R18+ Reminder: Overseas Ratings Don't Count (And Could Get You Busted)

Over the weekend, I went games shopping, and spotted something on sale that, legally speaking, shouldn't have been there: a game that hadn't been classified in Australia, alongside others that were refused classification.

Having noticed last week that UK second-hand games (and tech) retailer CEX had set up shop in Australia, I wandered into my local store to peruse the goods, especially as some Kotaku commenters had noted how much UK stock they had. I browsed, picked up a few cheap DVDs (including Dara O'Briain's This Is The Show, with that excellent Metal Gear Solid routine) and then spotted something on the shelves that rather surprised me.

Manhunt 2 for Wii.

There's a problem there, and it's this; Manhunt 2 was never submitted for classification in Australia, which, technically speaking, makes it illegal to sell in Australia. A quick stock check from CEX's online checker reveals it's not the only title that falls under that banner; they're also selling second-hand copies of the original Manhunt, which was at first released, then banned after outcry and the most recent iteration of Mortal Kombat, which was refused classification.

I'm pretty sure that's a matter of omission rather than commission in their case, given the copy of Manhunt 2 I saw would have cost me $8. Based on the reviews at the time, that might be about ten bucks too much, but that's a digression. I asked the in-store staff about the games ratings and the stuff they had on shelf, and got a mixed response; one staff member said she'd have to refer it to her manager, while the other was sure that it was OK "because we've got an R18+ rating now".

Sadly, that's not so; not that we don't have an R18+ rating (although Queensland has been late to the game in terms of legislation), but that ratings from overseas automatically carry over to Australian ratings. Any game that wants to carry the Australian R18+ rating needs to be rated by the Australian ratings board, not an overseas one.

I've tried repeatedly to contact CEX Australia, but this too proves to be a difficult thing; there's a web form and email address (no luck as yet) but no listed phone number; the head office appears to be tied into the Rouse Hill store, but a call to the contact phone number for the shopping centre that it's located in led me to a call representative who informed me that CEX has "decided not to have a contact phone number; you'll have to make any enquiries via their web site". Naturally, if anyone from CEX is reading this, I'd love a chance to chat.

Where all this gets interesting — and by interesting, I mean rather painful — is in the potential penalties that apply. Out of interest, I spent some (rather dry) time reading over the amended legislation. It varies state by state, as we've covered before, but as an example, in the ACT — typically one of the more broad-minded locations in terms of available material, and somewhere that CEX trades — the guidelines in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Enforcement) Act 1995 state that:

38 Sale of computer game or demonstration in public place (1) A person commits an offence if— (a) the person— (i) sells a computer game; or (ii) demonstrates a computer game in a public place; and (b) the computer game is not classified. Maximum penalty: 100 penalty units, imprisonment for 1 year or both.

In New South Wales, it's similarly worded

27 Sale or public demonstration of unclassified or RC computer games prohibited A person must not sell or publicly demonstrate:

(a) a computer game classified RC, or (b) an unclassified computer game. Maximum penalty:

in the case of an unclassified computer game that is subsequently classified G, PG or M—10 penalty units for an individual, 20 penalty units for a corporation in the case of an unclassified computer game that is subsequently classified MA 15+—20 penalty units for an individual, 50 penalty units for a corporation in the case of a computer game classified RC or an unclassified computer game that is subsequently classified RC—100 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months for an individual, 250 penalty units for a corporation.

One penalty unit is worth $110 for individuals in NSW and the ACT, but corporations in the ACT cop $500 per penalty unit. That means that it could cost up to either $11,000 or a staggering $50,000 per offense, which doesn't really make selling a game for $8 all that worthwhile; again, I'm not intending to moralise here. Indeed, personally that feels a little harsh to me, but then I'm not a legislator, and I suppose it's meant to be punitive.

Technically, CEX might also be subverting the law as it relates to classification markings, as most of its current stock appears to be UK-classified, and that could confuse; again, from the ACT version of the act:

(3) A person commits an offence if— (a) the person sells a classified computer game; and (b) the container, wrapping or casing in which the computer game is sold displays a marking that suggests that the computer game is unclassified or has a different classification. Maximum penalty: 30 penalty units.

Ouch. The ACT version of the act is a little blurry about personal possession (but then I'm no lawyer), as it mixes us the terms "premises" and "personal premises" a little, but it's even theoretically feasible to hit heavy penalties for possession of RC or unclassified games, just in case you were thinking of quickly getting a copy in-store:

Possessing unclassified or RC computer games and other computer games (1) A person commits an offence if— (a) the person possesses an unclassified computer game or a computer game classified RC at any premises; and (b) classified computer games are sold or demonstrated at the premises. Maximum penalty: 100 penalty units, imprisonment for 1 year or both.

