Recently MachineGames' new video game Wolfenstein: The New Order was released. In case you are not familiar with the popular Wolfenstein series, it began way back in 1981 with Castle Wolfenstein and essentially is a video game series revolving around Nazis and organisations which were active in Nazi Germany. You do not play as a Nazi, instead you play against them. So effectively you are killing Nazis within the game.
The more popular part of the series Wolfenstein 3D released in 1992 was "confiscated" in Germany in 1994 because of its use of the Swastika which in this context is considered a symbol of an unconstitutional organisation. The use of such symbols is regulated by German law in § 86a StGB and can lead to a fine and/or imprisonment of up to three years. When a video game is "confiscated" in Germany it effectively means the following (for a more thorough analysis see this (German)):
So, assuming you already owned the game before the "confiscation", it is perfectly legal to keep it and play it. It is also perfectly legal to import the video game from another country which most people don't seem to know about. To me this doesn't really seem like a "confiscation" which is the German term used by law: "Beschlagnahmung", hence I put it in quotes. Instead I'd call it a ban, effectively censorship even.
Now you might be wondering: what about movies or television series involving the use of such symbols? Well, according to German law you may be allowed to make use of such symbols in certain cases like for example for "art" which is regulated in § 86 StGB. The next question is: those are considered art, but video games are not? Who says?
Answering this question would be an article on its own and effectively there is no decisive answer. It's a matter of court decisions in the past, a matter of a people that doesn't even want to touch certain topics due to a taboo and an industry that is rather scared and goes the "easy" way of censoring their video games for the German video game market instead of fighting against censorship.
Anyway, the discussion on why this ban exists is irrelevant to the point I actually want to make. As you have learned now, video games might get banned in Germany due to usage of symbols used by an unconstitutional organisation and regardless of that it is still perfectly legal to import such games from other countries. And here comes the catch.
Back in the days without digital rights management (DRM) it was as easy as importing a video game from another country, installing it and playing it. On the PC anyway, video game consoles already had a kind of a region lock through NTSC and PAL standards. But that's again another topic.
Let's go back to the recently released game Wolfenstein: The New Order which uses Steamworks as their DRM. To play the game you will have to activate it online with Valve Corporation's Steam software. And here's what Bethesda Softworks, the publisher of Wolfenstein: The New Order decided to do: they released a censored German version without the use of any unconstitutional organisation symbols and to top it off disallow the activation of the uncensored version from a German IP address.
Within Germany I'm only allowed to activate and play the censored version even though by law it is perfectly legal for me to import the uncensored version from another country. Since the Steam Subscriber Agreement disallows use of any proxy servers or virtual private network (VPN) to obfuscate my location, I have no legal and allowed means to play a perfectly legal and legit copy of an imported video game.
"You agree that you will not use IP proxying or other methods to disguise the place of your residence, whether to circumvent geographical restrictions on game content, to purchase at pricing not applicable to your geography, or for any other purpose. If you do this, we may terminate your access to your Account." - Steam Subscriber Agreement
Thank you for fucking over the honest customer. Obviously you don't want people's money, you made that abundantly clear.
Since Wolfenstein: The New Order is a single player only game it is happily shared by thousands of German peers... and you shouldn't even really be mad at them... Bethesda Softworks caused this themselves.
You might have heard about the legal case going on and on with The Pirate Bay for years already. Basically the music industry and other retarded cokeheads of the likes claim that the services The Pirate Bay are offering are illegal.
What exactly is The Pirate Bay offering?
They once actually served as a BitTorrent tracker, search engine and indexing service. They got rid of the BitTorrent tracker sooner or later because they got aware of the retarded people living on this planet deeming it illegal. So what are they left with? A search engine and indexing service. Sounds familiar. Something like Google, Yahoo and Bing? Pretty much, yes, except only for the BitTorrent network. How is that illegal you ask? Well, beats me. But apparently even judges agree.
In case you are wondering how the classical BitTorrent network operates, here's a quick outline:
Okay, now let's assume we have a file that is shared and it contains by law content that is not allowed to be freely shared (like for example a ripped music album). Whoever puts this file up has to create the *.torrent file for it. So that person calculates hashes from the files, adds a BitTorrent tracker to the file and done.
This *.torrent file, containing nothing but legal metadata, will be put up on a site now, for example on The Pirate Bay. So The Pirate Bay offers this *.torrent file, with a description of the files it supposedly contains metadata for and people are free to download this *.torrent file. This is not illegal. Anybody who claims it is, is a retard and did not understand how this system works.
If anybody downloads this *.torrent file of said music album now and adds it to their BitTorrent client, the BitTorrent client will contact the specified BitTorrent trackers and they will reply a list of people who currently want or offer the file. Now, depending on the country you are residing in but also depending on your moral values, none, one or both of these actions can be considered illegal:
What did The Pirate Bay do in all this? Effectively the following:
All of that is considered metadata. None of that is illegal.
Still, on April 17th, 2009 the operators of The Pirate Bay were found guilty of "assistance to copyright infringement" in Sweden and sentenced to one year in prison and payment of a fine of 30 million SEK (roughly 4.4 million USD (as of writing of this article)).
This didn't stop The Pirate Bay from operating however. It still operates as of today and the music industry is still trying really hard to get them down. Since by now they realized they can't take them down from the very source instead they try censoring access to The Pirate Bay.
So far access to The Pirate Bay has been "blocked" in: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom. Several other countries had temporary blockades or legal cases about blocking the site. More are probably to come.
