Voluntary classification

6.92 Although the ALRC only proposes that a limited range of content must be classified, content providers may choose to have their content classified to meet market demand for classification information or perhaps to avoid direct government regulation. Films and computer games are classified voluntarily in the United States and the United Kingdom. The idea of voluntary classification was very popular in submissions to this inquiry. Some noted that content providers may have an interest in classifying their content. The Pirate Party Australia, for example, submitted that:

the voluntary frameworks already in force on various content distribution networks like the Apple App Store and YouTube already provide consumers with both 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.[73]

6.93 Content providers will be more likely to choose to meet this consumer demand for classification information if, as is proposed in Chapter 7, this content may be classified by an authorised industry classifier or a person using an authorised classification instrument.

6.94 Consumers may demand more classification information for particular types of content. For example, although the ALRC proposes that only computer games likely to be MA 15+ or higher must be classified, distributors of popular games may choose to classify lower level games, because parents and guardians value this information.

6.95 Music is another type of content for which some people call for further classification information. The ALRC suggests that the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and the Australian Music Retailers Association (AMRA) consider adapting their industry code so that it provides that music distributors, online and offline, should classify music with a strong impact using the classification categories and criteria of the National Classification Scheme. This may be music that would be likely to be classified MA 15+ or R 18+ under the National Classification Scheme, or Level 1, 2 or 3 under the existing ARIA/AMRA code. This would mean using the statutory classification markings of the National Classification Scheme, which are perhaps more widely understood and recognised by Australians than the existing ARIA/AMRA Level 1, 2 and 3 markings, and have the additional benefit of giving advice on the appropriate age of persons listening to the content. This outcome would also harmonise music classification with the classification of other classified media in Australia.

Proposal 6–8 Industry bodies should develop codes of practice that encourage providers of certain content that is not required to be classified, to classify and mark content using the categories, criteria, and markings of the National Classification Scheme. This content may include computer games likely to be classified below MA 15+ and music with explicit lyrics.

[73] Pirate Party Australia, Submission CI 1588, 15 July 2011.