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Federal government introduces new legislation that will allow mobile phone and online games to be released legally without classification for the next two years.

The requirement for all mobile and online games to be classified in Australia could soon be temporarily abandoned under new legislation being introduced by the federal government.

The government has proposed an amendment to the classification (publications, films, and computer games) legislation to include an interim measure that will allow mobile and online games to be released in Australia without classification for the next two years.

The Classification (Publications, Films, and Computer Games) Amendment (Mobile and Online Computer Games) Bill was introduced in parliament today by Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor, in response to the government’s ongoing review of the national classification scheme, which is currently being conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission.

O’Connor told parliament the bill is a way of dealing with the increasing number of mobile and online games released and will provide clarity for both the local games industry and the community about the regulation of mobile and online games.

Industry bodies will still be able to submit mobile and online games to the Classification Board of Australia for classification but will not commit an offence if they do not. Previously, according to the unamended Classification (Publications, Films, and Computer Games) Act, all video games released in Australia required a classification. The act did not make any distinction among console, mobile, and online games.

“The current classification system never envisaged the technology powering smart phones, let alone the rapid development of online games or mobile phone apps,” O’Connor said in a press statement.

“However, the current definition of computer games under the act covers online games and applications. The federal government is changing the treatment of computer games so that they are treated like other online content, and these changes will allow most mobile phone and online games to be supplied without classification for the next two years, while retaining safeguards to protect children from computer games that are of concern.”

The exemption will not apply to computer games likely to be refused classification (RC), and existing commonwealth, state, and territory offences will continue to apply to these games. According to O’Connor’s office, the director of the Classification Board will retain the power to call in a computer game if it is likely to be classified M or above, and the Australian Communication and Media Authority will still investigate potential prohibited online content.

The bill is currently before parliament. According to O’Connor’s office, “the legislation is unlikely to pass this year.”