Games industry calls for speedy passage of classification changes

IGEA and GDAA call for the Senate to pass changes to Classification Act

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association and the Game Developers’ Association of Australia have called for the quick Senate passage of a bill that would change the process of classification for some gaming content.

The Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is currently undertaking an inquiry into the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Classification Tools and Other Measures) Bill 2014.

The IGEA and GDAA in a joint submission to the inquiry have endorsed the amendments set out in the bill and called for its passage through the Senate "as soon as possible".

The federal justice minister, Michael Keenan, last month introduced the legislation, which will amend the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995. The Senate referred the legislation to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee on 27 March.

The amendments include removing the need to seek reclassification of software for minor changes, such as bug fixes or the release of new content. The new legislation will also allow tools such as online questionnaires to be used as a quick and cheap means of classifying material.

"The process for classifying computer games under the Act is costly and time consuming with the prescribed fee for classifying a computer game being as high as $2,460," the submission from the IGEA and GDAA states.

The groups advocate alternatives such as the International Age Rating Coalition, which is based on an online questionnaire that a developer can fill out, are a cheaper alternative to the current system.

The legislation will allow the relevant minister to approve the use of such tools as a way of classifying certain content. For example at the moment the Classification Board is unable to classify the vast number of games for smartphones and tablets that Australians can access through app stores, an explanatory memorandum for the legislation notes.

The legislation is based on a number of recommendations made in the Australian Law Reform Commission's review of Australia's classification system. The ALRC report — Classification—Content Regulation and Convergent Media — was tabled in March 2012.

"It has been over two years since the ALRC made its recommendations that are now reflected in this Bill so any further delay should be avoided," the submission states.

"IGEA and GDAA also support the ongoing review of Australia’s classification scheme and encourage the Government to consider the broader reforms recommended by the ALRC. In particular, further reform should address the need for a truly national, centralised, co-regulatory and industry-led classification scheme."

The Senate inquiry is due to report on 19 June.

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