Iranian games ratings proposed for international games producers to gauge their suitability for the islamic world
At the Dubai World Game Expo the Index Holding corporation and the Iran National Foundation Of Computer Games announced the formation and launch of the Entertainment Software Rating Association (ESRA).
The ESRA is designed to evaluate games in respect to Islamic values and rate them accordingly.
Anas Al Madani, VP of Index Holding said: We as organisers endorse this initiative which aims at evolving the Islamic values and maintain the conservative aspect within the children and the society in general. We are keen on
encouraging game developers and publishers to use the ESRA system, as it enables publishers to understand the nature of the Islamic society and the different aspects that it emphasizes.
ESRA will work as an indicator for game companies in order to know whether the games approve with the Islamic values, and do not violate any of the Islamic traditions in Islamic countries.
Details of ESRA Ratings
The Entertainment Software Rating Association (ESRA) was established in 2007 by Iran National Foundation of Computer Games which is a self-regulatory organization. The research project of ESRA is run by a research team of 17 psychologists and 8
In rating, ESRA considers 4 characteristics in rating computer games
Physical - motional characteristics
Intellectual – mental characteristics
The age classifications are:
beginning of adolescence 12+
second half of adolescent 15+
adult, single 18+
adult, married 25+
Content description categories:
Violence : The display of violence is when a behavior displayed to harm someone or something, ranged from destroying the belongings and making the unanimated things out of order…
Tobacco and drug : Watching the use of drug and tobacco in games can lose the internal-social taboo of not using it for the addressees.
Sexual stimuli : Sexual diversity, sexuality out of social norms, etc can end to the social and physical harms related to the sexual needs of the addressees and his /her social situations.
Fear : Fear is an internal feeling based on insecurity and not the lack of trust to the atmosphere, which leads to chronic stress, conservative behaviors, etc in social atmosphere.
Religious values violation : The violation of religious values is in accord with the Islamic principles. Two of the important elements of it are as follow: 1. The violation of the basic principles or religious belief, 2. Sacrilege the
The social norms violation : Using the vulgar words and the uprightness behaviors which lead to breaking the social norms are among the social harms that the kids and the adolescents become familiar with.
Hopelessness : This content in games is related to a kind of feeling where the gamer have to do or not to do something which makes him/her feel sinful..
A public demonstration against the lack of an R18+ rating in Australia, which featured marchers dressed as zombies, went off without a hitch—but with plenty of lurching—in Sydney over the weekend.
Rhys Wilson, head of the group Aus Gamers Limited which organized the protest, wrote on Facebook, I want to thank each and every one of you guys for making yesterday easily one of the best days of my life. I haven't heard any complaints from
anyone, and I'm more than happy to do this again later in the year, assuming I'm not killed in a freak manure truck accident.
IT Wire estimated the crowd of gathered ghouls at between 500 and 600 strong, easily surpassing a November 2009 similarly-themed march, which drew around 175 participants.
Last Friday's Alan Titchmarsh Show had a brief discussion about violent video games which featured some chap who's editor of VideoGames.com, also present were actress Julie Peasgood and Kelvin Mackenzie, former editor of The Sun.
The chap seemed to be fighting his corner quite well until Julie Peasgood opened her mouth saying that many of these games promoted, violence, racism and sexism , which got a huge round of applause from the audience. This statement was
allowed to go unchallenged, which was a shame as I would have liked to have heard what games she'd played that promoted these things.
But anyway, she then went on to say that A recent study in the US found a direct link between children's behaviour and the violent video games they play .
The chap countered that argument by saying that the UK Governments own research by Tanya Byron found no evidence that was true, which resulted in a few jeers from the audience. Which I found quite disturbing considering the audience would accept
an emotive unsubstantiated claim, whilst pouring scorn on a stated fact.
Kelvin Mackenzie then chimed in about James Bulger's killers being corrupted by violent media, which really made me seethe considering that story was a press fabrication by the very paper he used to work for.
Again, the guy who worked for the games site made some good points, but he obviously wasn't a seasoned debater. He seemed to be playing defence most of the time, when he would have been better going on the attack and forcing the other 2 to
try and substantiate their claims, which would have crumbled under the slightest scrutiny.
Comment: Peasgood spotted acting in violent video game
23rd March 2010. From Dan
I just watched the anti-video game bollox on Alan Titchmarsh.
Why didn't they just burn the guy from the video games website and have done with it?
Julie Peasgood thinks violent for entertainment is wrong? But apparently she lent her voice to a horror game:
Hordes have you have been left fuming by the claims of actress-cum-'sexpert' Julie Peasgood on the Alan Titchmarsh Show last week - on which CVG editor Tim defended the games industry.
She's the one who said video games were addictive and promote racism , remember? Oh - and we quote - was categorically against violence for entertainment . And yet a bit of digging... and hey presto.
There's the credit for Julie's appearance voicing Harroway in survival horror video game Martian Gothic: Unification .
According to Wikipedia: In Martian Gothic, the player is able to assume the roles of three characters sent from Earth to a Martian base called Vita. Upon arrival the player finds that all the
residents are apparently dead and must gradually uncover the secrets and nature the last undertaking by Vita 1's crew; the discovery of ancient Martian "Pandora's Box" which, when opened, started a chain of chaotic events that led to
the base's downfall, and death of all almost its inhabitants.
However, during the player's progress of uncovering the truth, searching for any possible survivors, and solving Vita 1's many mounting problems, the player finds that the dead crew have become re-animated like zombies who
wish to feast upon the team of three's flesh.
Comment: Peasgood spotted acting in violent film
23rd March 2010. From Andy
On the Alan Titchmarsh show, while discussing violent video games, Julie Peasgood comments: I am categorically against violence for entertainment, it is just wrong .
Am interesting comment coming from an actress who starred in the cannon produced horror film House of the Long Shadows , who's character if I'm not mistaken dies a violent death when her face is eaten away with acid.
Interesting how somebody who can have such strict beliefs, abandons them when there is a pay cheque involved!!!
Offsite: Audience whipped up into a censorial frenzy
Hearing the floor manager tell the octagenarian crowd to 'really let your feelings be known if he says something you don't agree with' seconds before filming was pretty disconcerting. I hope you noted the targeted 'he' in that sentence. I
Tim Ingham admits he didn't expect anything less, though. As you might be aware, the CVG game website editor recently appeared on UK television's The Alan Titchmarsh Show, as part of a feature on the dangers of violent gaming to children.
We, the undersigned, call on The Alan Titchmarsh Show to issue a public apology for their unfair and biased representation of the computer gaming industry on 18/3/10. We also call on Julie Peasgood to issue a public apology
for hypocritically criticising an industry to which she has contributed.
Our grievance with the programme falls into three parts:
Breach of the Ofcom code
We feel that The Alan Titchmarsh Show has breached the Ofcom broadcasting code several times during the course of this programme. Specifically:
Tim Ingham recounts how the audience was encouraged before recording began to specifically boo him when they disagreed with him. No such recommendation was made regarding the other guests. This is a clear violation of
article 7.2 of the Ofcom code, which requires that all contributors be treated fairly and equally.
Ingham states that Kelvin MacKenzie's positive responses to his points were largely edited out to make him seem more sceptical. This violates articles 5.7 and 7.6 of the Ofcom code, which require that views not be
misrepresented and that editing reflect the contributions made.
Julie Peasgood cited a piece of research but failed to name it. This violates article 7.9 which states that material facts must be presented in a fair way. By failing to identify the study, Peasgood offered no chance of
Perpetuation of misconceptions
We feel that very little research was undertaken by The Alan Titchmarsh Show before this discussion took place. Alan Titchmarsh did not know the names of the games and clearly did not understand that video games are
classified and age-restricted in exactly the same way as films. This show perpetuates the misconception that all video games are aimed at children.
Julie Peasgood provided voice acting for the character of Harroway for the PC and PlayStation survival horror game Martian Gothic: Unification , released in 2000. This game carries the ESRB rating Mature (17+), and
contains several scenes of graphic violence. Yet Peasgood makes no mention of this during the show. Instead she makes categorical statements such as:
Video games are addictive, they promote hatred, racism, sexism, and they reward violence. What kind of a message is that?
I am categorically against violence for entertainment. It is just wrong.
To make such accusations while at the same time profiting from the industry you are criticising is a sickening display of hypocrisy.
In conclusion, we the undersigned seek a public apology from The Alan Titchmarsh Show for its breach of Ofcom guidelines and its perpetuation of misconceptions about video games, and from Julie Peasgood for her
hypocritical statements and exaggerated claims.
