You’ve been looking forward to the release of a new computer game. You’ve watched countless videos about it. You’ve read everything you can about it.
Only to find out that it has been refused classification by the Classification Board.
This is not the end of the world, nor is it the end of your hopes for playing a complete, unmodified version of the game. In fact, having a game refused classification just gave you the incentive you need to purchase a cheaper copy of the game than you would off the shelf in Australian stores.
Classification of all media is defined at the Commonwealth level by the Classification (Publications, Films, and Computer Games) Act 1995. Under this act, it defines Level 2 Restricted Material as material that has been, or is likely to be, refused classification. The specific section that criminalises posession of Refused Classification material is Section 102 – Possession or control of level 2 prohibited material in prescribed areas. As of this point in time, the only prescribed area I can identify is the Northern Territory Emergency Response Zone.
Interestingly, postal services are exempted from the classification act at the Commonwealth level. However, Section 100 allows each State to operate their own laws concurrently and without contradiction.
The following acts are in place at the state level and define how the Commonwealth Classification Act is enforced and define additional levels of control:
- Classification of Computer Games and Images Act 1995 (Queensland)
- Classification (Publications, Films, and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1995 (New South Wales)
- Classification (Publications, Films, and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1995 (Victoria)
- Classification (Publications, Films, and Computer Games) Act 1995 (South Australia)
- Classification (Publications, Films, and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1995 (Tasmania)
- Classification (Publications, Films, and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1996 (Western Australia) – known previously as the Censorship Act 1996 (Western Australia)
- Classification of Publications, Films, and Computer Games Act (Northern Territory) – amended in 2005 and 2008
There is a lot of legislation to go through there. However, the short and pointy of it is that each state differently defines who is allowed to posess Refused Classification material.
In Queensland, you can posess RC games if you aren’t going to sell them or exhibit it in a public place.
In New South Wales, you can posess RC games if you aren’t going to sell them. Part 4 of the act defines many additional clauses, including not exhibiting RC material to minors or keeping RC material in a place where other material is sold. The safest bet is to keep it at home and play it yourself.
In Victoria, you can posess RC games if you aren’t going to sell them. Like the New South Wales legislation, Part 4 defines many additional clauses.
In South Australia, you can posess RC games if you aren’t going to sell them. Part 6 contains additional clauses.
In Tasmania, you cannot sell or deliver RC computer games. However, as noted earlier, the postal service is exempt from this law in the Commonwealth act. The Tasmanian act does not contradict this in any way.
In Western Australia, it is explicitly forbidden to posess or copy RC computer games. Sorry, guys, you’ve got the short straw.
In the Northern Territory, you cannot posess or hold a RC computer game at premeses where games are exhibited or sold. A further clause that interests me is that you can’t posess a game likely to be refused classification if you intend on publishing it.
As you can see, for the average person in states and territories excepting Western Australia, it is not illegal to posess games that have been refused classification. However, there is a customs regulation that defines games as unsuitable for people under 18 as an objectionable good that is subject to prohibition from importing. Whether digital delivery of computer games is covered by this law is currently unclear.
DISCLAIMER: This is my own research. If you have any questions or doubts about the content of this page, you should always consult your solicitor before deciding to import refused classification content.