Now, that's the law as it stands in the ACT; the New South Wales Law as I read it is more concerned with possession by businesses:

37 Possession or copying of computer games for the purpose of sale or demonstration (1) A person must not possess: (a) a computer game classified RC, or (b) an unclassified computer game that would, if classified, be classified RC, with the intention of selling or demonstrating the computer game. (2) A person must not copy: (a) a computer game classified RC, or (b) an unclassified computer game, with the intention of selling or demonstrating the computer game or the copy. (3) In proceedings for an offence under this section, evidence that a person made or possessed 10 or more copies of an unclassified computer game is prima facie evidence that the person intended to sell or demonstrate the computer game. Maximum penalty: 100 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months for an individual, 250 penalty units for a corporation.

Once again; I'm not a lawyer, and if anyone with more formal training cares to comment, I'm all ears; this is how I'm interpreting it as a matter of interest — especially if possession of an RC game could cost you $11,000!

What's the practical uptake, though? It's very clear that personal importation (whether digitally, via overseas stores or simply brought back in within your luggage) of RC games material happens an awful lot in Australia, and anecdotally it appears that at an individual level it usually appears to end up with the offending items confiscated and a warning applied. That doesn't mean, however, that you'd never be prosecuted — simply that it hasn't happened as yet.


Comments

    Aside from Western Australia and ACT it is not illegal to personally own Refused Classification goods unless it falls under another crimes act such as child pornography.

    In WA however yes, it is illegal to have an RC title in your house.

    Where the majority of crimes are commited with refused classification games by consumers is the Customs Act. Currently an RC game is seen as a prohibited item just like guns and knuckle dusters for example. With R18 in place that remains the case however less games *should* in theory be RC'd. We have to wait on that one though.

    The majority of the refused classification punishments is for retailers not consumers.

    HOWEVER, if someone visits your home and you play that RC game in front of them, you are demonstrating the game and thus have broken the law.

    Not illegal to have, is illegal to show others. It's a very grey law and one reason why national conformity on these laws should be a high priority. Better yet, get rid of the joke seperation of powers for classification and just have it federally, as it should be. The federal government should completely control classification so that people have a clear view as to the law and consistency of those laws.

      It's seriously murky, rabbit hole stuff -- and, as you say a very grey and as-yet-untested area. I don't envy whoever ends up being the personal example of an individual prosecuted for personal use, if it ever came to that.

      Yes but Chocy is is illegal to import Refused Classification goods, therefore yes it is illegal to own Refused Classification goods

        You seem to be missing the point. Literally, it is illegal to import, but not illegal to own. Consequently, if you get it through customs without being caught (once its through an importation charge becomes very difficult, as you could just say you found it), you don't have to worry about being charged later.

          I wouldn't be 100% certain about that -- but is is, as noted, a totally untested area of law. May depend on what you say if (in the unlikely event) you were busted. If you, for example, said you'd bought it from an OS site or brought it in yourself, or if there was a provable trail of the same.

          I suspect the practical reality is that if it came to it on a personal level, the smart thing to do would be to hand over the contraband game for destruction post-haste. It's my understanding that this is what happens in most cases if customs picks it in transit. Any of our regular O/S Kotaku buyers had that happen to them?

            Wouldn't it be extremely easy to identify the importation of these games.

            Police: The Hut, could you please provide me with details of all Australian purchases of MK. Thank you.

            Done.

              The Hut to Australian Police: "Get F#$&^d you have no jurisdiction here!"

            If you had a receipt from a local retailer for the product, I'd pretty much say that would devoid you of any liability or confusion around importation.

              Wouldn't most of the importers bought from The Hut or the other UK based game exporters?

              Another thing to consider is MK being available on US PSN accounts. Is that importing? Maybe not.

                I wonder about buying it on the US store.

        if you didn't import the game over the border yourself and purchased from CEX for example outside of WA, you are home free and have NOT broken the law. The Customs Act covers importing the game. You buy it within australia via ebay or cex for example, no law is broken.

        Major loophole.

      awesome! so good ol me here in west oz is committing numerous crimes by smoking green while playing manhunt, with a mate!! guess ill just go do burnouts instead...

        I hear excessive alcohol consumption and damage to public property are all the rage these days.

      You are not 100% correct. You are right in saying it's illegal in WA completely, it's partly true in other states. You have to abide by each states personal laws for RC games. For example, some states require you to be 18 to own an RC game, while other states require you to be 21. Some states won't allow you to own an RC game IF you live with someone who is under 18.

      Lolololololol! Playing a game in a private residence is not legally demonstrating if there is no intent to trade the goods. Also possessing said unrated items is not illegal but obtaining them is!

    Good on them! I honestly hope more retails would do them same.

    I appreciate this is more than likely just a administrative screw up, rather than some kind of political statement, but I really wish Australian retails would stand up to this ridiculous regime we have in here.

      Honestly, I doubt very many people would even notice. I mean, R18 is a thing now. The only people who would actually notice that it's not our classification are people who generally browse and purchase games (and/or movies).