The quality from these blockades usually reach from mostly simple Domain Name System (DNS) blockades to Internet Protocol (IP) blockades. Both of them are very easy to go around and people wanting to access The Pirate Bay as well as The Pirate Bay themselves offer tons of ways to go around them. In the end all these blockades cause is free advertising for The Pirate Bay and BitTorrent plus getting people aware what kind of MAFIAA is operating within our governments and courts resulting in membership boosts for the Pirate Party.
One of the worst organizations, trying the hardest to block The Pirate Bay is BREIN (Bescherming Rechten Entertainment Industrie Nederland) in the Netherlands. They don't even stop at just blocking The Pirate Bay by forcing the country's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to apply a blockade but instead they also want to stop every proxy that is being set up to go around said blockades.
But they even go further. After successfully getting court orders to force closure of a proxy provided by the Dutch Pirate Party as well as a proxy provided by Greenhost they even demand a gag on the Dutch Pirate Party to stop operating any kind of proxy service as well as stop explanation on how to use them or set them up.
Yes. The censorship is getting worse and worse. Stop discussing. Stop offering proxy services. The question how long before VPNs and proxy services become illegal is very valid.
BREIN, you can not win this. Stop fighting.
For every IP address that gets blocked The Pirate Bay will have a new one ready within minutes.
This is a futile game, already lost by BREIN. But since they apparently don't have a BRAIN, they don't see it. As long as there is one person on the Internet who does not agree, content can not be censored. And such people will fortunately always exist.
With that said, have a link to a list of The Pirate Bay proxies, generously provided by Pirate Reverse: http://about.piratereverse.info/proxy/list.html
And also a guide on how you can help and set up your own Pirate Bay proxy: http://about.piratereverse.info/proxy/index.html
11:00 AM, a nice Saturday morning, nothing planned for the day, got plenty of time to surf the net and find out about missed stuff during the stressful week. Time to relax.
Oh hey, a new game has been released. "Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning". Let's give it a try and download the demo on Origin:
"Unfortunately due to youth protection laws in Germany it isn't allowed to download this game during 6:00 AM and 11:00 PM." ("Leider darf dieses Spiel aufgrund des Jugendschutzgesetzes in Deutschland nicht zwischen 6:00 Uhr und 23:00 Uhr heruntergeladen werden.") - Origin Store
Seriously? I mean... seriously? I can't download it between those times? Am I allowed to play it at least once I downloaded it outside those times? So if a kid downloads the game during the night it's also able to play during the day then? What the fuck?
Hey, have you ever heard of SKIDROW? OK, let's not go there, yet.
It's not Electronic Arts' fault right? It's a German law, so it's the German government's fault. After reviewing the German law for the protection of the youth I didn't find anything that would clearly and definitely explain this ban of download during daytimes, though.
The USK rated "Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning" 18+, so nobody under the age of 18 is allowed to buy the game in Germany. Aka only adults are allowed to buy it. Or in this case, download the demo? That's not even buying, what are we talking about here then? Distribution in general? Actually it's a digital distribution, so let's see.
The way I see it we have the following laws that are relevant:
Section 12 JuSchG subsection (3) basically says that every medium (film or game) that is rated for adults only is not allowed to be made available or sold to anybody under the age of 18:
"[...] dürfen einem Kind oder einer jugendlichen Person nicht angeboten, überlassen oder sonst zugänglich gemacht werden [...]" - Section 12 JuSchG subsection (3)
Section 12 JuSchG subsection (4) says something about limitations of "vending machines" which make films or games available, like location and access control. It also states that adult content (18+) is not allowed to be made available through "vending machines" at all in public spaces accessible by kids and teenagers:
"[...] nur aufgestellt werden, wenn ausschließlich nach § 14 Abs. 2 Nr. 1 bis 4 gekennzeichnete Bildträger angeboten werden [...]" - Section 12 JuSchG subsection (4)
Looking at this and assuming that Origin is a "vending machine" they wouldn't be allowed to make such games available at all regardless of the time since the Internet is public. Assuming it isn't considered a "vending machine", they aren't allowed to make it available for anybody under the age of 18 which would therefore conclude that they'd need some kind of age verification before making such games available.
Are you honestly saying that everybody under the age of 18 is always asleep during 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM? This is an age verification? Seriously? But hey, others do it exactly the same way:
"This show is unsuitable for teenagers under the age of 12. This clip is therefore only available between 8:00 PM and 6:00 AM." ("Diese Sendung ist für Jugendliche unter 12 Jahren nicht geeignet. Der Clip ist deshalb nur von 20 bis 6 Uhr verfügbar.") - ARD Mediathek
Where is this coming from? Am I missing something? Not to mention that "teenagers" under the age of 14 are not even considered "teenagers" by German law but are considered kids. What are "teenagers" under the age of 12 then? They are kids.
And not to mention that GeoIP, the whole concept and idea to find out from which country a certain website visitor is coming from is totally unreliable. There have been reports of people getting those messages even though they don't live in Germany or connect from within Germany. These laws do not apply to them.
Fuck GeoIP, fuck "national Internet" and get your head out of your asses. This is fucking ridiculous. Unless of course you don't want to make money?
Coming back to my previous question: have you ever heard of SKIDROW?
Update: Kreuvf found out where those ridiculous time periods are coming from. They are actually defined in a treaty, the State Treaty on Youth Protection in the Media ("Jugendmedienschutz-Staatsvertrag") which is also regulating digital distribution like the Internet. The JuschG apparently is only regulating physical media.