I believe the "research" Julie Peasgood reffered to was THIS study by American Psychologist Craig A Anderson of Iowa State University, which appeared in the March issue of the American Psychological Associations bulletin. The extract
can be viewed
here [pdf] .
However, his findings, not to mention methods of compiling data, have come in for heavy criticism from others. Not least, Christopher Ferguson and John Kilburn of the department of behavioural applied science and criminal justice at Texas A&M
Another thing, if you do some digging, it seems that Craig Anderson clearly has some sort of axe to grind against violent media. Most of his research seems to be dedicated to proving links between violent media and behaviour.
Despite winning his election (Gamers 4 Croydon only gained about 1% of the vote), Michael Atkinson has decided that amount of trouble his position has brought him isn't worth the effort anymore - and it's not just the R18+ debacle that has
brought him down. He's also had trouble trying to bring in a law that would censor people from using Fake names online. That one backfired when his example of a Liberal sock puppet turned out to be a real person living in his constituency.
So while G4C may not have won their seat, they still seemed to have managed to achieve one of their aims. Let's hope the new Attorney General sees reason and the R18 debate can be put to rest.
Pre-election, Atkinson claimed that no one cared about the lack of an R18+ rating in Australia other than gamers and also predicted that the Gamer4Croydon party would struggle to receive one percent of the votes.
Well, in Croydon, according to ABC.net election data, Gamers4Croydon's candidate against Atkinson, Kat Nicholson, managed to achieve 3.7% of the vote, assisting in eating away at 14.4% of Atkinson's vote from the previous election. Despite that
erosion, Atkinson still won rather easily however, garnering 52.7% of the vote. Nicholson came in fifth out of seven candidates in the Croydon suburb, besting candidates from the Family First Party and Australian Democratic Party.
In a post on the G4C website entitled Here's Your 1%, President Chris Prior expressed pride at what the upstart party accomplished:
With so very little to work with, we have contributed to two other incumbents losing their seats, and all of our lower house candidates polled higher than the 1% we apparently wouldn't get. In the upper house, we outpolled
the majority of groups, including a significant number with more resources, more experience, and much more time.
The South Australian premier has announced that former backbencher John Rau will replace Michael Atkinson as Attorney-General of the state.
Chris Pryor of the Games4Croydon party said last night via Twitter that the long-serving Rau is a supporter of the R18+ classification for games (and a nice guy to boot) .
Pryor blogged on Monday that seeing the role of Attorney-General filled by someone other than Mr Atkinson was a primary founding goal of Gamers4Croydon . With less than 6 months to prepare, no political experience, and only a few
thousand dollars funding, we have achieved that goal. Unfortunately there are never any guarantees in politics, but we have removed the largest impediment to classification reform.
The next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General is held in Melbourne on April 29. It is not yet known whether the introduction of an R18+ games rating will be discussed.
Two resolutions dealing with violent videogames have been passed by the Switzerland's National Council.
The first resolution, proposed by Christian Democratic Party member and National Councillor Norbert Hochreutener, would make it illegal to sell PEGI 16 or 18-rated games to minors.
The second resolution, backed by Social Democrat Evi Allemann, called for a complete ban of violent and adult-themed videogames.
Alleman's proposal passed on a 19-12 vote. A translated passage from Alleman's motion states:
The Federal Council is asked to submit to Parliament a statutory basis, which allows the manufacture, touting, importation, sale and distribution of game programs, to prohibit, in which cruel acts of violence against humans
and humanlike creatures for the game success.
The passing of the motions will now set off the process of drafting laws to implement the two motions.
The reaction to Ubisoft's DRM, which requires a constant Internet connection, has been well documented, with a reverse boycott organized and hackers taking down the publisher's authentication servers twice. The new Electronic Arts release Command & Conquer 4
, despite employee claims that the game has NO DRM. Zip, zero, zilch, none, also requires an Internet connection to play, which has already resulted in a thread full of complaints on the C&C forums.
A way to fight back might be to link up with the organization
Defective by Design , which proposes that DRM should stand for Digital Restrictions Management. The group is organizing a Day Against DRM that is scheduled for May 4, 2010.
A message from Facebook, while not specific, offered that groups that are hateful, threatening or obscene are not allowed. Additionally, Facebook removes groups that attack an individual or group, or advertise a product or service. The group had boasted around 37,000 members before its removal.
While a logical guess might theorize that members of the group had posted hateful comments about a certain South Australian Attorney General, Grow Up Australia wrote that it did not believe that any administrator-provided content had provoked the
ban, and that it had also been vigilant in moderating member content.
The group has setup a Facebook Fan Page while it attempts to lobby Facebook to reinstate its group page.
computerbase.de is reporting that the Collector's Edition of the much derided Ubisoft's Silent Hunter 5 PC game has been recalled in Germany due to the appearance of anticonstiutional symbols in the game.
This would indicate that some type of Nazi symbol or imagery was left in the local edition of the game, which is verboten according to German laws.
Edge received confirmation from Ubisoft that the game's standard edition was not recalled, only the special edition.
A law introduced last year that would ban violent videogames and toys in Venezuela has now been enacted.
Under the law, importers, producers, distributors or sellers of the banned toys and games could face fines and jail time ranging from two to five years. In a story dated March 3, Prensa Latina reported that the law had been passed.
The law, when initially proposed to Venezuela's National Assembly, proposed that the country's consumer protection society be granted full power in determining what games and toys were deemed violent, though no indication was given into what
criteria might be used to judge the goods.
As it was drawn up, the law also featured provisions for teaching crime prevention classes in school, public campaigns to warn about the dangers of videogames. A government campaign to promote games that taught children respect for an
adversary was also included, though no word on if this, or any, additional provisions were a part of the new law.
The ban on violent games and toys is apparently seen as a way to somehow combat crime and violence in the country.
Australians, it seems, are more than a little interested in the issue of video game classification. Figures released by the Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor show that more than 55,000 submissions were received into the recently
completed public submission process on whether Australia should introduce an R18+ rating for games, with the Minister stating that the large response rate indicated a high level of interest in this issue in the Australian community.
O'Connor said the Federal Attorney General's Department would now prepare a report on the consultation for the Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG), a group made up of all of Australia's various Federal, State, and Territory AGs. The
introduction of an R18+ rating needs the unanimous approval of all SCAG members, with the next SCAG meeting due in April this year.
The high number of responses follows a concerted campaign by video game activists around the nation to drum up interest in the debate. Independent advocacy group Grow Up Australia's partnership with retailer EB Games netted more than 16,000
responses, with an EB Games spokesperson saying the company solicited a further 30,000 submissions.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the Greens plan to stay ahead of the R18+ debate in 2010.
The Greens don't have a formal position on the absence of an R18+ classification for video games just yet, Ludlam said. We plan on being informed by the material that comes through in the public consultation, and we'll be forming an
official stance soon.
Personally, I've formed a view, and I suspect my colleagues have as well. We want to stay ahead of the debate this year, and we're already talking to the industry and to people with a range of different views.
My personal stance is that [the absence of an R18+ for games] is a real anomaly. I think it's making the situation worse. We know that in some instances material that should otherwise be classified R18+ is instead diverted into the MA15+
category. That's a sign that there needs to be some kind of reform. I think we do need R18+ for games, but only on the condition that there is a good look at the way that we classify video games in this country to make sure that some of the very
real concerns that have been raised by parents and child protection groups are acknowledged as well.
Ludlam believes the public consultation will result in a solid base of reasonably well-researched support for a change to the system. His views on South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson are not so positive.
I think the position he took to block the rest of the country from moving forward was really unhelpful, and I don't think he necessarily provided the arguments to back up the position he took.
These thoughts are echoed by marginal parties Australian Sex Party (ASP) and the Pirate Party Australia, who both support the introduction of R18+ for games.
ASP founder Fiona Patten says, quite frankly, that Australia's classification system is fucked. Having worked as a lobbyist and an activist for the adult industry for nearly 20 years, I became demoralised by the fact that in 2008 we had more
censorship than when I started, Patten said. There is simply no consistency across mediums in our classification system--what is legal in a book is not legal in a magazine, what is legal in a magazine is not legal in a film, and what is
legal in a film is not legal in a video game. Personally, I think we should throw out the existing system and start again.
In a similar vein, the Pirate Party Australia also supports R18+ for games, releasing a press statement earlier this month expressing disgust at Michael Atkinson's stance on censorship. Matt Redmond, a Pirate Party spokesperson, said: Every citizen in a democracy has the right to question the government, and in doing so has the right to protect himself from censure.
A former member of Australia's Classification Board has submitted an incredibly well-written and reasoned response to the government issued Discussion Paper, regarding the topic of adding an R18+ rating category for games.
