Following yesterday's public hearing, Josh Cavaleri takes a closer look at where we are today.
Over two years after the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) recommended a total overhaul of Australia’s National Classification Scheme the Government is progressing with the first step towards broader reforms through its introduction of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Classification Tools and Other Measures) Bill 2014 to parliament on 19 March 2014. The Bill was quickly passed through the House of Representatives and is now being considered by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. The Committee is due to report by 27 August 2014.
While the broader reforms recommended by the ALRC are yet to be considered, the Bill potentially addresses several key concerns of the video games industry, including:
- allowing digitally distributed games to be classified using simple, accessible, and low cost classification tools such as the International App Rating Coalition (IARC) tool (more information on IARC can be found here);
- removing the obligation to separately classify game modifications such as map packs, character packs and mission packs provided that such modifications are unlikely to change the classification of the original game; and
- removing the requirement to classify games that are demonstrated at special events if appropriate age restrictions are in place.
On 28 July 2014 the Committee called a public hearing in Sydney to receive evidence from a number of interested parties. Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), provided evidence along with a number of other stakeholders including representatives from the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association, the Motion Picture Distributors Association, the Cyberspace Law and Policy Community, the Australian Council on Children and the Media and the Attorney-General’s Department.
Ron Curry highlighted the following points to emphasize how the current scheme is failing to adapt to the digital games market:
- In 2013 there were over 75,000 games submitted to Apple’s App Store - more than 5 times the amount of games that have been classified by the Classification Board for the last 20 years.
- Based on the average number of games classified by the Classification Board each year, it would take over 100 years to classify the games that were submitted to the App Store in 2013 alone.
The majority of witnesses generally supported the use of classification tools to classify the massive volume of unclassified games currently available online.
With the Committee due to report at the end of August, the Bill will be back on the Senate agenda throughout September and October.
While the current amendments are welcomed by the games industry, IGEA will continue to support the Government's consideration and implementation of the broader reforms recommended by the ALRC - i.e. the establishment of a truly national, co-regulatory and industry–led classification scheme.