What does publishing a game mean
Obligations for providers
Depending on where you want to publish what content, different legal requirements apply.
Games or content that is published on data carriers
Since April 1st, 2003, the Youth Protection Act in Germany has regulated the allocation of German age ratings for games that are published on data carriers in a legally binding manner (JuSchG, §§12, 14, Link). Accordingly, you are obliged to label if you place your product on the German market and also want to make it accessible to minors in public. In this case you have to apply for a USK license plate. German retailers are obliged to observe the age rating when submitting them. Violations can result in fines of up to 50,000 euros.
Test results are the age groups: USK from 0 approved (“without any age restriction”), USK from 6 approved, USK from 12 approved, USK from 16 approved, USK from 18 and no labeling. You will be informed of this by a USK notification. The test result "no labeling according to §14 JuSchG" informs you about indications that the product cannot be sold in Germany in a legally secure manner. You can publish such a game without a license plate (only for adults), but the reliable trading could be endangered by indexing or confiscation.
A test procedure can be interrupted by the decision of a test committee (in case of doubt) to obtain an expert opinion from the Federal Testing Office for Media Harmful to Young People. The USK will resume the procedure as soon as the BPjM's opinion is available (see USK principles, §10, paragraph 10).
The federal states are responsible for the implementation of the Youth Protection Act as a federal law and thus implement the practical age rating. The process is carried out by the Supreme State Youth Authority of North Rhine / Westphalia (NRW), on whose lead all 16 federal states have agreed. NRW has sent permanent representatives to the USK, one of whom is present at every review decision, accepts the approval recommendation of the review committee or appeals against the decision. The applicant can also object to an examination result (see USK principles, §§ 13, 14, 15).
After all deadlines for appointments have expired, a sovereign administrative act is issued. An issued age rating must be identified on publication both in the cover artwork and on the data carrier in accordance with the statutory provisions (see labeling provisions of the JuSchG).
Note on content that has already been marked and published online
If content (games, trailers, etc.) that already has USK or FSK age approval is sold via a website (mail order), can be played or is available for download, the provider must clearly indicate the existing label (cf. . § 12 JuSchG or JMStV). The information can be given in text form or through the illustration of the visual markings. You can download the USK license plates here.
Games or content that is offered online
Youth media protection in the online area is regulated in Germany by the State Treaty on Youth Media Protection (JMStV). Since 2003, it has been stipulating how telemedia games must be designed in order to rule out any impairment or risk to children and young people. (JMStV in full text)
According to the JMStV, providers of online game content are responsible for ensuring that "offers that are likely to impair the development of children or adolescents (...)" are usually not used by these age groups. Anyone who violates this regulation can be fined up to 500,000 euros. This not only applies to game content such as pure online games that are played directly on the Internet or games for download, but also for films, texts or images.
This obligation is specified in the State Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media as follows:
On sites that are aimed directly at children, only content may be made available that does not impair development for children under the age of 12, that is, has been rated “from 0” or “from 6” (cf. Section 5, Paragraph 5 of the JMStV ). If offers are not aimed directly at children and are not rated “from 16” or “from 18”, they can be offered without restrictions on circulation.
In order to meet the legal obligations for impairing content "from 16" and "from 18" years of age, the following options are available to the providers (see: § 5 Paragraph 1, 3 and 4 and § 11 Paragraph 1 JMStV):
- Programming of the website for a recognized youth protection program.
- Use of timers
Content “from 16 years of age” only accessible between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Content “from 18 years of age” only accessible between 11pm and 6am
- Use of technical distribution restrictions, e.g. use of a positively rated age verification system
Content harmful to minors, e.g. simple pornography, or so-called indexed media included in lists A and C by the Federal Testing Office for media harmful to minors, may only be disseminated for adults in closed user groups (see Section 4 (2) JMStV). Content that is criminally relevant and seriously endangering young people, which fulfills one of the conditions listed under Section 4 (1) JMStV, may generally not be disseminated.
Apart from these central requirements, other regulations apply, such as the protection of minors in advertising (Section 6 JMStV).
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