The 17-page response was crafted by Paul J Hunt, who served as Deputy Director of the Classification Board and as a senior executive with the Office of Film and Literature Classification. He also lists himself as a parent of teenagers who play
computer games and a child of Seniors who play computer games.
Hunt begins his argument by imparting first-hand knowledge into the current problems with the rating system:
When I made a decision, or participated in a decision, that a computer game was unsuitable for minors, I was forced to refuse classification for that game. It was not because I thought that the game depicted, expressed or
otherwise dealt with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that it would offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by
reasonable adults. It was simply because the game was not OK for kids.
Not being able to restrict computer games to adults was an impediment to my ability to reflect Australian community standards.
Despite rave reviews that critics have been showering on the PlayStation 3's latest game to hit the market, Heavy Rain will not see any shelf life in the UAE.
The videogame's nationwide launch was aborted after the UAE's censor, the National Media Council, reportedly pulled the plug on the sales and promotion of the title, which has attracted global controversy for its depiction of nudity and violence.
This decision, despite Heavy Rain' s 18+PEGI rating, signals the government's intent on cracking down on games that are deemed unfit for the audience because of their content.
A sequence where one of the main characters is forced to go topless at gun point and perform a seductive dance at a club, were among the more 'objectionable' aspects that probably led to the banning of the game. Heavy Rain has been
described by its publisher's Quantic Dream as psychological thriller, with four professionals on the trail of the Origami Killer, who preys on boys between eight and 13 and then subsequently drowns them in rainwater.
Australia's largest videogame retailer has joined the movement to add an R18+ rating category for interactive entertainment.
EBGames is promoting its pro R18+ stance in all 350 of its Australian storefronts, where it will display signage and offer shoppers the ability to sign a petition. The retailer is also promoting the cause on its website and linking to an online
petition for those in favour of adding the adult rating category.
Kotaku reports that EBGames did its due diligence in advance of publically supporting the issue; the company polled its customers on the issue and found that 84% were in favour of the addition of an R18+ rating category.
EB Managing Director Steve Wilson said: With the release of the Government's discussion paper, we knew as a company that we needed to act on this issue as it continues to cripple our industry and cost local jobs. We did however want to be sure
that our customers were as passionate about the matter as we are. This is not a call for violent video games, but rather a call for a better classification system that brings Australia in line with the rest of the world and other Australian
entertainment industries, such as films.
The partnering of advocacy group Grow Up Australia and retailer EB Games has resulted in strong backing for the addition of an R18+ rating category for videogames in Australia.
GameSpot reports that the pair's initiative has resulted in 16,055 signatures on their pro R18+ petition, which will now be sent to the Attorney General's department. EB Games had called attention to the movement via in-store signage and with
links and images on its website.
Public responses to the Discussion Paper are due by February 28. Following the submission period, responses will be compiled into a report for Minister of Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor and other state and territory Attorney Generals.
With the beta for Settlers 7 , Ubisoft is unveiling a new anti-piracy measure that will require gamers to log into their Ubi.com account in order to authenticate their play session.
Ubisoft does not have the best history when it comes to invasive—if not downright broken—DRM, but the company's upcoming solution to game piracy is much worse than anything we've seen in the past. The gist is simple: every time you want to
play your game, it has to phone back to Ubisoft before giving you permission to play. No Internet connection? You're simply out of luck.
If you're annoyed when you have to show your receipt to someone when you walk out of an electronics store, Ubisoft is not the company for you. This is like having to show your receipt every time you want to turn on your television. If your
Internet goes out, if you're on a flight with no wireless or don't want to pay the fee, or if you're at a hotel that only offers for-pay Internet, you aren't going to be able to to play your games.
A resolution has passed unanimously in the Commission for Legal Affairs and would make it illegal to sell games rated PEGI 16 or 18 to under-age minors. Swiss parliament will now have a chance to vote on the measure.
A second, and more troubling motion, would call for a complete ban of violent and adult-themed videogames within the country. This motion passed too, though with a closer vote of nine to three, and will also head off to parliament for vote.
One of the backers of this proposal is Social Democrat Evi Allemann who said:
Such games do not make each one a killer, but they increase the willingness of those who are already vulnerable. A blanket ban on such games therefore seems appropriate and proportionate, especially since they do not have
any worth protecting cultural and social content and there are thousands of other exciting games that work without such extreme violence.
Surely a nutter that will wind up the game playing public.
The lack of an R18+ classification for electronic games has been linked to an increase in piracy and poor sales of titles that were toned-down to meet Australia's top M15+ rating.
Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) CEO Ron Curry said while Australia is pondering introducing an R18+ rating for games, Australian retailers were losing money to piracy and overseas imports.
Sales are significantly less for modified games, Curry said. People will import the full unmodified game over the Internet or get a pirate version.
Local Sega game developer Dan Toose said the classification laws did not have a big impact on Australian game development, but said it could cost developer studios millions to redesign titles to be passed under the M15+ rating.
What really takes the time is quality assurance testing, which can take more than two weeks... it can cost modern game development studios half a million dollars a month to [modify] games, Toose said. It is bad to put that on the
shoulders of developers.
Toose said the opposition to the law makes no sense whatever because the R18+ classification was recognised as distinctly adult content. He said the new rating would stop children being exposed to more graphic content that is squeezed into
the M15+ rating under the current scheme.
The Digital Economy Bill was discussed in Lords Committee on 8th February 2010.
A long list of amendments were discussed and withdrawn. Here is a brief summery of these.
Exemptions: Amendment 246 Moved by Lord De Mauley
This was an unneeded suggestion to add to the list of material that would exempt a video game from the need for classification. In reality the list in the original bill is sufficient, but this issue has become something of a band wagon issue
having received press attention. So a fair few lords lined up to add their name to the cause including Baroness Howe of Idlicote, The Lord Bishop of Manchester and Lord Addington.
Government Censorship Power: Amendment 247 Moved by Lord De Mauley
Rightfully questioned the powers being given to the Secretary of State in the name of future proofing games censorship.
BBFC as R18 Experts: Amendment 248 Moved by Lord De Mauley
This amendment relates to the BBFC retaining powers to classify games containing R18 pornography. It also questioned whether both the VSC and the BBFC should duplicate the work of differentiating between 18 and R18 material. The BBFC seem to be
held as the 'experts' in identifying porn.
At least the debate seemed to assume that R18 is here to stay and no seemed to be taking the opportunity of the bill to re-ban porn.
Hybrids: Amendment 250 Moved by Lord Howard of Rising Also amendment 251 Moved by Baroness Howe of Idlicote
These amendments raised the dual censor issue of what to do with hybrid media, ie games containing video or DVDs containing games etc
Duty to promote online safety: amendment 251A Moved by Baroness Howe of Idlicote
(1) It shall be the duty of internet service providers and mobile phone operators to take such steps, and to enter into such arrangements-
(a) to bring about, or to encourage others to bring about, a better public understanding of online safety;
(b) to provide prominent, easily accessible and clear information on filtering options of public electronic communication services for the purposes of online safety-
(i) at the time of purchase of the service; and
(ii) to make such information available for the duration of the contract.
(2) In this section online safety means safe, responsible use of the internet and other communication devices by children and young people.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote said she was speaking for children's charity CARE and wanted to make the availability of parental control facilities to be made more prominent. Again there were lords queuing up support this amendment. The government
pointed out that in reality it is far too complex a question for a sentence to be attached to this bill and that the issues are being widely discussed for future measures.
Age Verification Schemes: amendment 251A Moved by Baroness Howe of Idlicote
Additional protection from harmful material through online on-demand programme services using age verification scheme
For section 368E(2) of the Communication Act 2003 (harmful material), substitute-
(2) An online on-demand programme service must not contain any material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen.
(3) If an online on-demand programme service contains the following material, the material must only be made available using a clearly identifiable and robust age verification scheme to determine that the person purchasing
or otherwise obtaining access to the material is not under eighteen-
(a) material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen;
(b) material which is contained in a video work for which a classification certificate has been issued containing the statements mentioned in section 7(2)(c) of the Video Recordings Act 1984 (recordings to be supplied
only in licensed sex shops);
(c) material which falls within subsection (4) unless it is contained in a video work for which a classification certificate other than one containing the statements mentioned in section 7(2)(c) of the Video Recordings
Act 1984 (recordings to be supplied only in licensed sex shops) has been issued.
