeting it was agreed that the Victorian Government would research the issue of an R18+ rating in Australia further. The SCAG meeting on the March 28, 2008 is simply a chance for that
research to be tabled, the spokesperson said.
Usually those things move pretty slowly at those meetings. It can take years for things to get through. I would imagine Victoria would just present these materials and the states would go away and have another think about it until the next
meeting, the spokesperson said
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found SBS breached its codes of practice by showing British
documentary Obscene Machines in April last year.
The broadcasting regulator, which investigated the program after receiving a complaint from a viewer, found the show was too extreme for its MA15+ classification.
One 2-˝-minute segment features close-up shots of a naked woman apparently being penetrated by a mechanical dildo.
Another segment focuses on an elderly man's use of a life-like sex doll called Emma, modelled on his 18-year-old ex-wife.
ACMA rejected SBS's argument that a large proportion of the program dealt with the sexual activities of the old and disabled and was informational: ACMA considers that the treatment of the subject matter in Obscene Machines is adult in nature
and is therefore unsuitable for ordinary 15-year-old audience members, the watchdog said in its report.
Without a public fuss, an Australian federal government agency is quietly blacklisting web pages
Australian IT reports that an Australian federal government agency has built a blacklist of illegal online gambling sites that has caught some industry players off guard.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has produced a blacklist of around 800 hundred web pages, not websites, deemed 'unsuitable for public consumption.'
ACMA sends the list to internet service providers and content filtering companies so they can update their list of banned URLs.
About three months ago service providers received a list from ACMA containing illegal gambling pages they should block: We asked ACMA what was going on and were told that these were illegal gambling websites that had been identified by the
federal Government as inappropriate .
ACMA clarified that it is normal practice to distribute a single list that included prohibited online gambling pages. However, the anomaly was due to a high number of complaints about illegal online gambling sites in October 2007 that were
resolved months later.
Adult rated video games could soon be sold in Australia after the Federal Government said it was considering updating
the classification system for games to include an R18+ rating.
Unlike films, magazines and other publications, there is no adult classification for games in Australia, so any titles that do not meet the MA15+ standard are banned from sale by the Classification Board. Any changes to the censorship regime must
be agreed to by the Commonwealth and all state and territory attorneys-general.
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, confirmed the issue of whether or not to allow an R18+ classification for games would be discussed at the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting on March 28.
The games industry has long argued that the censorship regime is unnecessarily draconian and prevents adults from making their own decisions about the type of content they consume.
Research conducted by Bond University in Queensland for the industry body, the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA), found that the average age of Australian gamers is 28 and more than 50% of gamers are over 18. Another survey
of 1601 Australian households, conducted by the university in 2005, found 88% of Australians supported an R18+ classification for games.
Bond University associate professor Jeffrey Brand, who wrote the research report, said Australia was the "only developed democracy" that did not have an adult classification for games.
He said the lack of an R18+ rating meant some games deserving of adult classification were being let through by the Classification Board as MA15+, and people who wanted to obtain banned games could easily get them from the internet or overseas.
Australia would like to filter out X rated websites (ie adult hardcore) but they are being a bit cagey about being able to filter out the
millions of sites that carry it.
The Government's internet filtering plans came in for scrutiny from two of the major supporters of the proposal, Family First's Stephen Fielding, and the Liberal's Guy Barnett. It was the Liberal's Senator Simon Birmingham who asked the question
that we would all like to know. Unfortunately Conroy and the ACMA could not provide an answer.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: How many sites are identified on the current ACMA blacklist?
Ms O'Loughlin: Currently there are about 800 URLs rather than sites.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: How many URLs would you expect to be on the blacklist to meet the Labor Party's policy of prohibiting sites such as those containing child pornography and X-rated material?
Senator Conroy: As we have not completed our discussions I do not think Ms O'Loughlin will be in a position to answer that at this stage.
A Sunday Age investigation into Victoria's adult entertainment industry has found storefront shelves heavy with tens of
thousands of X-rated films, which show real depictions of sex and are illegal to sell in Australia outside the ACT and Northern Territory.
Victorian laws ban the sale of films that are X-rated, unclassified or have been refused classification because they feature images showing sexual violence, the offensive or demeaning treatment of women. What, then, do the stocked shelves of our
adult stores say about the state of those laws?
