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Video Gaming: new regulations on age rating systems in Italy

by Giacomo Lusardi and Alessandro Ferrari

The Italian Communication Authority (AGCOM) recently adopted a regulation on the age rating of audiovisual works on the internet and videogames (the “Regulation“).

The new rating system aims at ensuring the right balance between the protection of minors on the one hand, and the freedom of expression and art on the other hand. The Regulation was drafted in compliance with international standards and best practices, such as the most widespread rating systems, among which the PEGI (Pan European Game Information) that is accepted in most European countries.

In this article we focus on the new videogame age rating system.

First of all, the Regulation provides that videogames may not be made available on networks or electronic communications services without complying with the new rating system, which is based on two main criteria: age group and thematic descriptors.

As for the age group criterion, the Regulation provides for six different age groups (suitable for all age groups; 4-6 years old and over; 7 years old and over; 12 years old and over; 16 years old and over; 18 years old and over), unlike the PEGI rating system that only provides for five age groups (3 years old and over; 7 years old and over; 12 years old and over; 16 years old and over; 18 years old and over). The AGCOM justified the further 4-6 years old age group on grounds of the peculiar attractive force that videogames have on children in terms of engagement and direct involvement. Each age group is paired to a specific circular pictogram distinguishing all the age groups through different colours.

The thematic descriptors require videogames to be identified according to their content, that has to be depicted by means of the following pictograms:

– foul language > a comic containing the symbols “@*!”;

– discrimination and hate speech > picture of three human figures where the one in the centre is smaller in size and darker in colour;

– drugs > picture of a syringe in an oblique position, ready to be used;

– fear (children could get scared by the videogame) > silhouette of a spider;

– gambling > picture of two dice;

– sex > picture of the male and female chromosomes, one jointed to the other;

– violence > picture of a fist on the background of a broken line;

– purchases in the game > picture of a hand making a payment by credit card.

Pursuant to the Regulation, pictograms related to age groups and thematic descriptors are to be displayed on hard copies and digital copies of the videogames, as well as in the context of their online promotion and selling.

Within ninety days from the publication of the new Regulation on the AGCOM website (12 April 2019), AGCOM will adopt a set of guidelines specifying in detail the content of the thematic descriptors for each age group, the Regulation implementing rules, and the criteria establishing the equivalence between the Regulation’s rating system and the PEGI rating system in order to avoid overlaps between the two systems. Proposals for the guidelines will be developed by a technical committee composed by media and hosting service providers, content and videogame producers, representatives of the institutions, associations for the protection of minors, and PEGI.

The new Regulation is already into force since 13 April 2019 and any infringement thereof could be subject to fines from Eur 25,000 up to Eur 350,000.

We will no doubt update you once the guidelines are published.

Contact us, Giacomo Lusardi and Alessandro Ferrari, if you want more information on these issues.