(4) Material falls within this subsection if it is pornographic and portrays, in an explicit and realistic way, any of the following-
(a) an act of penetration of the vagina or anus of a person with a part of a person's body or anything else;
(b) the performance by a person of an act of intercourse or oral sex;
(c) the performance by a person or an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal;
(d) an act of masturbation;
(e) an act of ejaculation;
(f) human genital organs or human urinary or excretory functions; or
(g) an act of restraint or violence which is associated with sexual activity.
(5) In this section-
classification certificate and video work have the same meaning as in the Video Recordings Act 1984;
pornographic has the same meaning as in section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (possession of extreme pornographic images).
Perhaps the easiest practical attack on the availability of porn and lords drew parallels with the age controls inherent in physical R18s being limited to sex shops.
Lord Davies of Oldham for the Government said: My Lords, I am happy to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester on these points, but I cannot accept the amendment
because we have a law in place that achieves its effect. Section 368E(2) of the Communications Act was introduced by the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2009 and requires that, if an on-demand programme service contains material which
might cause serious impairment to children or young people, it should only be shown in a way that would ensure that they do not usually see it or hear it. The regulations are in response to a European Union directive that applies to all on-demand
programme services all the time.
I accept entirely the anxieties of the noble Baroness about these issues, which prompted her to table the amendment, but the question is whether we should go further than the present regulations. We are in discussion about
this with Ofcom and the Association for Television On-Demand, the leading video-on-demand industry body to make sure that any moves we make are the right ones to ensure that children are adequately protected. If it turns out on reflection that it
is necessary for the Government to take action, we can introduce further regulations under the same provision as those in force at present, to strengthen and reinforce the protection. I reassure the noble Baroness that she has raised an important
topic but her amendment is not necessary.
Fees: Amendment 254 Moved by Lord Howard of Rising
This amendment questioned whether the government were right to withdraw from powers to control censorship fees.
Content Advice: Amendment 255ZA Moved by Lord Howard of Rising
This amendment discussed exactly how mandatory content advice labelling should be. Very mandatory or just a bit mandatory.
The Digital Economy Bill has started its progress in Parliament starting in the House of Lords. It has already been discussed in committee and will next be heard at the Report Stage in the Lords on the 1st March 2010.
There are several sections of interest to Melon Farmers:
Online infringement of copyright
This includes open ended and general powers for the government to censor the internet in the name of copyright protection
Powers in relation to internet domain registries
Setting up another tool for the government censorship of the internet
Video recordings Act
The Government are making the following basic changes
This section separates out video censorship into two sections, video games censorship (PEGI ratings will be implemented by the Video Standards Council) and video works censorship (as implemented by the BBFC).
The current exemptions from mandatory games classification will be reduced so that anything that would be rated 12 or upwards will now be subject to mandatory vetting by the games censors.
The government seem to be adding a new power for the censors to revoke as well issue certificates
People submitting video works are to be forced to agree to a 'code of practice' re the labelling of their products.
There's also added complex wording targeting more complex mixtures of media
And of course the government have added the power to change the Video Recordings Act at any time in the future via an order of the secretary of state
40 Classification of video games etc
(1) Section 2 of the Video Recordings Act 1984 (exempted video works) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1)—
(a) after video work insert other than a video game,
(b) after paragraph (a) insert or, and
(c) omit paragraph (c) (and the word or before it).
(3) After that subsection insert—
(1A) Subject to subsection (2) or (3) below, a video game is for the purposes of this Act an exempted work if—
(a) it is, taken as a whole, designed to inform, educate or instruct;
(b) it is, taken as a whole, concerned with sport, religion or music; or
(c) it satisfies one or more of the conditions in section 2A.
(4) After section 2 of that Act insert—
2A Conditions relating to video games
(1) The conditions referred to in section 2(1A)(c) are as follows.
(2) The first condition is that the video game does not include any of the following—
(a) depictions of violence towards human or animal characters, whether or not the violence looks realistic and whether or not the violence results in obvious harm,
(b) depictions of violence towards other characters where the violence looks realistic,
(c) depictions of criminal activity that are likely, to any extent, to stimulate or encourage the commission of offences,
(d) depictions of activities involving illegal drugs or the misuse of drugs,
(e) words or images that are likely, to any extent, to stimulate or encourage the use of alcohol or tobacco,
(f) words or images that are intended to convey a sexual message,
(g) swearing, or
(h) words or images that are intended or likely, to any extent, to cause offence, whether on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation or otherwise.
(3) In subsection (2) human or animal character means a character that is, or whose appearance is similar to that of—
(a) a human being, or
(b) an animal that exists or has existed in real life, but does not include a simple stick character or any equally basic representation of a human being or animal.
(4) The second condition is that the designated authority, or a person nominated by the designated authority for the purposes of this section, has confirmed in writing that the video game is suitable for viewing by persons
under the age of 12.
(5) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend this section—
(a) by amending the first condition, or
(b) by adding a further condition (or by amending or removing such a condition).
(6) Regulations under this section may make provision by reference to documents produced by the designated authority.
(5) In section 3 of that Act (exempted supplies), after subsection (8) insert—
(8A) The supply of a video recording in the form of a machine of a type designed primarily for use in an amusement arcade is an exempted supply unless the video game (or, if more than one, any of the video games) that it
(a) depicts, to any significant extent, anything falling within section 2(2)(a), (b), (c) or (d) or (3), or
(b) is likely to any significant extent to stimulate or encourage anything falling within section 2(2)(a) or, in the case of anything falling within section 2(2)(b), is likely to any extent to do so. The supply of any other video recording is an
exempted supply if the recording is supplied for the purpose only of its use in connection with a supply that is an exempted supply under subsection (8A).
(6) At the end of that section insert—
(13) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend this section and the regulations may, in particular—
(a) add a case in which the supply of a video recording is an exempted supply for the purposes of this Act, or
(b) repeal a provision of this section.
41 Designated authority for video games etc
(1) After section 4 of the Video Recordings Act 1984 insert—
4ZA Designated authorities for video games and other video works
(1) The power to designate a person by notice under section 4 includes power to designate different persons—
(a) as the authority responsible for making arrangements in respect of video games (the video games authority), and
(b) as the authority responsible for making arrangements in respect of other video works (the video works authority).
(2) Where there are two designated authorities, references in this Act to the designated authority, in relation to a video work, are references to the designated authority responsible for making arrangements in respect of
the video work, taking account of any allocation in force under section 4ZB.
4ZB Designated authorities: allocation of responsibility for video games
(1) Where there are two designated authorities, the video games authority may, with the consent of the video works authority, allocate to that authority responsibility—
(a) for a class of video games, or
(b) for video games, or a class of video games, when (and only when) they are contained in a video recording that is described in the allocation (whether by reference to its contents, to the manner in which it is, or is to be, supplied or
(2) If an allocation is in force—
(a) the video works authority is responsible for making arrangements under this Act in respect of the allocated video games, and
(b) the video games authority ceases to be responsible for making such arrangements.
(3) An allocation—
(a) must be made by a notice, and
(b) may be withdrawn at any time by a notice given by the video games authority with the consent of the video works authority.
(4) When making or withdrawing an allocation under this section, the video games authority must have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
(5) A notice under this section must be—
(a) sent to the Secretary of State, and
(b) published in such manner as the video games authority considers appropriate.
(6) A question as to which designated authority is responsible for making arrangements in respect of a video game may be conclusively determined by the video games authority.
4ZC Designated authorities: video works included in video games
(1) The video games authority may make such arrangements in respect of video works included in video games as it considers are necessary for the purposes of fulfilling its responsibilities in respect of video games.
(2) Where there are two designated authorities, the arrangements made by the video games authority under section 4 must, to the extent that the video games authority considers appropriate, include either or both of the
(a) arrangements for having regard to any classification certificate issued by the video works authority in respect of a video work included in a video game;
(b) arrangements for obtaining and having regard to a determination by the video works authority as to the suitability of all or part of a video work included in a video game.
(3) For the purpose of determining the extent to which arrangements described in subsection (2)(a) or (b) are appropriate, the video games authority must—
(a) consult the video works authority, and
(b) have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
(4) In this section, suitability means suitability for the issue of a classification certificate or suitability for the issue of a classification certificate of a particular description.
(2) Schedule 1 (which contains further amendments of the Video Recordings Act 1984) has effect.
Schedule 1 Classification of video games etc: supplementary provision
1 The Video Recordings Act 1984 is amended as follows.
(1) Section 4 (authority to determine suitability of video works for classification) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1)(b)—
(a) in sub-paragraph (i), after issue insert or revocation, and
(b) in sub-paragraph (ii), after issuing insert and revoking.
(3) After subsection (1B) insert—
(1C) The arrangements made under this section may require a person requesting a classification certificate for a video work to agree to comply with a code of practice, which may, in particular, include provision relating
to the labelling of video recordings.