      I still think, even with R18, the entire classification system is stupid. It shouldn't be possible for someone else to tell me, I, a twenty-four year old, hard working, tax paying, semi-law-abiding citizen, can't play something because they think it's unhealthy for me. Quite honestly, I am capable of deciding if something crosses a boundary, and would like to make that distinction for myself. -.-

      [Edit] Don't get me wrong. I understand the need for it. But it's needlessly complicated. "Suitiable for kids.", "Suitable for Teenagers" and "Keep it to Adults" is really all we need. From there, it's just a matter of deciding what constitutes each category. Under no circumstances should it not be allowed in unless it actually breaks a law. (For example: A game consisting of graphic implications (perhaps even minor implications? -- I don't know, probably all implications for this particular example) of raping a child probably shouldn't be produced, let alone sold.)

      Last edited 07/01/13 11:43 am

    Darn, if only they had a store in meloburne.

    Where was this sale?

    I recently had a customer tell me a story about how he got busted importing Silent Hill: Homecoming into Australia while it was banned. Apparently he got called into a meeting with customs and given a stern talking to.

      Really? Normally they just confiscate the item and send a letter warning that you can be fined or serve time in prison, though some people had claimed they had been fined on a first-offence. When I heard this I actually contacted customs to get some further information and they were unable to confirm that this happened, but it was possible if it was a severe infraction (i.e.: they had attempted to import a high volume which suggested they were reselling).

      Being pulled in for a talking to seems like a pretty bizarre and overly involved action.

    (By way of introduction: I'm a Queensland based lawyer.)

    I note that many of the above posts are confusing the illegality of one act with another. To put it another way, the personal possession of RC material is not illegal (except, as I understand, in WA, areas of the NT and perhaps the ACT) but a consequence of the material being RC means you need to consider the effect of the Customs Regulations and other pieces of legislation. There are consequences under other laws that flow from material being classified as RC.

      exactly my point :)
      Illegal to bring over the border for ANY state and thus dealt with via customs act

      once its in the country if you buy it and own it except in WA, NT and ACT, not illegal.

        The Intervention parts of NT :)

        and "perhaps the ACT". Unless you know the truth of that. :)

    Why the hell would you dob them in like this? Its been happening in any store that sells preowned games. EB, Gametraders, GAME (when it existed). Its an easy way for people to obtain banned games and circumvent our stupid classification laws.

    Why some nosy journalist from Kotaku would draw attention to this is beyond me. Duh of course overseas ratings dont count, duh its illegal to sell unclassifies and RC games.

    All this is nothing knew. I have purchased banned games from overseas and locally many times over the years. For a gaming websits opposed to censorship, posting an article like this is just down right stupid. Did you also know that X18+ material is sold openly in all states in just about every adult store in the country, too?

    Customs and the police have better things to do than bust a store for selling a few RC games or a few individuals importing a banned game or too. Ever done it yourself? I have, many times. Never been busted.

    Oh and FYI, its not illegal to own RC and unclassified games in all but one state and one territory.

    Yet another article displaying the piss poor journalism on Kotaku. Well done.

      If "Customs and the police have better things to do than bust a store for selling a few RC games", then what are you so worried about?

      You are, as always, entitled to your opinion, but just because you don't like it doesn't automatically make it "piss poor" journalism.

      If it soothes your nerves any, I might point out that I've both tried to contact them, made comment on it to the store staff, and haven't identified the store by location, but then, the error isn't mine, it's theirs. I'm in no way advocating for the law as it stands (you did read the bit about "personally that feels a little harsh to me", didn't you?), but reporting on the potential consequences.

      I was actually thinking along the same lines while reading this.....

      Selling out and explicitly naming a company, over something which is so obviously an administrative oversight.
      All for the sake of a sensationalist article to make it sound like you have uncovered some big black market games conspiracy.

      This is just comes across as really cheap journalism, and is selling out an industry which this site supposedly holds dear.

        We may have to agree to disagree; when I spotted the game in question I was a little surprised, and pondered on the story potential. Cheap, to my way of thinking, would be headlines to the effect of "CEX Is Selling Banned Games" and a story to follow; instead, what I've done is used it to illustrate the law as it stands, rather than choosing to, say, condemn them. Do you see?

          I guess "cheap journalism" was not a fair call, so I apologise for that.

          I am more uncomfortable with the way CEX was right-away named. I know you contacted them about it, but I feel they should have a right to be made aware of this issue before their name is published. I would much prefer to have seen a "once aware of their oversight, CEX removed said items from store shelves pending review" sort of line. At least give them a chance to have some input.

          I know you made your opinion clear that you think the law is over-reaching in this circumstance, but now the whole public [regardless of which side of the law they are on] is now aware of CEX and this issue.

            He did mention he sent them emails and tried to contact them every way he could and got nothing but evasive answers or no responses. He gave them plenty of chances and they declined to take it.

              I'm sorry, but he saw this on the weekend, and this article was posted at 10.45am on a Monday morning.....

              An hour and 45 minutes is hardly giving their corporate body adequate time to respond. The article was posted with a "well I contacted them so we will see what they say" tone, rather than one which grants CEX the courtesy of withholding the article for a fair amount of time.

