This blog broke the news late last week that German regulators were tightening the sales restrictions on adult ebooks. My two local sources had said that German ebook retailers would have to apply age verification and enact a curfew which restricted the sale of adult ebooks to between 10 pm and 6 am local time.
Yes, that is as crazy as it sounds, but now it appears that German regulators recognize that fact as well. A new story crossed my desk this morning which suggests that the curfew might not be enforced after all.
Boersenblatt has published an interview of Susanne Barwick, a lawyer with Boersenverein (the German book industry trade group). The interview is in German and is rather lengthy, but the key detail is that ebook retailers will probably not have to implement a curfew.
Yes, the ebook retailers will have to start verifying customer's ages, but Barwick says that in the long run they will not have to restrict the hours in which they sell adult ebooks.
Edit: Boersenverein has also released an English language statement which makes the same argument. It's in high legalese, but readable.
I don't have the legal background to argue the point, but I can add that past events do bear out her argument.
A reader pointed out earlier this week that in late 2012 Nintendo was caught up in a similar situation. Due to German laws, Nintendo was abruptly forced to restrict online sales of adult-rated video games which it was selling in its Wii U eShop.
Engadget reported at the time that sales were limited to a four hour stretch between 11 pm and 3 am local time. And since Nintendo's servers were based in Germany, sales to the rest of the EU were also restricted by that curfew.
That curfew was lifted four months later, in March 2013, after Nintendo showed that its systems ( the Parental Controls system on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, to be exact) were capable of keeping kids from accessing adult content.
eBook retailers will probably be able to reach a similar accommodation with German regulators in short order. After all, the major ebook retailers already have some type of parental control.
Amazon has Kindle Freetime, and Kobo has a Kid's Store as well as child accounts (not yet available in Germany).
What's more, both Google and Apple have parental controls on their devices and currently sell adult content (apps, videos) in Germany. I would expect that both Google and Apple already comply with the relevant German laws and will simply adapt their policies and procedures to cover ebooks as well.
However, I don't know yet exactly how the ebook retailers will respond; I queried several retailers on Friday but have yet to receive a response.
image by psd