(4) After subsection (3) insert—
(3A) The Secretary of State must not make a designation under this section unless satisfied that adequate arrangements will be made for taking account of public opinion in the United Kingdom.
(5) For subsection (5) substitute—
(5) No fee is recoverable by, or in accordance with arrangements made by, the designated authority in connection with a determination in respect of a video work or the issue of a classification certificate unless the
designated authority has consulted the Secretary of State about such fees.
(6) Omit subsection (6).
(7) After that subsection insert—
(6A) When making arrangements under this section, the designated authority must have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
(6B) The Secretary of State may not issue guidance about the matters to be taken into account when determining the suitability of a video work for the issue of a classification certificate or a classification certificate
of a particular description.
(8) In subsection (8)—
(a) after Act insert—
(a) , and
(b) at the end insert , and
(b) references to the designated authority, in relation to a classification certificate, are references to the person or persons designated under this section when the certificate is issued, (but see also section
3 In section 7 (classification certificates), at the end insert—
(3) For the purposes of this Act, a video work is not a video work in respect of which a classification certificate has been issued if every classification certificate issued in respect of the video work has been revoked.
4 After that section insert—
7A Classification certificates for particular video recordings
(1) A classification certificate issued in respect of a video work may be issued so as to have effect only for the purposes of a video recording that is described in the certificate (whether by reference to its contents, to
the manner in which it is, or is to be, supplied or otherwise).
(2) For the purposes of this Act, a video recording contains a video work in respect of which a classification certificate has been issued if (and only if) a classification certificate that has been issued in respect of the
video work has effect for the purposes of the video recording.
5 In section 8 (requirements as to labelling etc), omit subsections (2) and (3).
(1) Section 11 (supplying video recording of classified work in breach of classification) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1)—
(a) for containing substitute , or no video recording described in the certificate, that contains,
(b) for a video recording containing that work substitute such a video recording, and
(c) after unless insert—
(a) the video work is an exempted work, or
(3) In subsection (2), after paragraph (b) (but before or) insert—
(ba) that the accused believed on reasonable grounds that the video work concerned or, if the video recording contained more than one work to which the charge relates, each of those works was an exempted work,.
(1) Section 12 (certain video recordings only to be supplied in licensed sex shops) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsections (1) and (3)—
(a) for containing substitute , or no video recording described in the certificate, that contains, and
(b) for a video recording containing the work substitute such a video recording.
(3) In subsection (6)—
(a) for containing substitute , or no video recording described in the certificate, that contains, and
(b) for a video recording containing that work substitute such a video recording.
(1) Section 13 (supplying video recording not complying with requirements as to labels etc) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), after unless insert—
(a) the video work is an exempted work, or
(3) In subsection (2), before paragraph (a) insert—
(za) believed on reasonable grounds that the video work concerned or, if the video recording contained more than one work to which the charge relates, each of those works was an exempted work,.
(1) Section 14 (supplying video recording containing false indication as to classification) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), after unless insert—
(a) the video work is an exempted work, or
(3) In subsection (2)(a), after sub-paragraph (i) (but before or) insert—
(ia) that the video work concerned or, if the video recording contained more than one work to which the charge relates, each of those works was an exempted work,.
(4) In subsection (3)—
(a) after unless insert—
(a) the video work is an exempted work, or
(5) In subsection (4)(a), before sub-paragraph (i) insert—
(ai) that the video work concerned or, if the video recording contained more than one work to which the charge relates, each of those works was an exempted work,.
(1) Section 22 (other interpretation) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), at the end insert—
video games authority and video works authority have the meaning given in section 4ZA.
(3) In subsection (2), after Act insert (and subject to regulations under subsection (2A)).
(4) After subsection (2) insert—
(2A) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about the circumstances in which, for the purposes of this Act, a video recording does or does not contain a video work.
11 After section 22 insert—
(1) Regulations under this Act are to be made by statutory instrument.
(2) Every power of the Secretary of State to make regulations under this Act includes—
(a) power to make different provision for different purposes, and
(b) power to make transitional or saving provision.
(3) A statutory instrument containing regulations under section 2A or 3 may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.
(4) Any other statutory instrument containing regulations under this Act is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
12 Until such time as section 2A of the Video Recordings Act 1984 comes into force, section 22A(3) of that Act has effect as if the words 2A or were omitted.
Only 1% of processed responses to government survey against an adult rating for games; more than 6,000 responses received in total so far.
A Senate Estimates Committee Hearing last week unveiled that out of 1,084 processed responses thus far, only 11 had been anti-R18+.
The government's public consultation process is aiming to find out the Australian public's view on the introduction of an adult classification for games in Australia and was launched by the Federal Attorney-General's Department in December last
year. Submissions for the process will close on February 28, 2010.
A spokesperson for the Federal Attorney-General's Department told GameSpot AU last week that the results of the public consultation would be distributed to all of Australia's Attorneys-General to inform their decision whether Australia
should have an R18+ classification for computer games. From there, all of the Attorneys-General will need to unanimously agree on its introduction before it can be passed as law in Australia.
Submissions for the R18+ national classification consultation close 28 February. To promote good thinking, we want to see what you've got to say. The guidelines request a 250-word comment at the end of each submission. Send us yours and we'll
publish some of the best.
In case you're yet to state your case, here's how to do it.
When you have sent in your submission,
send Kotaku an email with your 250-word comment from the end of your document. We'll choose some of the best we receive and publish them for everybody's benefit. We can only get better at dealing with the ill-informed by enhancing our own
A Super Bowl advertisement for Electronic Arts' Dante's Inferno game has fallen victim to CBS censors.
An original version of the ad had utilized the tagline Go to Hell, but that phrase was deemed to over the top for viewers of this Sunday's big game and CBS rejected it. The Hollywood Reporter blog reports that EA will instead substitute
the more sedate tagline Hell Awaits instead.
Dante's Inferno is not being released in the Middle East. In a move that surprised absolutely no one, EA states that, Electronic Arts has decided not to release Dante's Inferno in the Middle East after an evaluation process which is based on
consumer tastes, preferences, platform mix and other factors.
After first setting our eyes on Dante's Inferno last year, it seemed like one of those titles that might never hit the retail shelves in UAE. Dealing with the afterlife, the game focuses on Hell and its 9 circles of sinners within. Such a premise
itself is a very touchy topic within the region, one of the reasons why we think Darksiders got banned here.
In fact, this region is so sensitive to such topics that God of War is also banned over here just because it has the word God in the title, despite being based on Greek mythology!
psxextreme.com spotted an interesting games rating review on the official US games rating website.
Now, it's hardly surprising that Dead or Alive: Paradise for the PSP would land the M -Mature rating but surprisingly enough, it seems the ESRB's description is more out of line than the content itself. As you can see, whoever wrote
it is plenty disgusted with the game, and even used the word creepy along with an expanded opinion that reads as follows:
This is a video game in which users watch grown women dressed in G-string bikinis jiggle their breasts while on a two-week vacation. Women's breasts and butts will sway while playing volleyball, while hopping across
cushions, while pole dancing, while posing on the ground, by the pool, on the beach, in front of the camera.
There are other activities: Users can gamble inside a casino to win credits for shopping; they can purchase bathing suits, sunglasses, hats, clothing at an island shop; they can gift these items to eight other women
in hopes of winning their friendship, in hopes of playing more volleyball.
And as relationships blossom from the gift-giving and volleyball, users may get closer to the women, having earned their trust and confidence: users will then be prompted to zoom-in on their friends' nearly-naked bodies,
snap dozens of photos, and view them in the hotel later that night.
Parents and consumers should know that the game contains a fair amount of cheesy, and at times, creepy voyeurism—especially when users have complete rotate-pan-zoom control; but the game also contains bizarre,
misguided notions of what women really want (if given two weeks, paid vacation, island resort)—Paradise cannot mean straddling felled tree trunks in dental-floss thongs.
Since that story broke, the US game rating board has pulled its summary of the Tecmo Koei title, and apologized for its inappropriate remarks.
Here's what the ESRB had to say on the matter:
The rating summary for Dead or Alive Paradise was posted to our website in error, and we have since replaced that version with the corrected one. We recognize that the initial version improperly contained subjective
language and that issue has been addressed.
Our intention with rating summaries is to provide useful, detailed descriptions of game content that are as objective and informative as possible. However they are ultimately written by people and, in this case, we
mistakenly posted a rating summary that included what some could rightfully take to be subjective statements.
We sincerely regret the error and will work to prevent this from happening again in the future.