            They not only had a right to know about the issue, they have an obligation. It's not Alex's fault that they've been performing business like a bunch of idiots.

            Personally I applaud Alex for mentioning their name. I knew it was CEX right away, what with the comments in another thread a couple of days back, and to hide their details to me would be anti-journalistic.

            It's not about naming and shaming needlessly, it's about questioning why a company (and remember not a small entity by any means) is happily going about business in an illegal fashion. We shouldn't be turning a blind eye, and journalists most definitely shouldn't - but most do, which is detrimental to us all. Alex is not Spartacus, but he is being principled.

              I agree that journalistic integrity is important and I will always defend people asking the hard questions.

              But being principled isn't publishing details without giving them a chance to either a) have *some* sort of input on the issue their name is being attached to, and b) the chance to fix what is so clearly an oversight.

              The fact that this article was rushed out the door before acknowledgement from the parties involved speaks volumes about current issues in journalism, whereby there is such a short turnaround cycle for articles [quantity over quality], that they can only budget less than two business hours for a response.

              What do you think this is? A global multinational conspiracy to sell contraband games? .... for $8 a pop? ..... in a retail outlet?

                OK, we're probably going to have to disagree.

                Alex did contact them, and thereby gave them a chance to respond. My guess is he did this for journalistic purposes - journalistic courtesy and a story with 2 halves would be better than a story with one. But to be clear, he DID do this. Unless he's a liar. But we know that journalists don't lie so that can't possibly be the case.

                Why are we dismissing their illegal practices as an oversight? If I speed 20 km/h over the speed limit will I be able to defend my actions to the nice Mr police officer by simply informing them that my error was an oversight? I'm pretty sure that won't work out in my favour.

                In my opinion, if CEX were a mom and pop store that had recently entered a new industry and were in the process of finding their feet then leniancy would be justified - from the law, from consumers, from journalists. But CEX are NOT a mom and pop store. They OUGHT to know better, and to act better. THEY ARE LEGALLY OBLIGED TO. By failing to abide by the law THEY ARE LETTING THEMSELVES DOWN.

                The upshot is that nothing legal is likely to occur. Someone from CEX with a half a brain will read this article and suddenly realise, you know what we probably shouldn't be breaking the law just to make $2 profit off these games. We should probably go to the massive and extensive trouble of reaching up and taking these items off the shelf.

                Problem solved. Issue dissolved.

                In effect, they WILL get away with it, as long as they're not totally stupid enough to continue the practice. Surely they can't be that dumb. I guess we'll see.

                Unfortunately, the other transgressions that are rife within gaming retail WILL continue until and unless the issues are addresses en masse, and ideally by gaming journalists that will adequately investigate such issues and not be "afraid" to report on them in an honest manner.

                Take Gamespots articles on the cost of Australian games compared to overseas games. They ask the distributors about the costs, the distributors say Australia has more transport costs, and then that's it. The journalists don't choose to question the distributors responses, and pick out the obvious holes in the answers provided to them. They just report in a verbatim and pointless fashion.

                I don't think Alex is about to win any awards for this article but he has done seen an issue, investigated it, confirmed that it is an issue which ought not be occuring, and then used his journalistic position (his job) to report it and leave it open for discussion. He's done the right thing. It's not an amazing thing, but unfortunately it's far too rare.

                "What do you think this is? A global multinational conspiracy to sell contraband games? .... for $8 a pop? ..... in a retail outlet?"

                No. I think it is the irresponsible actions of an established business that really ought to be serving their consumers far far better. I think by making the mesely amount of profit that they have they've shamed themselves and made themselves to look dreadfully amateur. They ought to feel embarrased by their actions. They ought to be put in the position that they are embarrased for their actions.

                And the same with the other retailers that break the law in the manner in which they do.

                Consumers deserve better.

                  "Take Gamespots articles on the cost of Australian games compared to overseas games. They ask the distributors about the costs, the distributors say Australia has more transport costs, and then that's it. The journalists don't choose to question the distributors responses, and pick out the obvious holes in the answers provided to them. They just report in a verbatim and pointless fashion."

                  Journalists CONSTANTLY ask publishers and distributors those questions and they CONTINUALLY stonewall them. On Kotaku alone, Serrels asked a slew of pubs about why their digital distribution margins are high and not a single one replied. This is the case for every single other outlet.

                The issue of when to publish in online (or print) journalism is always an interesting one, albeit perhaps a sideline to the story here. But to give it some small context in terms of right of reply, I noticed the games on Saturday (around 1:25 or so, according to the receipt for the stuff I did buy). Mentioned it to the staff (including suggesting they might want to pull stuff from shelves; they didn't, but then I guess it's not their call anyway) at the time, then contacted CEX as best I could on the day while writing. Could have published then or on Sunday, but held off. CEX doesn't make it easy to contact them; the whole company has a single inbox (it must be hell in there). Story was written and ready to go, and at 9am I started phoning around to find somebody; the best I could manage was the Rouse Hill Centre staff, who gave me the quote above about them not having a phone contact number. Tried also to leave a comment via the Au web form... but it's broken. I've now left a request for comment via the UK site, where the form appears not to be broken. Still, that's 2.5 trading days (they're open both days) to respond across two continents. Not entirely "rushed to print".