As The Sunday Age discovered, adult stores openly flout prohibitions against the sale of X-rated or unclassified films with seemingly no fear of reproach. Rows of such DVDs are displayed brazenly on the shelves - and for ease of reference are
separated into categories such as "barely legal", "golden showers" and "fetish".
At best, the law appears ineffectual - at worst, unworkable. Victoria Police have the power to enter and search adult stores and to seize any illegal material, but police sources complain such prosecutions are typically time-consuming, protracted
and ultimately unsuccessful.
On the record, Victoria Police will only say there is no evidence of an increase in the illegal trade of X-rated or unclassified films, or films that have been refused classification.
Our investigation suggests the contrary is true. Contradictions abound not only between the law and its enforcement, but also in the legislation as it is written. For example, while it is illegal to sell X-rated material in Victoria, there is no
law against buying it, owning it or watching it here.
Tony Burke, president of the Law Institute of Victoria, says the state's classification law is "anachronistic and ridiculous". However, he warns that the failure of police to enforce the prohibition against the sale of X-rated films
could encourage wider illegality: There is a danger that the law falls into disrepute. When the law is not enforced, it throws into doubt the whole legal system of Australia.
Victoria's leading adult store owners say they already self-censor "toxic product" such as sexually violent material. Angelo Abela, founder of the Sexyland chain, says his stores refuse to carry films that include bondage or abhorrent
Abela, a former muffler and spa salesman, says police are simply not interested in enforcing the ban on the sale of X-rated films. No one's come in to try to prosecute us. We have police come in and they look at what we sell and they are fine
with it, he says.
Club X boss Craig Hill boasts there has never been a successful prosecution in Victoria for the sale of X-rated films.
In 2003-04, Victoria Police recorded 152 offences for breaches of the classification law and arrested, charged or cautioned 64 people. Between 2006-07, those figures had plummeted to only 14 recorded offences and 12 people. Indeed, a Club X
employee in Melbourne, who asked not to be named, told The Sunday Age his store had not been raided by police since 1991.
Police, like the majority of our customers, are mature adults who think that they should be able to watch what they want, when they want, Hill says.
Professor Neil Rees, chairman of the Victorian Law Reform Commission said: It is not unusual for there to be a gap between the law as written on the books and what actually happens in practice, and that may result from changing community
attitudes and the government deciding that the best approach is to sit quietly and do nothing until community attitudes evolve to a point where there might be support for some significant change in the law.
In this community 40 or 50 years ago, we had books like Lady Chatterley's Lover banned. People would now look at this and think it absurd. And my sense is that community attitudes towards the sort of materials available now in the adult industry
are evolving, so long as possession is made by adults and not children.
The adult entertainment industry claims similarly to have the weight of public opinion carrying it forward towards possible law reform. An ACNielsen survey commissioned by Adultshop in September 2006 found only 30% of Australian adults said they
were offended by explicit erotic films. As many as three-quarters of those surveyed thought X-rated films should be legally available to adults throughout Australia.
However, the national spokeswoman for the Australian Family Association, Angela Conway, says there is still significant opposition within the community to the sale of X-rated and unclassified films.
Meanwhile, the Victorian Government remains silent on the issue. When asked about potential changes to the classification law, a spokeswoman for Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who has previously admitted to watching an X-rated film, simply says such
issues are not "high on the agenda".
Michael Pearce, a vice-president of Liberty Victoria, says police have rightly shifted their focus and limited resources away from the sale of X-rated material to stopping the spread of child pornography. He argues that beyond banning child
pornography, adults should be allowed to buy and sell whatever material they please: I can't see there would be any demonstrated harm coming from this.
The Australian Federal Government has taken another step in discriminating against the Northern Territory's Aboriginal
The Government has introduced a bill to amend the Broadcasting Services Act with a view to preventing pay television licensees providing channels containing R-rated programs to areas prescribed under the Commonwealth intervention.
The Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says it addresses concerns raised by Aboriginal people in the Little Children Are Sacred report about the exposure of children to pornography.
The Minister says there'll be consultation with communities that want R-rated material restricted before action is taken.
The possession, control and supply of pornography is already banned in Aboriginal communities and town camps under the emergency response legislation passed last year.