This is a collection of mini-games, based on the Dead or Alive game series, in which players assume the role of a bikini-clad female character on vacation on a tropical island.
Players engage in daily activities that can include hopping across floating pads on a pool and beach volleyball. Players earn credits after each activity that can be used to purchase new outfits, accessories, and gifts to
give other female characters on the island. Players can earn additional credits at the island casino as they wager credit in slot machines and in games of poker and black jack. Some purchasable outfits include string bikinis, one-piece thongs,
and sling bikinis. Sling bikinis and thongs often provide very little coverage of breast and bare buttocks.
Throughout the game players can view characters engaging in variety of activities—pole dancing, stretching, gyrating to music, and climbing trees. Characters are frequently displayed in compromising position (e.g., buttocks
up in the air, legs splayed open, straddling tree trucks, etc.) during these activities. These scenes can often feel voyeuristic as players control the camera to rotate, pan, and zoom in on various body parts as they photograph the characters in
A recruitment advert for the Austrian army showing young women chasing a tank for a joy-ride has been axed after outraged feminists went on the offensive.
The advert was commissioned to sex-up the image of the military, which has had trouble in recent years getting men to enlist.
Do you want a joy-ride, ladies? yells a macho member of the tank crew, causing the women to race after the armoured vehicle. The pun in the question was fully intended, admitted the Austrian military.
But feminists were predictably easily offended. Judith Goetz, who is in charge of feminist issues at the Austrian Students' Union, said: It is totally archaic to show such an obviously sexist video when women are part of the Austrian military.
The video opens with a macho-looking man with legs spread wide sitting on the hood of his Audi car surrounded by four young women. He is interrupted in his effort to persuade them to join him for a joy-ride when a tank comes to a screeching halt
in front of his car.
A soldier climbs out of the tank's hatch, rubs his hand suggestively along the cannon, jumps down in front of the girls and asks them if they would like to go for a joy-ride in his vehicle instead. The girls screech in excitement and begin to
follow him. Then come to the Austrian army. Then you can drive a tank! the soldier says. He speeds away pursued by the shrieking women.
Our clip is so dorky it's brilliant, said Colonel Johann Millonig, of the army's marketing department. But the feminist cyber-war on the high command. So many e-mails were received that defence minister Norbert Darabos asked the army to
remove the video from the ministry's website.
The campaign to add an R18+ videogame rating category in Australia has gained an additional but predictable enemy, the Australian Christian Lobby.
The group's policy website features a section on the game ratings debate, in which the idea that an adult videogame rating category is needed Down Under is sharply rebuked:
The potential for violent and sexually explicit interactive games to cause harm has only increased in recent years as these games have become even more sophisticated, graphic and interactive. It is also naive to think that
R18+ games could be restricted to adult users. If these games are allowed to go on sale in Australia they will inevitably find their way into the hands of younger players through older siblings or friends.
If any changes are to be made to the classification system it should only be to resolve to tighten up the MA15+ rating to ensure that games aren't wrongly getting through in this category.
The group encourages website visitors to attempt to stop the introduction of an R18+ category by writing a submission to the government in advance of the February 28th deadline for responses to the Discussion Paper.
Online game operators in Beijing will test a ratings system advising parents on sexual and violent content in their games, ahead of the introduction of government guidelines, state media said.
The move comes amid a massive nationwide government repression of Internet porn and violence—a campaign seen by some critics as a way for the country's censors to reinforce the Great Firewall of China against political dissent.
Over 30 operators have agreed to rate their games according to their suitability for children and adults this month. Gamers will need to provide their identification numbers in order to play, to prove they are old enough to view the content.
The Beijing Animation Game Industry Union's secretary-general, Liu Chungang, said the group's decision was a self-disciplinary, non-governmental act within the industry .
The culture ministry plans to introduce its own ratings system later this year, the newspaper said. Culture Minister Cai Wu was quoted by state media in December as saying his ministry had banned 219 Internet games for carrying lewd,
pornographic and violent content.
Australians are right now being asked to voice their opinion on whether an R18+ rating for video games should be introduced, with the Australian Federal Attorney General seeking public submissions into the issue. But while the consultation
process won't conclude until February 28, 2010, one high-profile figure in the games debate has already decided that the majority of respondents will be in favour of an R18+: vocal anti-R18+ campaigner Michael Atkinson.
He said: I don't think the discussion paper presents a fair and balanced view of the issue without pictures of the games that would be rated R18+, Atkinson said.
I think the majority of the population are unfamiliar with these games and without images, they won't be able to imagine them in their mind's eye. They'll have no idea how violent or sexually depraved they are, and what kind of torture, drug use,
and blood spatter they include.
I also believe that very few people outside the gaming community will have a say in this public consultation, which will mean an overwhelming response in support of R18+ .
The Video Recordings Bill completed all Parliamentary stages in the House of Commons on 6 January 2010 without opposition and has now passed to the House of Lords for consideration.
Thanks to Alan:
Scarcely credible! Is it actually compulsory to be a sanctimonious twat in order to stand for parliament? Do these deeply unsavoury see-you-next-Tuesdays ever consider that no other major European country finds it necessary
to have home videos approved by a censorship body?
It confirms me in my long-held belief that there's only one person to enter parliament whose motives were beyond reproach - and we remember him on the fifth of November.
The Video Recordings Bill completed all Parliamentary stages in the House of Commons on 6 January 2010 without opposition and has now passed to the House of Lords for consideration.
During the short debate Keith Vaz got a few whinges in:
Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour) :
Does the Minister intend, in his speech, to touch on the Byron review and the Government's commitment to prevent violent video games falling into the hands of young people? Are the Government still committed to the
conclusions of Byron? Will the recommendations be implemented in full? When will the Digital Economy Bill come before the House? It deals with all the other issues that the Minister cannot deal with in the context of the present Bill.
Siôn Simon (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media and Sport; Birmingham, Erdington, Labour):
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who is a tireless advocate of his views on the subject. Yes, the Government are committed to Byron and to child safety. The work of the Internet Watch Foundation and the Department for
Children, Schools and Families-led group that has been set up in an unprecedented way across Government to look at all child safety issues online is very important, groundbreaking and central to what the Government are doing. As my right hon.
Friend knows, those are matters not for today, but for the Digital Economy Bill, which is now in another place.
Keith Vaz: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way to me a second time. He talked about the boxed games. One of the concerns is that when people buy video games, there is not sufficient notice on those games that
they have adult content, which is central to what the Video Recordings Bill hopes to do-to ensure proper enforcement. Is there anything in the proposal or in any measure that the Government propose to introduce in the near future that will ensure
that when retailers sell such games, it is clear that they have adult content-that is, by increasing the very small notification on the box that it is an adult game?
Siôn Simon: As my right hon. Friend knows, child safety, boxed games, and good information that is readily understandable by the public when adult content is included in games or DVDs are central to our approach
and to the Byron recommendation that content should be clearly labelled and that content unsuitable for children should not be made available for children.
However, that is not a matter for today. None of the provisions that we are discussing today in this short two-clause Bill will affect that in any way. The size of the rating symbols on the boxes is a subject which I know my
right hon. Friend and I will discuss at length in the Committee stage of the Digital Economy Bill. I look forward to that, but it is not something that I should be diverted into discussing today.
And on the subject of exempting games and sports videos from censorship:
Edward Vaizey (Shadow Minister (Arts), Culture, Media and Sport; Wantage, Conservative):
There is some concern that music and sports videos remain exempt from classification. Again, that exemption could have been removed in a draft submitted to the European Commission. There is overwhelming support for removing
the exemptions. There is not a shred of logic or intellectual credibility to keeping music and sports videos exempt. Why should something be exempt just because it is of a particular genre? As I said to the right hon. Member for Leicester, East,
we are worried about inappropriate content being distributed to minors and adults. Whether it is in a video game, DVD, film, a music video or something related to sport is irrelevant. The exemption is bizarre. I am sure that the right hon.
Gentleman agrees-he is nodding.
Keith Vaz: I do not agree that we are talking about the same thing. A film with inappropriate content is not interactive. The point about video games, which is backed up by research from America, is that the player is
part of the process. Players shoot and stab people in a video game, and that is different. I accept that inappropriate content is wrong, wherever it is found, but video games are different.
