Germany Says You Can’t Sell Adult Ebooks Until After 10 PM

Why is it that many efforts made “for the children” are so stupid most tweens could point out the obvious flaws? Back during the discussion of the UK’s now-implemented ISP porn filtration system, Rhoda Grant of the Scottish Parliament wondered why the internet couldn’t be handled the same way as television, where all the naughty “programming” isn’t allowed to take to the airwaves until past the nationally-accepted bedtime.

“If there’s a watershed on the TV then why isn’t there one for the internet?”

The children are right to laugh at you, Ralph Rhoda.

Cutting through the mocking laughter comes the German government, armed with a law that has its origin in more captive content (movies — the kind shown in theaters) and attempting to apply it to the internet (ebook sales).

Heise.de and Boersenblatt reported on Friday and Thursday that the Jugendschutzbehörde (Youth Protection Authority) has handed down a new ruling which extended Germany’s Youth Media Protection Law to include ebooks.

As a result of a lawsuit (legal complaint?) over the German erotica ebook Schlauchgelüste (Pantyhose Cravings), the regulators have decided that ebook retailers in Germany can now only sell adult ebooks between 10 pm and 6 am local time (4 pm and midnight, eastern US).

The law behind this baffling proclamation states it is intended to protect children from coming to harm via “advertising or teleshopping.” It was written in 2002, and was no less stupid in its belief that it could somehow force online retailers to take certain items off the “shelves” for two-thirds of the day. It’s only receiving attention now because the Youth Protection Authority trying to hammer it into place over bits of the internet.

As Nate Hoffelder points out, the law’s origins date back further to a point when such an action was both a.) not thoroughly ridiculous and b.) could mostly be enforced.

Boersenblatt says that the 10 pm to 6 am window originally came from restrictions on adult cinema (where it made sense), but I still don’t understand what the regulators were thinking in applying that rule to the internet. Do they really believe that the adult internet, including porn sites, pirate sites, video sites, etc, is going to be turned off for 16 hours a day?

How will this work in practice? With lots of regulation, meddling, filtering and other stuff that won’t actually keep the determined from accessing the porny ebooks they’re looking for. Retailers selling ebooks in Germany (hello, Amazon!, etc.) will have to figure out what “youth-endangering” means, apply it to their existing ebook stock, and “wall off” those titles behind some sort of filtering system until 10 pm (local time) every night. Or else.*

*Unspecified legal action.

In other words, it won’t work. And I wouldn’t expect this application of the law to last for very long once larger internet retailers begin pointing out the amazing amount of unworkable flaws in this half-baked “plan” to save German kids from electronic erotica. I think the children this is supposed to protect will find that, when given the choice between hurtling a few governmental roadblocks for the opportunity to pay for written erotica and just, say, going almost anywhere else on the internet to get the same sort of stuff for free, they’ll do the latter. And no one will be saved, Youth Protection Authority or no. But the YPA gets to say it tried, and I guess that’s all that matters. It will just have to live with the mocking laughter.

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