The Rudd Government has branded as a failure the $85 million software filter scheme to protect young Australians from online pornography
and will review its future.
Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is assessing the NetAlert program, which will come under scrutiny at the Senate estimates hearings tomorrow.
The filter scheme was a central feature of the Howard Government's $189 million NetAlert program launched last August to address the perceived threat of online sexual predators and unsavoury content to young internet users. A multimillion dollar
advertising blitz followed, including a booklet delivered to every household across the nation.
It was expected 2.5 million households would take up the free porn-blocking filters within 12 months but only 144,088 filter products have been downloaded or ordered on CD-ROM since August last year.
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has estimated about 29,000 of these accessed filter products were still being used - less than 2% of the set target.
The program has clearly failed, despite over $15 million being spent in advertising to support it, Conroy said: Labor has always said that PC filtering is not a stand-alone solution to protecting children from online dangers. The
Government has a comprehensive cyber-safety plan that includes the implementation of mandatory ISP-based filtering to deliver a filtered feed to all homes, schools and public internet points.
Conroy said the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) would examine all aspects of ISP-level filtering, with a laboratory trial completed by the end of June 2008, followed by a pilot test in a real world environment.
Opposition communications spokesman Bruce Billson said the Rudd Government was rushing to criticise the NetAlert program to set the scene for a "harebrained, half-baked policy dreamt up in the lead-up to an election": NetAlert is a
program which is relatively new, as is the minister in his role, and I'm sure he would like a little more than six months or so before the public decide if he has been a failure or not.
An Ipswich City Councillor has called on Queensland Rail (QR) to remove a billboard advertising "live porn
stars" supposedly because it is situated within 600 metres from a primary school.
The Sexpo billboard, on QR land features headshots of a number of international adult entertainers.
It is understood no complaint has been registered with industry watchdog the Advertising Standards Bureau.
But Councillor Paul Tully said a school principal from Ipswich complained to him about the billboard's prominence.
Tully said residents had also contacted him about another billboard advertisement for the local sex shop. He said the Maison Amour ad was also on QR land and should be taken down: (QR) won't allow political signs on railway land, yet sexually
explicit billboards are given the green light across the state .
But a QR spokesperson said the agency was unable to censor any content except for political and religious messages: QR could face a legal challenge should it pre-judge advertising without good reason.
IGN Australia has just been informed that Dark Sector , the third-person action game from Digital Extremes, has been banned by Australia's censorship board.
In the game, players assume the role of Hayden Tenno, an elite black-ops agent who has been infected by a brutal bio-weapon virus, giving him explosive combat capabilities.
In its report, the Board describe Dark Sector as a violent and sometimes gruesome game with a sinister storyline and ominous outcome. The violence and aggression inflicted upon the protagonist is of a high level, naturalistic and not
stylised at all.
The game contains violence that is high in impact and the game is therefore unsuitable for persons aged under 18 years to play.
In the unanimous view of the Board, the impact of the game exceeds strong and as such cannot be accommodated in a MAI5+ classification.
Pierre Woodman's hardcore version of the Arthurian legend Xcalibur: The Lords of Sex has just been banned in Australia. This is curious as back in October it was originally passed with an X18+ (Explicit Sex) rating.
Hardcore films that attempt to tell a story are often going to have problems with out censors. In this case there are numerous sword fights which would not have fitted in well with the X18+ category where violence is forbidden.
Perhaps as an addendum to the Refused Classification
comment about violent background story lines, it is interesting to note that the hardcore version is not available in the UK either. The softcore version was passed 18 though.
After the BBFC massively cut the award winning hardcore film Pirates , then presumably nobody has considered submitting this film, also with a violent background story.
One can only conclude that the hardcore version of Xcalibur is also effectively banned in the UK too.
The Australian censor has refused classification to Ninja Gaiden Black which was intended for release as an Xbox Originals title on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.
The justification behind this latest spit in the face of gamers across the nation is that the game prominently features decapitations, something apparently too much for the average gamer to cope with.
While it's easy to try and beat down the censor's doors, we must implore that the blame with the Attourney Generals who are stuck in their ethics rut and misconception that only children play video games.
