The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation

 

Legislation

Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993/Amendment Act 2005

New Zealand's censorship regime is governed by the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, which was amended by the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Amendment Act 2005.

Among other things, the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Amendment Act 2005 introduces a number of significant changes to the enforcement provisions of the principal Act in relation objectionable publications, images and other such material.

As amended, a person who knowingly trades, distributes or makes objectionable materials now faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. Previously the penalty for this offence was limited to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year. 

The penalties for knowingly being in possession of objectionable materials have also increased to either a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or a fine of up to $50,000.

Powers of search and seizure under the Act have also been increased. As amended, the Act now empowers Inspectors of Publications to obtain search warrants where they have evidence that a suspect is knowingly in possession of objectionable material.

Glossary of terms used in the Act

The following is a definition of terms used in the Films, Videos and Publication Classification Act 1993.

Publication

A "publication" is defined, in part, in section 2 of the Act as:

  • any film, book, sound recording, picture, newspaper, photograph, photographic negative, photographic plate, or photographic slide
  • any print or writing
  • any paper or other thing, including a disk or electronic computer file.

That has printed or impressed upon it, or otherwise shown upon it, any word, statement, sign, representation or images.

On which is recorded or stored any information that, by the use of any computer or other electronic device, is capable of being reproduced or shown as any word, statement, sign, or representation.

As defined in the Act, the term "film" includes any cinematographic film, video recording, or any other record of moving images capable of subsequent display. For example, computer animations are deemed to be a film. The meaning applies equally to any part of films, copies of films, or parts of copies. 

Objectionable

A publication is "objectionable" as set out in section 3 of the Act if:

"(1) For the purposes of this Act, a publication is objectionable if it describes, depicts, expresses, or otherwise deals with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence in such a manner that the availability of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good.

(1A) Without limiting subsection (1), a publication deals with a matter such as sex for the purposes of that subsection if -

(a) the publication is or contains 1 or more visual images of 1 or more children or young persons who are nude or partially nude; and

(b) those 1 or more visual images are, alone, or together with any other contents of the publication, reasonably capable of being regarded as sexual in nature.(1B) Subsection (1A) is for the avoidance of doubt.

(2) A publication shall be deemed to be objectionable for the purposes of this Act if the publication promotes or supports, or tends to promote or support, -

(a) The exploitation of children, or young persons, or both, for sexual purposes; or

(b) The use of violence or coercion to compel any person to participate in, or submit to, sexual conduct; or

(c) Sexual conduct with or upon the body of a dead person; or

(d) The use of urine or excrement in association with degrading or dehumanising conduct or sexual conduct; or

(e) Bestiality; or

(f) Acts of torture or the infliction of extreme violence or extreme cruelty.

The Act further states that:

"In determining, for the purposes of this Act, whether or not any publication (other than a publication to which subsection (2) of this section applies) is objectionable or should, in accordance with section 23(2), be given a classification other than objectionable, particular weight shall be given to the extent and degree to which, and the manner in which, the publication -

(a) Describes, depicts, or otherwise deals with -

(i) Acts of torture, the infliction of serious physical harm, or acts of significant cruelty:

(ii) Sexual violence, or sexual coercion, or violence or coercion in association with sexual conduct:

(iii) Other sexual or physical conduct of a degrading or dehumanising or demeaning nature:

(iv) Sexual conduct with or by children, or young persons, or both:

(v) Physical conduct in which sexual satisfaction is derived from inflicting or suffering cruelty or pain:

(b) Exploits the nudity or children, or young persons, or both: (c) Degrades or dehumanises or demeans any person: 

(d) Promotes or encourages criminal acts or acts of terrorism;

(e) Represents (whether directly or by implication) that members of any particular class of the public are inherently inferior to other members of the public by reason of any characteristic of members of that class, being a characteristic that is a prohibited ground of discrimination specified in section 21(1) of the Human Rights Act 1993.

(4) In determining, for the purposes of this Act, whether of not any publication (other than a publication to which subsection (2) of this section applies) is objectionable or should, in accordance with section 23(2), be given a classification other than objectionable, the following matters shall also be considered:

(a) The dominant effect of the publication as a whole:

(b) The impact of the medium in which the publication is presented:

(c) The character of the publication, including any merit, value, or importance that the publication has in relation to literary, artistic, social, cultural, educational, scientific, or other matters:

(d) The persons, classes of persons, or age groups of the persons to whom the publication is intended or is likely to be made available:

(e) The purpose for which the publication is intended to be used:

(f) Any other relevant circumstances relating to the intended or likely use of the publication."

Restricted

A "restricted publication" is one classified under section 23(2)(c) of the Act as follows:

(a) Unrestricted; or

(b) Objectionable; or 

(c) Objectionable except in any one or more of the following circumstances:

(i) If the availability of the publication is restricted to persons who have attained a specified age:

(ii) If the availability of the publication is restricted to specified persons or classes of persons:

(iii) If the publication is used for one or more specified purposes"

Film

(2) "After examining a publication, and having taken into account the matters referred to in section 3 of this Act, the Classification Office shall classify the publication as - 

A film means a cinematograph film, a video recording, and any other material record of visual moving images that is capable of being used for the subsequent display of those images; and includes any part of any film, and any copy or part of a copy of the whole or any part of a film.