                  If the staff have any smarts, and it sounds like the ones you dealt with don't, then they would remove the items from the shelves even without authorisation to do so. And why? Because to leave them on the shelves is lunacy.

                  @syvergy (can't hit reply to his comment directly)

                  My point about the Gamestop articles is that they simply accept and report on whatever is given to them. They don't even present the holes in the responses of the distributors etc. They just feed the reader the stock responses handed to them in the stone-walling process.

                  In my mind that's weak journalism and to shrug shoulders and blame the distributors for stone-walling strikes me as weak. Sure, the stonewalling is a problem - but the journalist doesn't just have to accept it - they can respond to it, highlight it, call it out etc etc. That's why I appreciate this article. Alex has gotten off his arse and done some investigation, even if it was well within his comfort zone of visiting a local game store.

                  Last edited 07/01/13 5:09 pm

          I don't think this is poor journalism (just the opposite), but I do think that you've done a dirty on people on your own side of the debate. You've basically exposed a company who have seemingly inadvertently broken a set of laws that you don't even agree with and (successfully) pushed to be changed.

          I don't see why it's acceptable to dismiss the issue as an administrative oversight. They've sold illegal games. They shouldn't be doing that. They're not a mom and pop store, they're an international multi outlet business that perhaps has a multi million dollar turnover. They should have their crap together (not sure if we're allowed to say shit - it is very non-sweary on this site).

          I have to say that this story has been very well written and is quite informative and aside from that, my gf had bought me a copy of Mortal Kombat from CEX (not gonna mention which store, but a number of NSW stores had copies, maybe some still do).

          Great game, but a bit shady on CEX's behalf and this really has nothing to do with mindless finger-pointing. CEX are outright selling RC games.

          Not only was the MK game bought for me on the shelf, but also the staff member who sold it to my gf had said, 'Oh! where did you find this?', 'On the shelf with the other xbox games', 'I should talk to my manager before selling this' .....and lets just say obviously I have a copy and there was no holding back beyond that from the staff member on the sale.

        Just because we love video games doesn't meant it's wrong to point out when mistakes are made, because the actions of CEX may be detrimental to the industry (and the mainstream view of gaming) as a whole.

        Would you prefer that kotaku AU posted nothing but pro-gaming propoganda?

    I knew of someone from a public gaming forum many years ago who personally imported (purchased from an online o/s webstore) a copy of 'Silent Hill: Homecoming' (US version). The item was held at customs in Sydney, the purchased was fined AU$1000 (who happens to reside in WA).

    Even bought another copy from another online store within Australia...
    I've personally bought 4 copies of Mortal Kombat from a number of o/s online stores, all have successfully been delivered to me and others, just as well none were destined for WA or ACT. :P

    I think you're mixing up words a little bit there Alex. In regards to the ACT law:

    Possessing unclassified or RC computer games and
    other computer games
    (1) A person commits an offence if—
    (a) the person possesses an unclassified computer game or a
    computer game classified RC at any premises; and
    (b) classified computer games are sold or demonstrated at the
    premises.

    I've bolded the important word in that quote: the word "and". For you to be prosecuted for owning an RC game, you must be selling it or having it out on display. If you are not doing those things, and are just playing it privately at home, they can't do squat to you.

    And yeah the NSW law says right at the top:

    37 Possession or copying of computer games for the purpose of sale or demonstration

    I imagine there would be a separate section dealing with personal ownership of RC material.

    Last edited 07/01/13 11:58 am

      Not sure about the ACT law (not a lawyer etc); what if (as others have posited) you demonstrate the game to others? As noted, the NSW law seems to be more direct.

      Where there is more scope for private prosecution, it seems, is if you demonstrate a game to minors, but that's a whole different bit of the law.

        As I said playing it privately at home, they can't do anything. Putting it up on display would be crossing the line. But where exactly that line is drawn between those things is the question...eg is it okay to show to other adults but not to minors?

        Not that I care as I live in NSW, and the NSW law is a bit more black and white.

        In NSW and QLD you are not prevented from privately demonstrating (which, includes playing) RC computer games. That means, at least in those States, that having your adult friends around for a game of Manhunt is fine.

        However, the respective Acts also variously state that you must not do so in front of minors.

    JB (or at least the one I was in) pays attention to this kind of thing. I was in one the other day (Queensland) and a guy was trying to trade in a couple of games but was refused on one of them because it didn't have an Australian rating displayed on the front, with the employee explaining it was illegal for them to sell it. What's interesting though is that I've actually picked up games before that show Australian ratings on the front, but have UK ratings on the disc itself.

    Last edited 07/01/13 12:12 pm

    @whitepointer

    Because articles like this draw attention to the situation - before you know it, it'll end up on ACA & then as always, the religious lunatics start yapping at the government to do something to save the children from the evils of a few RC video games.

