Germany has the world’s strictest statutory rules for the classification and sale of computer games on image media (e.g. DVDs, Blu-ray, game modules) to minors.
The legal basis for these rules is the German Youth Protection Act (JuSchG), which also governs the age rating of movies presented in movie theatres and distributed on optical storage media intended for public access. If the intention is to make computer games stored on optical media publicly available to minors, such media must be approved for the relevant age category pursuant to Art. 12 Paragraph 1 JuSchG.
This means that such media may not be sold or supplied or presented on screens without an age rating symbol. Since 2003, there has been a requirement for every computer or console game made publicly accessible to minors to be submitted to a legally binding age classification process.
The German Youth Protection Act (JuSchG) is a Federal Act which transfers to the Federal States the task of classifying games intended to be supplied to young persons aged under 18 before such games are released. The age rating of computer games is a task for the Ministries of the Federal States with jurisdiction over young persons’ affairs. The Federal States have agreed that the relevant Ministry of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia will act as the lead ministry for all Federal State Ministries in assuming responsibility for age rating. The State of North Rhine-Westphalia provides staff for this purpose. These members of staff are directly involved in every classification procedure in their capacity as Representatives of the Supreme Youth Protection Authorities of the Federal States (OLJB).
Age classifications are always issued by one of these Representatives of the OLJB. In legal terms, these decisions represent a sovereign act of administration against which legal redress may be sought.
The classification of games takes place in accordance with a nationally standardised classification procedure involving the OLJB and the Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK), an organisation which has been voluntarily established by the computer games industry.