Germany has one of Europe’s strictest systems for protecting children and young people from media content that could have a detrimental impact on their development. The legal framework for protecting minors from harmful media is established by the Protection of Young Persons Act (JuSchG) and the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors (JMStV).
Protection of Young Persons Act
The Protection of Young Persons Act (JuSchG) is a federal law in Germany that protects minors from harmful content in the area of offline media (DVDs, CD-ROMs, video cassettes, printed publications, etc.). Since the JuSchG was reformed in 2003, computer and video games can only be made available to minors after undergoing assessment by the Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK) and receiving approval for the age rating in question – 0, 6, 12, 16 or 18. This measure is intended to ensure that minors are protected from content that could be detrimental to their development. Games that were not submitted to the USK or that did not receive an age rating from the USK can only be made available to adults.
Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors
The Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors (JMStV) is a treaty between all of the German federal states that governs the protection of minors from harmful media in the areas of broadcasting and telemedia – content that can be accessed via the internet is the primary issue here. Unlike the JuSchG, the current version of the JMStV does not require age ratings by age group. However, within the scope of the JMStV, providers must still ensure that minors do not have the possibility to consume content harmful to their development. This can be accomplished by only broadcasting the content at certain times, or by implementing technical measures to block the content from minors, for example.
The planned revision of the JMStV – which was originally scheduled to go into effect on 1 January 2011 and was intended to revamp youth protection measures on the internet – failed at the state level in December 2010; the legal provisions from the year 2003 still apply today. The game association is actively campaigning for uniform, transparent standards for online content in order to bring the legislation into line with the realities of the internet. This primarily includes mandatory age ratings for games on the internet, like the ones already in place for games on data carriers.