    ....Suddenly Customs & the Cops START giving a crap. Then the easy way of obtaining banned games ends.

    I have every RC game from the last two generations, except Risen. Funny, I've never been fined or had my door kicked in. This article is pure hyperbole, written by someone without a clue as to how common said practice is.

    Buy an RC game, don't try to sell it and you won't have anything to worry about it. Simple. People who say they have had their games confiscated are either talking crap or are VERY unlucky.

      "This article is pure hyperbole, written by someone without a clue as to how common said practice is."

      Hmm. From the article:
      "It’s very clear that personal importation (whether digitally, via overseas stores or simply brought back in within your luggage) of RC games material happens an awful lot in Australia."

      Yeah, clearly I don't have a clue.

      " People who say they have had their games confiscated are either talking crap or are VERY unlucky."

      So which is it? Because if it's the latter, it's not hyperbole, either. Others have reported it happens, ergo... it happens.

      I have to say, one of the things I think that marks Kotaku out is the general civility of discussion; I'm more than happy to debate the merits of the law (which I think, as stated in the article, are too severe) in a reasonable fashion, but the personal attack stuff? Leave the toys in the pram.

        Yes i've noticed that about the general civility of discussions. On other sites I tend to get personally attacked, react to it, and then get banned. Hasn't happened yet here. Which is nice.

    I think you were wrong about Queensland Alex - wasn't there an earlier article that stated that, under Commonwealth law, that Queensland actually did have an R rating and games could be sold in the state, but thanks to a lack of State Legislation meant there were no rules for placement or penalties for mis-sale? I'm pretty sure this was also confirmed by the QLD Justice dept in the article too.

      Yep; linked to in the article: http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/11/queensland-set-to-miss-r18-deadline/

        Sorry, what I was saying is that you noted, on that link, that Queensland doesn't have a rating when it actually DOES, it just doesn't have a set of penalties attached to it. It could be misconstrued that in fact Queensland isn't allowed to to sell R18+ games when it can.

        I know it's semantics but I thought I'd just point it out :)

          Ah, right, Gotcha. And indeed, my original text wasn't clear, so I've amended that; Queensland doesn't formally have R18+ legislation, making it different to the rest of Australia. For now.

            it actually does have legislation that deals with R18 alex it just happens to be that legislation says if federal gvt gives a game R18+, the game is banned in QLD. This is why R18 games would be banned in QLD and not able to be sold by anyone (which would have been the case in other states who's law did not specifically state R18 = RC like QLD does).

              Not sure you're on the money there -- Queensland has specifically delayed its own R18+ legislation pending the report from a committee that won't meet until after the January 1st deadline (which has, by now, passed). It appears (again, not a lawyer, although one I did contact for comment called it a "quagmire") to be a bit of a legal black hole as to what an Australian R18+ rated game would actually mean in Queensland. It could well have the legislation before the first game is rated R18+ anyway.

                Classification of Computer Games and Images 1995 (QLD)

                Section 4 1A)e)

                "If a computer game is a film for the Commonwealth Act and
                is classified under the Commonwealth Act, its classification
                for this Act is—"

                "or a computer game that, under the Commonwealth
                Act, is a film classified R 18+, X 18+ or RC—RC."

                so yep, if its classified R18 by the Federal Government, it automatically becomes RC in QLD. This was added in 2009.

                  http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/legisltn/current/c/classcomgama95.pdf

                  That section would be nullified since the Commonwealth Act has been amended to include R18+, thus making this section incredibly difficult to enforce.

                  for some reason i can't respond to syvergy's post but no it has not been negated. That section clearly says if the federal government, under the COB gives a game R18+ in Queensland it is considered refused classification.

                  The federal government under the seperation of powers cannot over-ride state classification laws. This is why they all have to pass R18 individually.

    Just a tip for the future: if a journalist calls up a lawyer and asks for a simple legal opinion on something like this they're usually more than happy to be quoted for free.

    FYI its common practice for games to have the UK rating underneath a sticker of an Australian rating. Its also common for UK ratings to be displayed on the disc itself with or without an AU rating.

    Its been happening since console games were on cartridges.

      I have plenty of games that have the PEGI18 rating on the disc or cover art. The difference is, those games are still rated appropriately for sale in Australia. Manhunt and Manhunt 2 have not been so rated.

      Last edited 07/01/13 12:55 pm

    @darkzombie777

    ....Suddenly Customs & the Cops START giving a crap. Then the easy way of obtaining banned games ends.

    I don't see a problem here. Should RC'd/banned games be easy to get a hold of? It should be the exact opposite. That is after all why they were RC'd/banned in in the first place.

    I've imported RC'd games in the past (notably the most recent Mortal Kombat game) so I'm not speaking from any kind of moral high ground here, just common sense. Would it suck if they were harder to obtain? Sure, it would suck. That doesn't mean you wouldn't be able to obtain them though.

