Germany has one of the strictest systems in Europe for protecting children and young people from media content that impairs their development. The legal framework in the area of the protection of minors from harmful media content is regulated by the Youth Protection Act (JuSchG) and the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors from Harmful Media (JMStV).
Protection of Young Persons Act
The Protection of Young Persons Act is a federal law regulating the protection of minors in the area of offline media, the so-called carrier media (DVDs, CD-ROMs, video cassettes, printed matter, etc.). Since the reform of the Youth Protection Act in 2003, computer and video games may only be distributed to children and young people if they have been subjected to prior examination by the Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK) and have been released for the relevant age group. The respective age groups are 0, 6, 12, 16 and 18, with the aim of ensuring that children and young people are protected from content that impairs their development. Games which have not been submitted to the USK for examination or which have not received an age rating from the USK may only be handed over to adults.
Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media
The Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors (JMStV) is a state treaty between all German states and regulates the protection of minors in the field of broadcasting and telemedia. This includes, above all, online offerings that can be accessed on the Internet. In contrast to the JuSchG, the current version of the JMStV does not provide for a gradual age rating. Nevertheless, even within the scope of application of the JMStV, the provider must ensure that offerings that impair development cannot usually be perceived by young people in the age group concerned. This can be achieved, for example, by restricting broadcasting time or by technical measures.
Modernisation of the protection of minors
Both regulations have meanwhile been overtaken by technical innovations and a revision towards a modern, convergent and internationally compatible protection of minors is urgently needed. A draft bill to amend the JuSchG is currently on the table, but from the perspective of the games industry it urgently needs to be revised. In addition, the federal states have started expert talks for a revision of the JMStV, in which the game will participate constructively.