Edward Vaizey: I continue to assume that the right hon. Gentleman is against hardcore pornography and offensive content. For example, a video by the band Slipknot, which includes self-mutilation by teenagers, remains
unclassified. Before we get into a debate on censorship, I am not saying that that content cannot be viewed by responsible adults, or that the video by Motley Cre, which depicts a George Bush lookalike with a prostitute, could not be
viewed by responsible 18-year-olds. However, I think that all hon. Members agree that it should not be viewed by a 10-year-old, and should therefore be classified so that parents know, if their 10 or 11-year-old comes home saying, I've got the
latest Motley Cre video exactly what it could contain. It is extraordinary that music and sports videos are exempt. We will continue to press for the removal of that exemption. However, we are where we are; the Bill has been
introduced in its current form and we do not intend to stand in its way.
To pick up on the comments of the right hon. Member for Leicester, East about the Byron report, which focuses on keeping children safe in a digital world, I am genuinely interested in the Under-Secretary's thoughts about how
and whether content should be regulated online. As he knows, an increasing number of video distributors submit their films for classification to the BBC for an online rating, but obviously more unscrupulous dealers do not do that. The legislation
does nothing to ensure that there are any sanctions against people who distribute videos online.
Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour):
My second point is about the general debate concerning video games. I am keen not to stray beyond the measures of the Video Recordings Act 1984, but there were some very interesting comments from the Front Benches about
their commitment to ensuring that the thriving and innovative video games industry in the United Kingdom, and particularly in London, survives. I am not against what is being proposed, and I have never been in favour of censorship; I have always
been very clear that those who are aged 18-plus should be able to buy and watch whatever video games they want. Those who are not sufficiently old should not be able to do so, however, and those retailers who are prosecuted under this Act must be
dealt with very severely indeed.
I say that because I disagree with the hon. Member for Wantage, in that I do not believe that watching a film is the same as participating in a video game. I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have very young grandchildren,
and I have children aged 14 and 12. A huge amount of research has been done on the issue, and it has been found that a half of all eight to 11-year-olds use the internet without adult supervision. I do not know how many Members present have
children or grandchildren aged between eight and 11, but it is a real worry that a half of those in that age group are not supervised by adults when using the internet.
Some parents take the home computer out of their children's rooms and put it in a room where everyone has access to it so that they can watch over what their children are doing online. Parents have different ways of dealing
with that issue, but the fact is that watching a violent film is different from participating in a video game. If a young person gets hold of Modern Warfare 2 , for example, they will be asked to participate in a terrorist attack; they
will be asked to shoot at civilians in Moscow airport as part of the game. That is why the Russian Government have banned Modern Warfare 2 ; they felt that in an age when we are trying to educate our children about the need to understand
the dangers of extreme violence, we should not place in their hands, under the guise of entertainment, games that allow them to act in a violent way.
I am grateful to the Minister for what he said about the Digital Economy Bill coming before this House soon, and it is always the hope of Ministers that such Bills will come to the House from the other place quickly, but I
have counted that we have just 35 working days from now until 31 March. Nobody knows when the next general election will be held, of course, but there are only 35 complete working days in which legislation can be addressed in this House.
John Whittingdale (Maldon & East Chelmsford, Conservative):
The right hon. Gentleman refers to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 . It is already rated 18 and therefore it is already illegal to sell it to somebody who is under age, without the Digital Economy Bill needing to be
passed. I do not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman on the necessity of passing that Bill, but there are already provisions in place that prevent children from playing that game.
The Byron recommendations must be implemented in full, as doing so will help to strengthen what the Government are trying to do enormously. As far as video recordings are concerned, I pay tribute to what the Government have
done over the past few years. There has been a huge leap forward since I first took up this issue, along with others, after young Stefan Pakeerah, from Leicester, was stabbed to death in a park in Leicester in circumstances similar to those found
in a video game watched by his killer, Warren Leblanc. I know that the judge in that case said that there was no connection, but the mother of the young boy stabbed to death felt very strongly that there was. Following subsequent meetings with
two Prime Ministers and many Ministers, the Government have pushed forward on the matter.
I welcome what the Government have done, but it remains the case that any Member of the House can walk into any video store subject to the Video Recordings Act 1984, pick up a box set and see a tiny-it is still
tiny-reference to the age limit for those playing the game. Through various campaigns involving people on all sides, we increased the 18 certificate sign from about the size of a 1p piece to probably the size of a 10p or, possibly, 50p piece.
Actually, we have always said that, as with cigarette packets, splashed across the front of a violent video game should be the fact that it has adult content-and good luck to over-18s who wish to buy it! That would bring the fact to the attention
of retailers who might, sometimes inadvertently, sell the game to someone under the age of 18.
I was interested to hear the statistics put forward by the hon. Member for Wantage on the number of stores that have been prosecuted. I have been after those statistics for some time. They are good news. The last time some
mystery shopping was done-Trevor McDonald on one of his ITV programmes sent in a load of under-18 mystery shoppers-they were sold video games for over-18s, but the stores were not prosecuted. I welcome the fact that the figures are quite high. We
are going through the bother of trying to get the Bill through quickly, and we should send out a message that legislation passed by the House will be implemented and that those who break the law will be prosecuted.
Don Foster (Bath, Liberal Democrat):
I share the concern expressed by the current shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Mr. Hunt, about DVDs and videos relating to sport, religion and music that do not carry ratings but which often contain
material that many of us would think inappropriate, in particular for sale to young people. Such videos include self-mutilation, erotic dancing, sex toys, drug use and so on.
The Minister's officials have made clear a point that was not picked up by the hon. Member for Wantage. They have said:
Music, sports or religious videos lose their exemption from classification if they depict sexual activity, mutilation, gross violence or other practices likely to cause offence, and that in those circumstances, it
is for the appropriate enforcement authorities to take action.
The implication is that there is no need for an amendment, because other bits of legislation could be used to prosecute people distributing such material. I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify that issue, because
it is one that those in probably all parts of the House want to be resolved. My concern is to find out the means by which it is going to be resolved, or whether the Minister believes, as his officials appear to be saying, that there is no problem
and that action can be taken under existing legislation.
And on the subject of online distribution:
I wish to make a few observations about the Video Recordings Act 1984. I always approach any such legislation with some suspicion, as I am fundamentally opposed to censorship. I believe that in a free society it is up to
adults to choose what they wish to see, but there are two important qualifications to that. The first is that there will always be some material that is so unacceptable in its violent or explicitly sexual content that it is deemed to be damaging
to people to view it. I accept that, and some examples have been given in the debate.
I shall return to that matter, but perhaps more important is the fact that while adults are free to choose, we have always accepted that children require protection. I join right hon. and hon. Members in paying tribute to
the work of the BBFC. It is in the area of age classification that some of the most difficult decisions have to be taken. The film that required perhaps more cuts than any other, some time ago now, was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ,
because the distributor was keen that it should be given a certificate that meant children were able to see it. The BBFC felt that it contained inappropriate material, and there was lengthy negotiation. A lot of the controversy about films such
as The Dark Knight and Casino Royale is about whether they should appropriately be a 12 or a 15.
The virtue of the 1984 Act was that it extended that protection, which already existed in cinemas, to viewing in the home. The Minister gave the statistics on the extent to which viewing in the home has taken off in the past
20 years. When the Act was originally introduced back in 1984, it was accompanied by a degree of what one can only call hysteria about video nasties, and it is worth reflecting on what has happened to some of the most notorious examples of films
that were widely cited at that time.
The then Minister, Mr. David Mellor, named three films in the course of the debate. The first was The Driller Killer , which was banned after the passage of the 1984 Act but then released uncut in 2002, and last night
I checked and found that it is available on Amazon for £3.98. The second was Zombie Flesh Eaters . That, too, was banned under the Act but then released uncut in 2005 and can now be found on Amazon at £5.98. The third was I
Spit On Your Grave , which was also on the list of prosecutable movies until 2001 but was then released, although with substantial cuts made by the BBFC, and is now widely available. Perhaps the most remarkable example is a film that was on
the Director of Public Prosecution's list of films that were banned, Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead , which at the time was regarded as wholly unacceptable but, indicating how tastes change, two years ago was given away free with copies of The
Sun as a promotional move.
There is no question but that tastes change and that we have become more liberal, which I welcome. However, as I said, there will always be films that go beyond what is generally regarded as acceptable. The Minister
mentioned one particular film, Grotesque . Two films were banned by the BBFC in 2008. The first was Murder-Set-Pieces , described as having scenes in which a psychopathic sexual serial killer...is seen raping, torturing and
murdering his victims .
The second has the unlikely title of The Texas Vibrator Massacre -I leave its contents to the imagination of hon. Members. I shall return to those two films in a moment.