The decision come as much of a surprise, considering the original release of Ninja Gaiden Black for the Xbox didn't officially grace Australian shores either.
An underground market for the new unauthorised Tom Cruise biography has sprung up on auction site eBay, with Australian buyers willing to pay a significant premium for the book.
There were dozens of auctions for T om Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography - many offering multiple copies - and bidders willing to pay up to $61.50. The book is available on Amazon.com for about $30, including shipping.
The book is now number one on the Amazon best-seller list.
It will not be printed in Australia and US distributors have now said they will no longer export the book, by British author Andrew Morton, outside the US and Canada.
But eBay sellers are getting around the ban on the book by having partners make bulk retail purchases in the US.
We've got two shipments coming, the first is 150 books," said a man selling the books on ebay, Wojtek: We're buying multiples of 100 at a time. The demand is quite substantial, we need to get in as many as we can as quick as
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will introduce changes to the regulation of restricted content available online
and via mobile next week, despite an overwhelming negative response from the media and industry.
ACMA is intending to impose a set of guidelines to restrict access to MA15+ and R18+ content accessed through the Internet and mobile premium services under the Restricted Access Systems Declaration, putting the onus on content providers to ensure
that users accessing MA15+ and R18+ content can prove they are at least 15 or 18 years of age respectively.
The regulations will now require users to view front-end warning screens and check age verification declarations on Australian sites hosting restricted content.
ACMA had requested comment from industry and individuals on the proposed changes in November, and received 26 submissions in reply from a wide range of respondents including the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSW CCL) and the Internet Industry
There was certainly a fair degree of criticism from industry given the political context in which the changes arose, said Peter Coroneos, IIA CEO.
One of the strongest reactions garnered against the legislation came from Australian Consolidated Press (ACP), one of Australia's largest magazine publishers and home to men's lifestyle publications such as Zoo, FHM and Ralph, which all host MA15+
content on their associated Web sites.
We are very concerned by the proposed extension of R18+ access restrictions to MA15+ content, said Ben Heuston, ACP's digital director, in a statement submitted to ACMA late last year.
The proposed regulations appear impractical and discriminatory...there seems no practical way of restricting this type of content to 15-17 year olds, we are not aware of an effective system working anywhere else in the world, he said.
The IIA CEO said that early drafts of the Restricted Access Systems Declaration were unworkable for content providers and imposed unnecessary restraints on their users.
Despite the considerable negative response to ACMA's requests for comment on the legislation, Coroneos said that the communications regulator was very cooperative in its dealings with industry.
According to Coroneos, ACMA would not have approved the legislation if discussions with industry had broken down.
Australian nutters have condemned a play shortly to open in Sydney depicting Jesus as a gay man who is seduced by Judas. The
play also features Jesus conducting a gay marriage between two apostles.
The play, named Corpus Christi , is due to open next month as part of the city's annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
A senior Sydney churchman called the play historical nonsense. It is deliberately, not innocently, offensive and they're obviously having a laugh about it, Robert Forsyth, Anglican bishop of South Sydney, was quoted saying.
The play's director Leigh Rowney, who claims to be a Christian, accepted the play would offend some Christians but said he was keen to provoke debate about Christianity.
Playwright Terrence McNally, who is gay, received death threats when the work was performed in the United States, the Sun-Herald reported.
The recently concluded case between retailer Adultshop.com and the Classification Review Board (CRB) was a benchmark case. Adultshop.com argued that the CRB had erred in classifying one of its films, Viva Erotica , by giving it an X18+
classification (sexually explicit nonviolent erotica).
Under Australia's national classification code a film can only be given an X18+ classification if it is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult. Adultshop.com argued that the times had been changing since the code was written in the early
'80s and backed its case by producing a reliable ACNielsen community survey (conducted in September 2006) that showed that 70% of Australians were not offended by films containing explicit sex and that 76% actually thought that X18+ films should
be legally available to adults throughout Australia. At present all states make the sale of this product illegal.
It maintained that this majority of Australians represented the reasonable adult at law and in representing the reasonable adult, the CRB had not only failed to produce any research of its own to refute this claim but had manifestly failed to
apply community standards to its decision, which it is required to do under the federal Classification Act 1995. Indeed, the CRB was forced to admit that the Office of Film and Literature Classification had not conducted any relevant research at
all into community attitudes about X18+ films.
