21 December 2007
New rules for age-restricted internet and mobile content
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has determined new rules that for the first time implement a uniform approach for restricting access to MA15+ and R18+ content accessed through the internet or by mobile phones.
The new Restricted Access Systems Declaration places obligations on all content service providers to check that individuals accessing restricted content provided in Australia are at least 15 years of age for MA15+ content or 18 years of age for R18+ content. The new rules, which come into effect on 20 January 2008, arise from legislation passed in July 2007.
Similar to previous obligations relating to stored content, the new rules provide that after receiving a complaint and investigating internet or mobile content, ACMA may require the content service provider to either remove the content or place the content behind specified access restrictions.
‘In developing these new content rules, ACMA was guided by its disposition to allow adults to continue to read, hear and see what they want, while protecting children from exposure to inappropriate content, regardless of the delivery mechanism,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman.
‘At the same time, ACMA has been conscious of avoiding unnecessary red tape for Australian businesses providing content,’
ACMA undertook extensive public consultation in developing the new rules. It carefully considered concerns that were raised about the application of the rules to new types of online services, such as user-generated content, and will continue to liaise and consult on these matters with industry.
ACMA also made two associated changes to other legal instruments.
- Existing rules about mobile premium services have been amended to remove content-related provisions, as these will be covered by the new legislation; and
- The Telecommunications Numbering Plan has also been varied to ensure that requirements for the use of particular phone numbers to assist consumers in recognising age restricted content supplied by premium SMS and MMS continue to operate. These requirements have been removed from the mobile premium service rules by the amendment above.
A copy of the new and amended legal instruments can be found on the ACMA website.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager on (02) 9334 7980.
The Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Act 2007 (Content Services Act) received Royal Assent on 20 July 2007. The Act inserts a new Schedule 7 into the Broadcasting Act 1992 (BSA) for the purpose of regulating all content services delivered via carriage services (irrespective of the platform and whether they consist of user-generated content or otherwise). Schedule 7 will commence on 20 January 2008.
The main elements of the new content regulatory framework in Schedule 7 to the BSA are:
- a prohibition on X18+ and RC content;
- a prohibition on R18+ content, unless it is subject to appropriate access restrictions;
- a new prohibition on commercial MA15+ content, unless it is subject to appropriate access restrictions;
- providers of hosting services, live content services, link services and commercial content services to have in place access restrictions if providing R18+ and commercial MA15+ content;
- ‘take down’, ‘service cessation’ and ‘link deletion’ notices to remove content or access to content that is the subject of a complaint; and
- a co-regulatory approach that provides for the development of industry codes to address issues including the classification of content, procedures for handling complaints about content and increasing awareness of potential safety issues associated with the use of content services.
Internet content is currently regulated under the Restricted Access Systems Declaration 1999 under clause 4(1) of Schedule 5 to the BSA. It prohibits content that is classified or likely to be classified by the Classification Board as RC or X18+ and establishes a restricted access regime for stored content classified or likely to be classified as R18+ content. This framework is supported by a co-regulatory arrangement with internet industry codes of practice that apply to internet service providers and internet content hosts.
Mobile premium services including premium rate SMS and MMS services and mobile content portals are regulated under the Telecommunications Service Provider (Mobile Premium Services) Determination 2005 (No. 1) made under subsection 99(1) of the Telecommunications Act 1997. A mobile carriage service provider must not supply content classified as MA15+ or R18+ to a customer unless the customer has requested access and has been verified as at least 18 years old. Content classified as MA15+ or R18+ must not be supplied by premium SMS or MMS otherwise than on a number with the prefix 195 or 196.
Implementation of Schedule 7 required ACMA to:
- develop a new restricted access systems declaration to regulate access to MA15+ content and R18+ content with an Australian connection;
- amend the mobile premium services determination to remove these access restrictions and designated prefix requirements that are made redundant by Schedule 7; and
- vary the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 to allow the transfer of the designated prefix requirements from the mobile premium services determination.