My hon. Friend Mr. Vaizey made the important point that there are loopholes in the existing legislation, which existed for good reasons at the time. It was not regarded as possible that a video concerning music or sport
could be unacceptable. That loophole has undoubtedly been exploited. I hosted a dinner that the BBFC gave in the House just before Christmas, at which it showed us examples of some of the material that is now available in music videos and sports
games that does not require certification because of the loophole in the 1984 Act. I understand why the Government did not feel able to address that matter in the Bill, but I share the wish that has been expressed that the loophole should be
closed, and I hope that it will be in the Digital Economy Bill.
The second main point that I wish to make is that at the time of the passage of the 1984 Act, the world was completely different. Mr. Graham Bright, the Member who moved Second Reading, said that he defined a video recording
as a video tape or video disc. It is thus a physical product. -[ Hansard, 11 November 1983; Vol. 48, c. 525.]
Of course, it is now not necessarily a physical product. More and more video is being made available through online distribution, which at the time perhaps could not even have been conceived. We are seeking to address that
through moves such as those by the BBFC to impose a voluntary system of regulation, but the films that we are concerned about are now very widely available. I return to the two that I mentioned, Murder-Set-Pieces and The Texas Vibrator
Massacre . I checked last night and found that both those films are widely available through file sharing sites. An internet search for either with the words download or bit torrent will bring up any number of sites from which
one can obtain them. Equally, they are available through cyberlockers. Both are on Megaupload and RapidShare and can be accessed without any attempt to verify the age of the person downloading them. There is serious concern about how we can
continue to protect young people when it is now so easy to obtain such films.
We will debate the matter at greater length when we come to the measures against piracy through illegal file sharing that the Government are proposing to take in the Digital Economy Bill. It is worth remembering that it is
not just protection of copyright that is at stake when we consider file sharing. There is equally the concern that it is being used to circumvent the protections that the House has put in place. In the most extreme cases, as I am sure the
Minister will be aware, child pornography is being widely distributed through illegal file sharing. That is another reason why I share with other hon. Members the view that it is important that we get the Digital Economy Bill on to the statute
Having said that, I agree with the Minister that the majority of distribution of video content will still be through physical product for the foreseeable future, so it is certainly important that the Bill should be passed
today and that we should reinstate the protections that we thought were already in place. However, there is a danger that we will be seen to be bolting the front door when the back door is wide open, and we will have to consider that in future.
That leads me to the more general conclusion that I suspect that there is nothing that this House can do to legislate to prevent the distribution of material online from sites that may be located on the other side of the
world. When we consider what it is appropriate for people to view, we must remember that that is a matter for adults to decide. The most effective means that we can have to protect children is for parents to exercise responsibility, watch
carefully what their children are doing and ensure that they are not obtaining access to content that could be damaging to them. I support the Bill, but I fear that it is beginning to look increasingly old-fashioned and outmoded given the
extraordinary pace of development throughout the video sector.
We have already congratulated the British Board of Film Classification on the job that it does, by which we meant the job of classifying films, but I think I ought also to congratulate it on the job that it does in lobbying
Members of Parliament and providing briefing for these debates. Rarely can the entire participating body in a debate have been so thoroughly and extensively briefed by a single organisation. I visited the BBFC's offices fairly recently and heard
its arguments about one or two aspects that we may not see in exactly the same way, but I think we are in accord on most of the issues that Members, in their different ways, have discussed today: that is, the central issues.
I am not sure whether I have fully covered the question of appeals and compensation, but in the absence of further interventions, I shall proceed to answer the questions about the potential for insertion of what might be
described as the PEGI clauses of the Digital Economy Bill, which introduce the PEGI European classification system for video games in this country into this Bill.
One of the fundamental reasons why the House has considered the Bill, and why Opposition parties in both Houses have indicated that they consider it appropriate to fast-track it, is that we are not amending an existing piece
of legislation which has been in force for 25 years. If the two main Opposition parties had come to us in advance and said We think it important to include the PEGI clauses , we might have been able to discuss the matter, but I do not
think that that happened. We needed to act swiftly, and, legitimately, to use the special fast-track procedure. Part of the reason for concertina-ing the House's usual precautionary procedures was that we were making no change whatsoever. The
point is that we need to get the legislation repealed and revived so that it can be amended during the passage of the Digital Economy Bill.
John Whittingdale: Is it the Government's intention to accept the other amendment that has been tabled to the Digital Economy Bill, which would remove the exemption for sport and music videos?
Siôn Simon: As things currently stand, we are not minded to accept that amendment, although I am not averse to talking about it. I take note of the uniformity of view on that matter,
on the Labour Benches anyway. However, I know from my recent visit to the BBFC that it takes the strong view that we should make this change, and the BBFC is very influential in these matters.
Edward Vaizey: I should remind the Minister that on Tuesday one of his own Back Benchers, Mr. Dismore, is introducing a ten-minute Bill that would bring about this exemption, so there is
all-party support for it.
Siôn Simon: I take that point. I do not have a strong, dogmatic view on this. I have considered it, and on balance I have come down on the side that says that given that it is about
where we draw the line, the vast majority of content in music and sport videos does not need to be classified in this way, to the extent that it would be an intolerable burden. That is a reasonable position, and that is where I stand. We are not
currently minded to accept an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to that end, although I do not take a dogmatic view on it.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has won a preliminary injunction in its lawsuit against the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) over the banning of advertisements for adult-rated videogames.
An ordinance that took effect in January of 2009 prohibited any advertisement that markets or identifies a video or computer game rated 'Mature 17+' (M) or 'Adults Only 18+' (AO). The ESA argued that such a ban unconstitutionally restricts speech in a public forum that is otherwise open to all speakers without a compelling interest for doing so.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted the ESA an injunction, with Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer stating: …the advertisements the CTA wishes to ban promote expression that has constitutional value and
implicates core First Amendment concerns.
A survey conducted by discount website MyVoucherCodes shows that a good chunk of UK parents allow their kids to play videogames inappropriate for their age.
39% of those surveyed allowed younger kids to play games outside of their designated age range, with 25% admitting they had played such games alongside their children.
Still, when compared to other types of media, videogames had the lowest numbers in the survey: 53% allowed their kids to watch movies outside of the recommended age range; while 66.0% let their offspring listen to music with explicit lyrics.
As time winds down to the general elections, the UK government is attempting to push-through the Digital Economy Bill.
MCVUK reports that, while some aspects of the bill are still hotly contested, politicians are hoping to fast track at least some elements of the bill, including making the Pan-European Game Information PEGI ratings system enforceable by law.
Don Foster, Bath MP, stated: Swiftness is the essence of why we are here today. It is vital that we get back on to the statute book, as quickly as possible, legislation that provides protection against the sale of
inappropriate material to children and counters the ability of people to sell pirate DVDs and so on.
Shadow Culture Minister Ed Vaizey added: The Digital Economy Bill will amend the 1984 Act and bring video games into a system of statutory classification using the European rating system known as PEGI—pan European game
information. Broadly speaking, hon. Members of all parties support that. Everybody recognises that video games should be classified under a statutory system.
The United Arab Emirates has banned THQ's game Darksiders reports gaming site GamesLatest.
The site notes that such bannings are not usually accompanied by a detailed explanation; instead an explanation typically offered is that a forbidden commodity contradicts with UAE's customs and traditions.
The game, developed by Vigil games for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, involves demons and has players take the role of War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
In the game's setting, War is accused of breaking a scared law and inciting a war between Heaven and Hell with battling demons and angels.
NowGamer have interviewed Tom Watson. The MP for West Bromwich East notable for starting a Facebook group called Gamer's Voice. This takes a more mature pro-gaming approach than the usual knee jerk blame bollox that we have come to expect from
NowGamer: It's rare to hear a political voice, let alone an MP, speak out on the side of the games industry, so how have you got involved?
Tom Watson: Well, I love games and I'm inspired by the world of games that my kids are going to grow up in. The debate in Westminster is skewed against gamers. They need their voice heard. That's why I set up
NowGamer: You seem to feel strongly that videogames are being misrepresented in parliament. Why do you think that is?
Tom Watson: There's a toxic mix of tabloid sensationalism and busy MPs who are too busy to plug in a console and enjoy themselves.
NowGamer: The gaming audience is getting older and the content of videogames seems to be following this trend by tackling darker and more adult topics, but in your opinion can a game go too far?
Tom Watson: It's about choice. There are games that repulse me. And as a parent, there are games that I won't let me kids get anywhere near. But as long as people know what the content is like, I don't have a
NowGamer: The interactivity of games is often felt to make the way in which adult content is experienced in them significantly different from when seen in films or on TV. Do you agree with this position?
Tom Watson: I've never wept or screwed up my eyes in fear at a videogame. I have for plenty of films. The people who make the argument that games are more immersive and therefore dangerous should calm down.