Pirate Party Australia (PPA) has called for a wholesale overhaul of Australia’s “fundamentally broken” classification system.
In its submission to the Australian Law Reform Committee (ALRC) National Classification Scheme review, PPA called for the introduction of a European PEGI-style or American ESRB-style model of voluntary classification for media and the abolition of the Refused Classification category.
“As media converges and changes in the digital paradigm of the 21st Century, systems, laws and frameworks must adapt to these changes of environment,” the submission reads.
“The sheer speed that media is being created and distributed makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to manage in a proper and timely manner.
“The sheer size and architecture of the internet makes any classification scheme entirely unenforceable and would simply penalise Australian companies attempting to compete in the global digital environment and Australian consumers who are forced to look overseas for their entertainment services.
“With Australia being a rather minor market compared to the larger markets such as the United States or Europe, it is unlikely that publishers will continue to play ball with our hidden guidelines and compulsory system, which has already had a noticeable impact on the availability of content in this region.”
The ALRC’s review paper was released in May for public comment amid the current classification and censorship system’s apparent inability to come to terms with rapid technological change.
The review also comes at a time when the Federal Government is ratcheting up the pressure on the state attorneys-general to agree to the introduction of R18+ games with the public release of new draft guidelines for the classification of computer games.
Commenting on the likelihood of a voluntary ratings system to work across different platforms, the submission pointed to the Apple App Store and YouTube as examples already providing consumers with accurate information about content and a means to register complaints about inappropriate content.
“These distribution networks are managed by single entities who have a commercial interest in providing users with accurate information about content and voluntarily classify their content accordingly,” the submission reads. “It would be impossible for Australia to legislate a classification system to be correctly applied to the Internet.”
Commenting on controlling online access to material restricted under the National Classification Scheme, the submission argued against both restricting material and using a mandatory ISP-level filter.
“There are many services that regulate content through a 'whitelist' of approved sites and a 'blacklist' of unapproved sites which should be promoted so that people concerned about accessing mature content can avoid content they find offensive,” the submission reads.
“Some filtering systems that are 'crowd-sourced', such as www.mywot.com, allows society to decide which content they believe is appropriate and accurate, taking the approach that education is better than censorship.”
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