22 April 2017.
Code of Practice
ARIA and AMRA have developed and administer an industry Code of Practice for labelling CDs and other recorded music products containing lyrics and themes which may offend some sections of the public.
The Code and the advice labels placed on recorded music products are designed to assist consumers in selecting their purchases and for providing advice to parents.
There are three warning labels that are used with audio-only recordings (CDs, vinyl, cassettes, downloads):
Level 1 WARNING MODERATE: this is a black and white label and warns that it includes moderate impact coarse language and/or themes. This means infrequent aggressive or strong language and/or modern impact references to drug use, violence, sexual activity or themes.
Level 2 WARNING: STRONG: this is a blue and white label and warns that it includes strong impact coarse language and/or themes. This means frequent aggressive or strong language and/or strong impact references to drug use, violence, sexual activity or themes.
Level 3 RESTRICTED: HIGH IMPACT THEMES; this is a red and white label and can not be sold to anyone under 18 years. The contact includes high impact themes, such as graphic descriptions of drug use, violence, sexual activity or very strong themes which have a very high intensity and which are high in impact.
Not every audio recording will sport a label. If there is no coarse language and/or themes, or they are very mild then there will be no label.
Who decides what is moderate, strong or high impact?
In 2003 the Recorded Music Labelling Code of Practice was aligned with the classifications used in movies. Broadly, the Level 1 warning aligns with M; Level 2 warning aligns with MA15+; and Level 3 warning aligns with R18+.
The nature of the law in Australia mean that the Recorded Music Labelling Code of Practice only covers audio recordings. If there is any video content included then it falls under the National Classification Scheme. Any music broadcast on radio or television is covered by regulation administered by the ACMA. Music included in a movie is also covered by the National Classification Scheme. Music played in a retail store is not covered by any code of practice and it is entirely the responsibility of the store manager.
How do I classify a work?
The Code of Practice is voluntary and has been administered by ARIA and AMRA since 1996. ARIA and AMRA provide free advice to anyone seeking guidance on how to classify a work, free access to the artwork for the labels and free on-pack warning label stickers. Free training sessions are also held on a regular basis for label managers and other interested parties at recorded music companies.
What if a work has the wrong or no warning label?
If you think the warning label is wrong or that there ought to be one and there isn't, please contact us so we can pursue it.
What happens with a complaint?
In the first instance AMRA will register your complaint and listen to the work to identify whether there is an issue. If there isn't, then we will advise the person who complained that in our view the work complies with the Code and also advise them that if they disagree they can request that their complaint be escalated to the ombudsman. If AMRA agrees that the work is inappropriately labelled or unlabelled, then it is taken up with whoever was responsible for making sure the work was appropriately labelled. This is usually a recorded music company, but can also be a musician or band or artist manager (if they distribute their work directly) or a retailer (if the work was directly imported).
When a complaint is upheld there are two objectives: find out why this mislabelling happened and rectify that issue so it doesn't happen again, and identify how many units are in the market so they can be recalled and/or relabelled. The complainant is then advised of the outcome. Again, if they are unhappy they can request that the matter be escalated to the ombudsman. Each year a report is provided by ARIA and AMRA to the Federal Attorney General outlining activity in educating the industry and handling complaints, and if necessary recommendations are made for revising the Code. This report is tabled in the Senate and any company which breaches the Code is named and recorded in Hansard.
Where can I go for more information?
There are two printed documents available: one for consumers and one for the industry. These are provided free or can be downloaded below.
You are also welcome to contact Ian Harvey, Executive Director of AMRA.