China Strengthens Enforcement of the New Video Game Age Restriction Mandate

Policies in the online game industry have been tightening up since the National Press and Publication Administration enacted the strictest video game age restriction mandate.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism released an article on October 8 titled "Strengthening Law Enforcement and Supervision to Effectively Prevent Minors from Being Addicted to Online Games". The article mentions that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has recently increased its Internet monitoring and inspection efforts and showcases five of the most common violations of the mandate:

 Translation: To resolutely prevent minors from being addicted to online games and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minors, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism recently issued a notice deploying local cultural market (a term for entertainment business and market in general) law enforcement agencies to further strengthen law enforcement supervision of the online game market and seriously investigate and deal with illegal and irregular business practices.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism requires local cultural market law enforcement agencies, in conjunction with industry management departments, to focus on the implementation of measures to prevent minors from becoming addicted to online games, such as time limits, real-name registration, and login, and to increase the frequency and intensity of law enforcement inspections of online game companies in their jurisdictions; to strengthen Internet inspections and investigate online games published without authorization, and to strengthen law enforcement supervision in relevant cultural market areas such as Internet business premises and amusement and entertainment venues to prevent minors from entering business premises illegally.

 Five typical violations include online video game service providers allowing underage players to access their content outside of restricted hours, failing to require minors to use their real identity information when registering and logging into online games, publishing games without prior review and publishing license, disseminating unlicensed foreign game titles, and the operation of plagiarized online games over private servers.

 In one of the typical cases, a Shanghai information technology company violated both the regulations that video games must be approved by relevant departments before publication and that minors must register and log in with their real identity information. The company was found to be operating their game "Legend of Wusheng" using the publishing license of another game under their name. In addition, in both games, users can choose to close the game's real-name authentication window to continue playing. Per the relevant provisions, the local Bureau issued a warning to the company and fined it a total of 429,800 RMB (approximately $66,700), and fined the person in charge directly 20,000 RMB (approximately $3,100).

 In another case, a criminal organization in Anhui was suspected of both operating illegal private servers and infringing copyright. Initial investigation shows the suspect illegally obtained and tampered with the source code of the online game "Wulin Waizhuan" without obtaining the permission of the copyright owner, renamed the tampered game "Dazui Wulin", and then created unregistered private servers, making millions in profit. The total number of users involved in the case is more than 60,000 people, including more than 10,000 minors, with a total transaction of more than 40 million RMB. At present, the case has been transferred to the public security department and is under further investigation.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism put out this article to raise the awareness of legal risks for online game companies and the public and better protect the rights and interests of minors. To further call on online game companies to implement their main responsibilities and strictly comply with the relevant regulations to prevent minors from being addicted to online games. The public is also encouraged to report to the relevant departments when they find platforms that violate the regulations.

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