Plans to classify mobile and online games in Australia may be abandoned under new legislation being introduced by the federal government. The government has proposed an amendment to the classification (publications, films, and computer games) legislation to include a temporary measure that would allow mobile and online games to be released in Australia without classification for the next two years. The Classification (Publications, Films, and Computer Games) Amendment (Mobile and Online Computer Games) Bill was introduced this week in the Australian parliament by Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor.
O'Connor told parliament that the new bill is the best way of dealing with the increasing number of mobile and online games released (a lot) and will provide clarity for both the local games industry and the community about the regulation of mobile and online games.
Industry bodies will still be able to submit these types of games to the Classification Board of Australia for classification but will not be in violation if they do not. Previously, all video games released in Australia required a classification. The act did not make any distinction among console, mobile, and online games either.
"The current classification system never envisaged the technology powering smart phones, let alone the rapid development of online games or mobile phone apps," O'Connor said in a press statement.
"However, the current definition of computer games under the act covers online games and applications. The federal government is changing the treatment of computer games so that they are treated like other online content, and these changes will allow most mobile phone and online games to be supplied without classification for the next two years, while retaining safeguards to protect children from computer games that are of concern."
According to O'Connor's office, the director of the Classification Board will still retain the power to call in a computer game if it is likely to be classified M or above, and the Australian Communication and Media Authority will still investigate potential prohibited online content. The bill is currently before parliament, but O'Connor's office says that the legislation is unlikely to pass this year.