South African gamers fight against government censorship in court

Censorship continues to be a massive issue not only in South Africa but across the world.

So when a new FPB Amendment Bill was created featuring deliberately vague language and the possible censorship of South African’s internet usage, people were rightfully upset.

The controversy arises over the Bill’s purpose, namely:

to regulate online distribution of digital films and digitalgames; to extend the functions of the Film and Publication Board of monitoringcompliance with the Films and Publications Act; to include online distributors in respect of the requirements to comply with the Films and Publications Act;

We asked Make Games SA’s Nicholas Hall what role he had in the Bill’s hearings, and what this means for South African gamers.

Morning Michael, can we ask what exactly your role was in representing the South African gaming public at the FPB hearings?

“I was presenting in my capacity as CEO of Interactive Entertainment South Africa (IESA). I had a mandate from IESA and Make Games South Africa to oppose the bill on certain grounds.

IESA is a non-profit company tasked with lobbying, policy development and help grow the local game industry. Make Games is the largest online community of game developers in South Africa, with members ranging from students, hobbyists and professionals.

Tangentially it could be said I was representing the gaming public as the proposed bill could have a dramatic effect on the distribution of games in South Africa, and so our arguments would help those trying to buy games in a convenient way at affordable prices.”

What exactly are the importance of these FPB hearings?

“These hearings formed the last opportunity for the public and stakeholders to make comments on the bill before it is sent to parliament and turned into law. It is hoped that the committee who heard our submissions will take on board our comments and send it back to be redrafted or abandoned.

It was a significant moment for the local industry though. For the first time we contributed our voice to laws that effect us And while we might not achieve the outcome we are hoping for, at the national level, we are on the radar and government will start taking the game industry more seriously.”

What effect will these have on the South African gaming (and media consuming public) in general?

“If the bill is passed as law as it currently stands it would have a significant  impact of the SA Gaming Public. Firstly, it would likely lead to the barring of online distributors like Steam and Good Old Games in South Africa as they don’t (and I would guess won’t) comply with the requirements established by the bill.

Twitch Streaming and other online broadcasting would also effectively become illegal as these streams would need to be classified prior to being aired.

YouTube, Facebook and other platforms could also compromised as the FPB would have the authority to pull any content (Facebook posts, pictures, videos etc) from these platforms is someone complained.

It is hoped that with our submission (along with all the other parties that made submissions) that the committee will send back the bill as it is clearly unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

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South African gamers fight against government censorship in court

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