Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Minister sits on mobile app censorship

Commonwealth Censorship Minister Brendan O'Connor is yet to decide on whether to make it mandatory for the Classification Board to classify mobile applications, a scheme which iPhone developer Bjango said wasn't needed and could potentially see it pull its apps out of Australia.
Classification Board director Donald McDonald told a senate estimates committee hearing last October that he wrote to O'Connor airing concerns in relation to mobile phone applications not being submitted to the Classification Board for classification.
Brendan O'Connor
Brendan O'Connor
(Credit: Australian Labor Party)
As it stands, movies and computer games are subject to ratings from the Classification Board. They are classified into categories that include G, PG and M. Games released as mobile applications on smartphone platforms — such as Apple's iPhone — bypass this process. The Classification Board's view is that all games should be classified.
"I recently wrote to the minister regarding my concern that some so-called mobile phone applications, which can be purchased online or either downloaded to mobile phones or played online via mobile phone access, are not being submitted to the board for classification," McDonald told the Senate Estimates Committee in October.
Such a process, if introduced, would classify mobile applications into categories, with the potential for some to be placed onto a "refused classification" category and banned from sale in Australia.
The Classification Board said yesterday it understood the matters its director raised at the Senate Estimates Committee in October were "being examined by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department".
A statement received from Commonwealth Censorship Minister Brendan O'Connor's office said the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department was "examining the issues raised by the director of the Classification Board about the classification of computer games distributed or playable on mobile phones".
The Attorney-General's Department would be putting the issues to government "in due course", the office said. "The department is obiviously working hard on all of those issues and will be putting issues to government in due course and I think it's not as simple as saying 'next week we will provide the following information to government which will make a decision the following week'. It's a complex issue we certainly understand and understand the issues in it."
Regardless of whether O'Connor decides to make it mandatory for mobile applications to be classified, the Classification Board said it would, upon receipt of a valid application, "classify a computer game, regardless of the platform or device for play and distribution".
Such a process comes with associated fees, which founder of iPhone development companyBjango Marc Edwards said would be costly if made mandatory.
"I can tell you right now that for our iPhone app sales, depending on the app, it's around 4 per cent or less of sales in Australia. So for some projects we just simply wouldn't bother releasing them in Australia if it meant we had to go through a timely and expensive classification process," Edwards said. He also questioned what classified as a game on the iPhone.


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