General information about the BPjM (Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors)
We are an official administrative authority of the German government called "Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien" (BPjM).
The BPjM’s task is to protect minors (= people under 18) in Germany from any media content harmful to minors. This task is authorized by the "Protection of Minors Act" (Jugendschutzgesetz – JuSchG).
Media content is considered harmful to minors if it tends to endanger their process of developing a socially responsible and self-reliant personality (§ 18 I JuSchG). This applies to, for example, media that contain indecent, extremely violent, crime-inducing, anti-Semitic or racist material, also to media content that glorifies National Socialism, drugs, alcohol abuse, self-inflicted injury or suicide, to media content propagating vigilante justice and to media content that discriminates against specific groups of people.
Media examined by the BPjM are: films (DVD, BluRay, etc.), games (PC, Playstation, Xbox, Wii, etc.), music (audio CDs, etc.), printed media (books, comic books, magazines, brochures, etc.) and internet sites. The examination takes place after the media’s publication.
The BPjM may only act on official requests by other administrative institutions, such as German youth welfare or police departments, the KJM (Kommission für Jugendmedienschutz), etc.
The BPjM’s "Board of 12" (12er-Gremium) will examine the respective object. The Board consists of the chairwoman of the BPjM, eight representatives of different socially relevant groups (e.g. members of the artistic and literary community; the entertainment industry; youth welfare offices, teacher associations, religious groups) and three representatives of the federal states.
If the "Board of 12", with a majority of 2/3 of its members, comes to the conclusion that the object’s content is indeed harmful to minors ("jugendgefährdend") and that the freedom of art and/or the freedom of speech do not outweigh the matter of protecting minors, the object’s title will be entered into the "list of media harmful to minors" ("Liste der jugendgefährdenden Medien"), generally referred to as "the index".
If a media content is evidently ("offensichtlich") harmful to minors – meaning that the "Board of 12" has ordered the indexing in similar cases –, the object will be entered into the index in a simplified proceeding ("vereinfachtes Verfahren", § 23 I JuSchG), requiring a unanimous vote by the "Board of 3" (3er-Gremium), a board consisting of the chairwoman of the BPjM and two representatives of the institutions mentioned above.
Distributors of an indexed object are no longer permitted to let minors have access to it or 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.
In case of content severely harmful to minors ("schwer jugendgefährdend"), the object does not need to be entered into the "index", as the distribution restrictions mentioned above are effective automatically (§ 15 II JuSchG). This applies, for example, to any pornographic content or to other content that violates certain clauses of the German penal law, also to content glorifying war and content depicting minors in an unnatural and sexual posture.
[Pornography 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, accompanied by grossly depicted genitals.]
Strictly prohibited in Germany – even among people over 18 – are the depictions of pornographic acts involving children, adolescents, animals or violence. This also applies to the denial of the Holocaust, the spreading of propaganda material by forbidden organisations, the depiction of symbols of the National Socialist regime and the glorification of violence.
In all proceedings of the BPjM, the respective author/owner/distributor has the right to defend the object against the charges of its content being harmful to minors. He/She can either send in a written statement to the BPjM, or, if a hearing by the Board of 12 is scheduled, he/she may attend the hearing, possibly accompanied by a legal representative. The author/owner/distributor will also receive the written verdict of the Board and has the right to appeal to a Court of Law.
If the Board decides to enter an object into the "index", the verdict will be officially announced in the federal government gazette ("Bundesanzeiger") as well as in the publication "BPjM-Aktuell". If the indexed object is an internet site, however, the verdict will not be officially announced.
Regarding the spreading of indexed media online, the dissemination is legal only if technical measures prohibit minors from accessing the indexed content (AVS = age verification system or Adult-Check-System).
Furthermore, some content may not be disseminated online at all. This applies to media content strictly prohibited in Germany (see above) as well as to the glorification of war and the depiction of minors in an unnatural and sexual posture.
All newly indexed internet sites (URL) disseminated from outside Germany will be updated into the "BPjM-module" which can be incorporated into youth protection filter programs available to parents and others in charge of the protection of minors. By using the "BPjM-module", those sites deemed harmful to minors will not be accessible in family homes as well as in schools, public libraries or other places frequented by young people. Furthermore, most of the German search engines have pledged themselves to incorporating the "BPjM-module" into their filter programs, so that indexed sites will not show up among the search results.
After an object has been entered into the "index", its author/owner/distributor can remove the incriminating content and request a second examination by the BPjM. If the altered content is then no longer found to be harmful to minors by the Board, the object will be removed from the index, or, in case of an altered version of a film, game or book, the distribution restrictions mentioned above will not apply to this new version.
The indexing will stay in effect for 25 years, after which the BPjM will have to start a new proceeding if the content is still deemed harmful to minors.
10 years after the indexing process, the author/owner/distributor may request the de-listing of an object, meaning that the Board will re-examine its content. If it should then no longer be deemed harmful to minors, the title will be removed from the index.