    I also think you're overestimating shows like ACA. Barely anything happens as a direct result of those shows, they are just after the shock stories for the ratings, the stuff that makes the average Australian prime time TV watcher say "hmm, that's bad" for 10 minutes and then forget about. Most of the time if something does happen there was already a police investigation or something going on. At any rate, if you think customs have better things to do than looking out for RC'd games, then ACA have better things to do too. They are too busy running stories about little old ladies being upset about being asked to change rooms in their club to play bingo in than something like this.

    I know it's satire but The Chaser's War on Everything perfectly demonstrates just how ridiculous and irrelevant those current affairs shows are.

    Last edited 07/01/13 12:28 pm

    I've been reading game websites and forums a lot for the last 5 years perhaps, and this is the first piece of investigative journalism i've ever read. For that, well done Alex. Don't get me wrong, you didn't do much more than go down to your local games store, but you found an issue (which your readers had previously raised) and you did something about it. You wrote an article discussing this issue. I don't think you've done anything particularly challenging but I do applaud you for it and I am quite sure that your actions are a rareity in gaming journalism. You should be proud.

    It seems to me you're absolutely right, that CEX have been braking the law by selling unclassified games. You caught them out. Others caught them out too, but, in the good Australian way, did nothing about it.

    And can I say, and I don't wish to skew the discussion overly, but this incident, of CEX casually breaking the law like this and the staff not really paying any attention to the issue at hand, does not sound unusual to me at all. There seems to be an arrogance within Australian gaming retail - both online and bricks and mortar.

    Why do the retailers think it's ok to advertise a Region 4 game and send out a Region 2 game - which has less resale and trade in value, and spoils it for all the collectors out there. Why? Is it arrogance? Is it plain old ignorance? Is it that they simply don't respect consumers.

    Same with this CEX issue. Why do they think that they can get away with this? Is is arrogance, ignorance or a lack of respect for consumers and the law.

    Whatever the reason I personally think that more journalists and consumers should act like Alex has in this case and do something about it. If you see the wrong thing being done, report it. If you buy a game from EB and discover that it's a Region 2 game with a classification sticker slapped on it and they did not make this clear to you at the point of purchase, complain. If you buy a game online and the image of the game shows an Australian classification symbol but you receive something entirely different - call the Department of Fair Trading.

    One thing's for sure, if no one does or say anything about these transgressions nothing will ever happen and consumers (and the law) will continue to be disrespected.

    To have a game taken off you by customs at the airport is rare. I was stopped at Brisbane Airport on a routine check a few years back now. I had purchased a RC game overseas (HK), the customs official looked at it and said jokingly "You don't have a bag full of these do you?" I guess he was implying I was not going to onsell my imaginary stockpile of RC games. He put the game back in my luggage and I was told to have a great day.

    I guess some people are unlucky to have their overseas purchases taken off them.

    “decided not to have a contact phone number; you’ll have to make any enquiries via their web site”
    I don’t deal with internet sites that have this view; and I know it is a common guideline given to all online shoppers.
    I can’t imagine how a bricks and mortar retailer has a desire to create this type of public appearance.

    On a side note, while Kotaku has an immense amount of poor journalism, with next to know fact checking (constant articles shot down with a 10 second Google search), this is not one of them.
    Good work Alex, I expect there to be a follow up article as I can’t possibly see how CEX can not react to this.
    This is plain idiocy on there behalf, and any other retailer that wishes to sell RC content in one way or another.
    This is not a business built around a common sense understanding that the real laws will not be enforced (ie every adult shop selling X rated material not located in NT or ACT), but just plain idiocy.
    As you say, how much profit could they possibly be making from these select low dollar RC items. Not nearly enough to justify the lowest possible fine

    The real sad part is, that this does nothing but PROVE why we couldn't have an R rating before and proves Micheal Atkinson right. The retailers don't fully understand the law and what they can or can't sell, meaning we might get some idiot parents demanding the rating be revoked since retailers are "too stupid to follow the law and will sell Mortal Kombat to 5 year old girls".

      Yep. It's not a small issue. To say it's a small issue is to dismiss the Australian classification system in its entirety. It's a smack in the face for them. They (the Australian classification system) ought to do something about it. But they won't. CEX will read this, one of them will raise the issue or have the brains to remove the offending items themselves. The Australian classification system / organisation will have been to slow to react and the whole issue will disappear.

      If EB were smart, they'd go down and buy some illegal games and record details concerning the transaction.

      Last edited 07/01/13 1:46 pm

    RC is BS. I've always thought so. As an adult I get to decide what is suitable for my viewing. So i've always imported RC games that I thought I would enjoy. Manhunt on PS2 and Manhunt 2 on Wii; great games IMO. Tasteless, yes, but not immoral or anything we havent seen before. In fact Manhunt 2 I always thought was less violent than the first game, mainly because it followed a narrative. The first game did too, but it was more of an afterthought.

      It's just a law. Who really cares, right?

    I'm from WA, and have a copy of Mortal Kombat 9 , L4D2 (Non-censored version) and The Witcher 2 (non-Censored) that were all RC, and got them in no hassles at all *shrugs*
    Come at me customs.

