In a move that defies every NSFW comic stereotype, the German Publishers & Booksellers Association has been told by the country’s Youth Protection Authority that all digital publications aimed at an adult audience can now only be sold between the hours of 10pm and 6am, effectively instating a watershed comparable to the transmission of adult material on British television after 9pm. When submitting ebooks to digital stores, publishers will now be met with a metadata entry field asking them to specify if the book should be classified as being specifically for adults. If so, the title will only be visible on digital retail sites between the designated hours.
The move brings the digital book trade in Germany in line with print, which, since 2002, has been forbidden to sell to children material clearly aimed at adults, encompassing hardbacks, paperbacks, graphic novels and magazines. Breaching the law – Jugendmedienschutzstaatsvertrag (the Youth Media Protection State Treaty), which has now been amended to encompass ebooks – can lead to a fine of up to €500,000.
The time limit of 10pm to 6am has been set because, under the terms of the Youth Protection Treaty, ebooks are considered telemedia, alongside films and TV shows, with German cinemas also seemingly only admitting children before 10pm.
The ruling obviously has the potential to be costly for publishers and retailers alike, necessitating scrupulous attention to metadata on back catalogue titles and, in some cases, site redesigns to allow the ‘adult section’ to remain hidden until the designated time. That being said, however, if a German child wants to find digital erotica, or indeed any other adult content, on the internet before 10pm, well, there’s a reason it’s not called the Germany Wide Web.