UK to trial online-video age ratings

Coming soon to YouTube music videos in the UK: a ratings system that warns parents if the content of an online video is inappropriate for their kids.

The three-month trial program was announced Monday by Prime Minister David Cameron and will officially begin in October. YouTube and popular music-video multichannel network Vevo are working with the British Board of Classification (BBFC), as well as the three biggest music labels in the UK: Sony, Universal and Warner Music.

Under the program, music labels will submit to the BBFC content they consider to be inappropriate for children under age 12. It won't be arbitrary: They'll be using guidelines provided by the BBFC. The board will then rate the videos--for a fee, similar to that paid by the film industry, according to an article in The Guardian.

"We shouldn't cede the internet as some sort of lawless space where the normal rules of life shouldn't apply," Cameron said in a speech to the Relationships Alliance, reported by The Guardian. "So, in as far as it is possible, we should try to make sure that the rules that exist offline exist online. So if you want to go and buy a music video offline there are age restrictions on it. We should try and recreate that system on the internet."

It's hard to argue against the potential benefits of an age-ratings system for YouTube videos. It gives parents a guideline to follow and, in the future, could be used to make parental-control filters more effective. For the trial period, the ratings will be simple notifications.

However, there are some legitimate concerns that might make filtered ratings difficult or impossible to fully enforce, even in bureaucracy-laden England. Age ratings add another layer of regulation, complexity and cost to online-video production and distribution. And of course, kids could take the time-honored method of circumventing age filters by simply providing a different birthdate, or by accessing YouTube outside the UK.

At least one regulatory tactic backfired recently: The UK's "three strikes" plan to combat online piracy is now being revised and will walk back its more draconian shutdown requirements. Instead, illegal file sharers will be sent up to four warning letters, after which no further action will be taken.

For more:
- The Guardian has this article
- and this article

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