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Europe to ban sales of violent video games to kids

European countries have agreed to co-operate on video games laws to stop children from being able to buy violent games. Germany, the UK, Greece, Finland, Spain and France have backed the creation of Europe-wide policy co-ordination.

European justice ministers met this week and agreed to examine the area of computer game law. German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said that the first step in the process was to publish a summary of game ratings which parents could check. She said this would happen soon on an EU website.

EU's Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said after the two days of meetings that he had encouraged all member states to ban violent games. "The protection of children cannot have borders," Frattini said

While the UK and Germany have laws which restrict the sale of violent games to children not all European countries have such laws; in many countries there are only guidelines relating to games.

“A certain degree of linkage between the growing violence among the younger generation and the growing diffusion of violent games exists,” said Frattini.

Amidst fears that the Commission wants to move to ban some games outright, Frattini said that the banning of games would remain a matter for individual countries. He did say, though, that he would seek to harmonise each country's approach to punishing retailers who sell violent games to the young.

In the UK games must be submitted for rating to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) if they contain "realistic violence against humans or animals, or human sexual activity". 

Attempts in the US to implement binding age restrictions on games have faltered. A number of states have passed laws banning the sale of certain games to minors but almost all of those laws have been successfully challenged in the courts as violating the US Constitution's first amendment, which guarantees rights to free speech.

Zypries said that she would begin consultation outside of the EU, particularly with the US and Japan, on co-ordination with those countries.

Frattini said that he wanted a uniform system of classification and labelling to be used in Europe's 27 member states, but that actual classification of individual games would have to be conducted on a country-by-country basis.

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