In rejecting the evidence of three independent experts that Adultshop.com had called to support its view that Viva Erotica was not offensive to the reasonable adult, the CRB said that it would not accept any expert witness testimony if it
contradicted the classification guidelines. No matter how learned they be or how many are involved in a survey, we will not delegate our responsibility to make a decision on community standards to others.
The CRB was also critical of the ACNielsen community survey because it said the respondents were not shown the film about which they were being questioned. For a start the film would probably be illegal to show to those respondents in the states,
and at 98 minutes would clearly have made a standard poll impossible.
The poor intellectual grasp of the issues by the CRB did not stop there. It also criticised the surveys put forward by Adultshop.com, saying there was no evidence that those being surveyed had ever watched a sexually explicit film and that this
could cloud their judgment.
Unbelievably, Federal Court judge Peter Jacobson agreed with the CRB and said that a large majority community opinion did not necessarily equate to the reasonable adult in the classification code. Well, what does then? The views of seven
handpicked Howard appointees? Hardly. And despite the assertions of the CRB, the classification guidelines for films conveniently exclude a definition of the reasonable adult.
The judge's decision was full of Grundyisms. He seemed obsessed with the demarcation line between R18+ and X18+, repeating that X was only for the real thing. He ought to broaden his viewing habits by going to the local video shop and hiring a
copy of the R-rated movie Nine Songs . He'll see a half-dozen very real sexual acts in that, which should really confuse him.
This court case has, for the first time, shed light on how the offensiveness test is applied to sexually explicit material in Australia. In the past, it has always been assumed that a majority needed to be offended. What the court has confirmed is
in fact the opposite: that a minority will suffice.
This means that any film containing sexually explicit scenes should be classified X18+ because there will always be a minority of reasonable Australians who will be offended by such material.
Leading Australian book retailers have bowed to pressure from the Church of Scientology and will not stock a biography on Tom Cruise by British writer Andrew Morton. Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography , due out in the US on Tuesday, is
seen by the group, which has Cruise as one of its most high-profile and loyal members, as an attack on its teachings.
Morton alleges Scientologists threatened to blackmail Nicole Kidman if she spoke out against the church after her failed 10-year marriage to Cruise. The church has threatened legal action against Morton in the US, describing the book filled
Australian book retailer Dymocks says it will not sell the biograph: We take all accusations of defamation very seriously and, as a result, we wonâ€™t be stocking the book ,a spokeswoman said.
Angus & Robertson spokeswoman Kate Jones said: There are certain legal issues that have occurred overseas and with all of the risks involved we will not be stocking it .
As a consequence Pan Macmillan will not now print an Australian edition of the book Tom Cruise, An Unauthorised Biography in Australia due to legal concerns, a move that has been labelled an act of censorship.
The book won't even be published in the UK. Andrew Morton faces a hefty penalty for claims the actor is second-in-command of the Church of Scientology and comments about the conception of his young daughter, Suri. Cruise is said to vehemently deny
the claims and has enlisted lawyers to sue St Martin's Press, publishers of Tom Cruise: An Unauthorised Biography.
The book will not be published in Australia and the UK, but goes on sale in the US on January 15.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs), IT managers and the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) have slammed the federal government's
national content filtering scheme and dubbed it a technically impossible token gesture.
The opt-out plan, announced this month by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, requires all ISPs to filter "objectionable material" from Internet traffic according to a blacklist defined by the Australian Communications and Media
Industry professionals joined the EFA and rebutted the scheme, claiming it is technically impossible and economically infeasible to implement, police and maintain ISP-level content filtering.
Meanwhile Child Wise CEO Bernadette McMenamin has clarified her position on the Federal government's plan to implement mandatory Internet filtering at the ISP level, stating that all she wants blocked are child pornography Web sites, and nothing
Child Wise is an Australian charity dedicated to the protection of children.
McMenamin said she categorically disagrees with any type of filtering that does not involve child porn or child abuse related sites: I do not support filtering pornography in general or other contentious sites. Only child pornography, as I
don't believe filtering should be used to censor .
