FPB’s Bill could ruin online gaming in South Africa

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South Africa’s gaming market — especially international games sold here – could be in for a very tough time if the proposed Film and Publications Bill comes into effect

The Bill was the topic of discussion in Parliament this week, where the public and interested parties could voice their opinions on what the Bill contains and what should change.

One of the most concerning things that the Bill proposed, was that any and all online distributors register with the Films and Publications Board (FPB). By extension, that would including online gaming services like Steam.

The FPB said that if an online distributor failed to register after the Bill has been passed and become law, it would simply block internet access to the service.

Nicholas Hall, founding member of Make Games SA and Interactive Entertainment South Africa (IESA), explained that the FPB would attempt to block access at the service provider level – which is a huge issue.

“They would approach the High Court to issue an interdict to the ISP or more likely ISPA compelling them to tell all members to prevent access to the site. Whether the court would do so is one question, but the fact that this is seen as an appropriate remedy is the truly troublesome issue,” he told htxt.africa.

But according to Hall, things might not necessarily go down that route. He said that some concessions have been made, but the blocking of online distributors is the most concerning for him.

“It appears that it has been conceded that [legacy] games – ie games already in circulation – (so games not in early access or still a prototype) won’t need to be classified. It was reiterated that self-regulation in some form would be allowed (which is another huge win for the industry) and the recognition of foreign classification systems (like PEGI and the ESRB) are all things we have been lobbying for, so it is nice to see that they will likely be implemented.”

He is also concerned that a proper Regulatory Impact Assessment was never done for the bill and the fact that the Department of Communications and the FPB want to hurry the Bill’s process and make it law as soon as possible, is troublesome.

Hall was part of a delegation that made public submissions throughout the course of the week, but while the participating members received praise on social media, Hall went so far as to praise the Members of Parliament as well.

“I think Parliament and the MPs that attend it are often painted with a brush that they just rubber stamp legislation. What was so encouraging was that all the committee members, regardless of which party they belonged to, really interrogated the bill, called out the DoC and FPB where their process had failed and more importantly really pushed them for proper and full answers to the issues raised by the public and other stakeholders,” he said.

We have covered the Bill in detail before, but does Hall think it will be passed as is? Thankfully, that doesn’t seem likely.

“Given the tone and questions being raised, I would be very surprised if the bill in it’s current form would be allowed to proceed.”

If you want to have a look at some of the FPB’s responses to the public comment, you can do so on the IESA page.

Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.