    Good to see they are wasting their time on stuff like this, instead of focusing on the real RC material that gets through, like child porn.

      This is always an idiotic argument, why use resources to enforce one law, when there is a more “important” law that should be enforced.
      I would hope no one is going to argue that RC games are more important issue than child porn, but that is not the point.
      Where do you decide the cut off point for law enforcement is? Have you made a list after much consideration that there are a specific set of laws that can effectively be ignored and not enforced, because your other list has all of the laws that should be enforced?

      The classic cases of people complaining to cops for being pulled over for speeding when they should be out stopping real crimes.
      So all speeding is now fine to ignore as it is not a real crime, or only those that do more than double the speed limit?

      Are you saying that child porn is the only visual based media content that is worth enforcing?
      So we are fine for all adult rape videos?

      What's in the non-censored version of the Witcher 2? I got my copy from OzGameShop

        There's one edit where Geralt is offered sex as a reward. you can accept or decline.

        In the edit, Geralt automatically declines. Sex as a reward is prohibited under the guidelines for MA15+ - but would have been permitted under R18+.

    So would i be in trouble living in WA and owning a copy of Manhunt for the PS2 i picked it up before it was banned here. i know i cannot take it to EB or anything like that but what should i do with it?

    What most of you are forgetting is that having a legally bound classification system for media is based purely upon the *assumption* that it has some sort of negatove influence on our brains. Yet, where is the proof? When has the government produced a single piece of objective scientifically backed information to justify such arbitrary laws?

    Never. it is, in reality, based upon the subjective moral standards of politicians who hide behind the also subjective idea of "community standards".

    No one is forced to consume any type of media, yet here we have an absolutely meaningless censorship system, which is in fact, designed & applied by less than 1% of the population.

    I have absolutely no respect for our legally enforceable censorship system. Why should this new R rating even matter when STILL, content other than child porn, can be banned? Adults are and will continue to have decisions made for them by faceless public servants. As far as I'm concerned the government can shove their morality measuring media system up their collective asses.

      "which is in fact, designed & applied by less than 1% of the population." "Anyone can make up statistics Kent, forfty percent of people know that." Good to see you using scientifically based statistics to justify your point.
      Further, you implied child porn is the only thing that should be able to be banned and that politicians 'hide' behind subjective moral standards... I'm pretty sure subjective moral standards are the basis for our democratic law system (not that this moral standard is always represented perfectly, how could it be?). Since when is child porn the one thing that we voted is the single form of visual media that is unacceptable?
      Lets just not push this issue back to whether or not ratings systems are useful . We just spent the last decade trying to modify it to keep up with social standard, not abolish it all together.
      If you are an adult you have full access to more games now than you did before. I don't see the reason for your outrage

    From my reading of the Western Australian Classification Enforcement Act, it looks like it may be legal to sell Manhunt 2:

    84. (1) A person must not sell or demonstrate — (a) an unclassified computer game that would, if classified, be classified RC; or (b) a computer game classified RC. Penalty: $15 000 or imprisonment for 18 months.

    Since the game has not been classified, the question is instead whether it would be RC if classified now. If the game fits into the new R18+ category, then you wouldn't be breaking the law.

      And just following up to myself, if an unclassified game like Manhunt 2 was deemed legal to sell under this reasoning, then it would also be legal to possess in WA since section 89(1) uses the same "would, if classified, be classified RC" language.

        (again, not a lawyer, but) I'd be genuinely surprised if WA law, which (if other interpretations are correct) makes possession of RC material illegal didn't also have clauses to cover material which has never been classified. Your scenario wouldn't apply unless Rockstar decided to submit Manhunt 2 for classification... which, at this point in time, seems unlikely. There are (to my understanding) costs associated with seeking classification, and I can't see them bothering for an older title (the same may well be true of Mortal Kombat, for whatever that's worth).

          It does have penalties for possessing an unclassified computer game if that game would be classified RC. Here's the text of the legislation:

          http://www.slp.wa.gov.au/pco/prod/FileStore.nsf/Documents/MRDocument:24489H/$FILE/ClasPubnsFilmsAndCompGamesEnfrctAct1996-03-c0-00.html?OpenElement

          Section 89 covers the possession penalties, in particular:

          (1) A person must not possess or copy — (a) an unclassified computer game that would, if classified, be classified RC; or (b) a computer game classified RC. Penalty: $10 000.

          So a game classified RC under the old rules is illegal, while an unclassified game that would fit into a lower category under the current rules would be legal. This does appear to be different to the NSW/ACT laws you quoted.

          Last edited 07/01/13 5:30 pm

      If you're right, then this is all a fuss over nothing, and we can welcome CEX back into the fold. And look scornfully towards the troublesome Alex.

      But, Sony still won't give us MK via PSN, and I'll hazard a guess that they've used a lawyer once or twice.

    Dude... just buy the game before some idiot goes to far and has it removed. get it while you can.

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