The plans to introduce ISP level filtering to protect Australian children by the Minister for Broadband, Senator Stephen Conroy, and Family First Senator Steve Fielding, have resulted in mass outpourings of protest, such as the NetAlarmed web
site, for its vague definitions of what should be filtered.
McMenamin does not want to be lumped in the same boat as Conroy and Fielding, and believes their agenda of protecting Australian children online has been confused with her goal of removing child pornography from the Internet.
This is where people are confusing issues on the subject of ISP filtering as opposed to keeping children safe online. ISP filtering is about removing/blocking child porn...No one should have access to this, it simply shouldn't be there.
I think the Federal government must refine their position and focus only on child pornography because I think they are confusing the issue at the moment by being silent around what exactly they are going to be filtering, and this is creating fear
The Australian adult industry will push the new Federal Labor Government to allow legally classified X-rated DVDs to be sold or
rented in Victorian sex shops.
The industry lobby wants federal laws that allow for the sale of classified X-rated DVDs to replace Victorian and other state governments' "untenable" laws, which ban them from retail sale.
X-rated material legally classified by the Federal Government can be sold in the Australian Capital Territory (around Canberra) and the Northern Territory but state laws ban it from retail sale in Victoria.
Victorians and buyers in other states can legally own pornography and usually obtain it by mail from Canberra. But this has led to many of the state's adult shops and other venues importing illegal, non-censored or classified X-rated DVDs from
The legal anomaly has also opened a pirate trade in weekend markets and petrol stations for imported, non-classified DVDs that the adult industry claims contain banned content such as violent sexual scenes.
Fiona Patten, a spokeswoman for the Eros Foundation, an adult industry lobby group, has called on Federal Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus, who is in charge of classifications, to raise the state laws issue at the March meeting of the Standing
Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG).
Patten also called on the Victorian Government to bring their censorship laws into line with federal classification laws.
Victoria's Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, said many issues would be discussed at the meeting of SCAG in March, but I would be surprised if this issue was high on the agenda.
The Australian Government plans to protect unwary children by blocking violence and pornography on the internet.
Yet this simple sounding initiative - barely discussed during the election - is riddled with technical, financial, moral and social complexities.
The Government's plan, overseen by Telecommunications Minister Stephen Conroy, would require internet service providers (ISPs) to block undesirable sites on computers accessed by Australians.
A seething Dr Roger Clarke, chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, bluntly described the proposal as "stupid and inappropriate".
He said not only was it unworkable, but it was a sinister blow to an individual's rights to use the internet without censorship: Not only will it not work, it is quite dangerous to let the Government censor the net and take control out of the
hands of parents . It is an inappropriate thing for them to be doing. Mr Conroy is like a schoolmaster playing god with the Australian population, all because of the dominance of a moral minority.
One problem for the Government is that blocking child porn may unintentionally block acceptable sites. Another problem, according to civil libertarians, is that policing the net should be left to parents - not a big brother-style bureaucracy.
And, if it is disingenuous to compare Labor's policy to China's malevolent control over web access to its citizens, it is equally disingenuous of Rudd's Government to claim the issue simply relates to child pornography. There are genuine concerns
that the Government - backed by morals groups like Family First - will in time extend the powers outside of their intended target area.
Also of concern is that, under the Government's plan, users would be permitted to "opt out" of the scheme - and might therefore find themselves listed as possible deviants.
On a practical level, ISPs fear the mass blocking of sites could slow internet speeds and cost millions of dollars to implement. The ability for download speeds to be maintained would depend on the exact number of sites blocked - it is suspected
around 2000 sites could cause problems. ISPs fear a system based on key indicator words could rapidly clog the system.
A user typing in the address would be sent to an error page or possibly - as in Scandinavia - redirected to a police page.
Crucially, the Government has not explained how such a system would be paid for or who would monitor it or how such a system would work.
So far the industry, although eager not to be seen to be dragging their feet on child pornography, has been noticeably reticent in their response to Labor's plans.
Internet Industry Association spokesman Peter Coroneos was keen to emphasise the work already being done by service providers in supplying free filters.
They are likely to clarify their position after ACMA runs simulated tests on a filtered network later this year. We obviously want to know if this will have an impact on network performance, Coroneos said At the moment we don't know what
the extent of it will be, what it will cost, and whether it will set a precedent for other changes. We just don't know if it is feasible.