General information about the BPjM (Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons)
We are an official administrative authority of the German government called "Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien" (BPjM) ("Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons"). Our task is to protect children and adolescents in Germany from any media which might contain harmful or dangerous contents. This work is authorized by the "Youth Protection Law" (Jugendschutzgesetz - JuSchG).
Media monitored by us are, among others: videos, DVDs, computer games, audio records and CDs, print media and internet sites.
Objects are considered harmful or dangerous to minors if they tend to endanger their process of developing a socially responsible and self-reliant personality. In general, this applies to objects that contain indecent, extremely violent, crime-inducing, anti-Semitic or otherwise racist material.
The BPjM can only act on the request of other administrative institutions, not by itself. The German Youth Welfare Departments, among others, can file a complaint against an object. Once an official request has been filed, the BPjM is obliged to act.
A board of 12 representatives consisting of 8 different social organisations (e.g. artistic and literary community, entertainment industry, youth welfare, teachers, religious groups), 3 representatives of the federal states as well as the chairwoman of the BPjM, examines the respective object. If the board, with a majority of 2/3 of the members, decides that the object has a content dangerous for young people ("jugendgefährdend"), it enters its name into the "list of youth-endangering media" ("Liste jugendgefährdender Medien"), generally referred to as the "index". Distributors of that medium are then no longer permitted to sell, rent out or even present this object in public or to broadcast it. The same goes for advertising for this object. Violations of these restrictions will be punished under German jurisdiction.
If an object is obviously harmful to minors, it will be put on the index in a simplified act, requiring a unanimous vote, executed by a board of 3 representatives of the groups mentioned above (§ 23 I JuSchG).
In case of a severe danger to minors, the object does not need to be put on the "index"; the distribution restrictions will be effective regardless (§ 15 II JuSchG).
Media with pornographic content are regularly considered to be obviously and severely harmful to minors. Pornography itself is defined by the German High Court as a presentation of sexuality that is not connected to any kind of psychologically motivated human relationship and which glorifies sexual satisfaction as the only reason for human existence, often accompanied by grossly depicted genitals.
Distributing those objects to minors is illegal (§ 15 I and III-VI JuSchG) and will be punished by law (§ 27 JuSchG). In addition, the German penal code (Strafgesetzbuch - StGB) penalizes the dissemination of pornographic content (§ 184 StGB).
Completely prohibited - even among people of legal age - are the depictions of sexual acts involving children, animals or violence. Similar regulations prohibit media with explicitly violent content.
The spreading of pornographic content and other harmful media via the internet is a criminal offence under German jurisdiction. A pornographic content on the internet is legal only if technical measures prohibit minors from getting access to the object (AVS = Age Verification System or Adult-Check-System).
The owner/distributor has the right to defend his/her film/music/game/book/site against the charges of youth-endangering content.
If the board decides to enter a product into the "index", the verdict will be announced in the official government information paper ("Bundesanzeiger") as well as in the BPjM-publication "BPjM-Aktuell". The author/distributor will receive the full verdict by letter. If the object is an internet site, the verdict will not be announced, but the author/distributor will be notified nonetheless.
As soon as the object has been entered into the list, the further distribution is restricted to people of legal age only. It is also prohibited to show incriminated content as teasers, trailers or in any other advertizing context. The dissemination of an "indexed" website is permitted only if technical arrangements guarantee that minors cannot access its content, as explained above.
Once the BPjM has issued its decision regarding an object, the distributor/owner can appeal to a Court of Law.
Additionally, once the object has been entered into the "index", its owner/distributor can remove the incriminating content and request a second examination by the BPjM. If the content is then no longer found to be dangerous, the object will be removed from the list.