Legal foundations

In Germany there is a complex network of regulations in youth media protection. Additionally there are european und international standards to think of. We put together an overview of the important legal frameworks and regulations for you.

The German Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Human Dignity and the Protection of Minors in Broadcasting and in Telemedia (JMStV) came into force as an interstate treaty between the German federal states on 1 April 2003. It defines the standards of protection for broadcasting and telemedia. Now, having remained more or less unchanged since 2003, the JMStV, which contains regulations on youth protection in broadcasting and television, was comprehensively revised (following a failed attempt to do so in 2010). The aim was to create regulations that better reflect the changed requirements, particularly on the Internet. In early December 2015, the heads of the governments of the 16 German federal states signed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty (RÄStV). Alongside amendments relating to the statutory broadcasting levy and the introduction of the youth programming offered by ARD and ZDF, this also includes amendments to the JMStV. Now, by 30 September 2016, each of the 16 state parliaments has enact its own law carrying the amended version of the JMStV over into its respective state law. The amended regulations came therefore into effect on 1 October 2016.

The wording of the treaty is available on the website of the German Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media (KJM), among others.

The purpose of the TMG is, among other things, the ongoing development of German regulation of the media through the consolidation of the business-oriented regulations governing teleservices and media services. To take into account new services evolving both in business terms and technologically, the underlying parameters for electronic commerce are in future to be kept open to further development, irrespective of the distribution method, making them easier to manage for providers and users alike.

On 1 April 2003, the German Act on the Dissemination of Publications Harmful to Young Persons (GjS) and the German Act on the Protection of Young Persons in Public Life (JÖSchG) were replaced by the JuSchG. This is a federal law and includes, among other things, the legal provisions for the protection of young people in carrier media (representational communication media, offline products). It also governs the various brackets for age labelling.

The German Criminal Code is a federal law containing a wide variety of penal provisions applicable in Germany. Included here are elements that impose limits on, or prohibit disseminating or making available certain types of content over the Internet. Many infringements of the law governing youth media protection are sanctioned as regulatory offences, either additionally or solely.

The StGB and the OWiG are available on the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection website.

Providers of telemedia must ensure in particular that their content offers do not breach the following provisions:

  • Articles 86, 86a StGB: Dissemination of propaganda material of unconstitutional organisations and using symbols of unconstitutional organisations
  • Article 111 StGB: Public incitement to commit criminal acts
  • Article 129 StGB: Supporting or recruiting for a criminal organisation
  • Article 129a StGB: Forming, being involved in, supporting or recruiting for a terrorist organisation
  • Article 130 StGB: Incitement of the people
  • Article 130a StGB: Instructions to commit criminal acts
  • Article 131 StGB: Depictions of violence
  • Article 184 StGB: Ordinary pornography
  • Article 184a StGB: Violent pornography or animal pornography
  • Article 184b StGB: Child pornography
  • Article 184c StGB: Juvenile pornography
  • Article 184d StGB: Distribution of pornographic performances by broadcasting, media services or telecommunications services
  • Article 120 OWiG: Soliciting for prostitution

The Interstate Broadcasting Treaty (RStV) is a treaty between the German federal states. It originally came into effect on 31 August 1991. The version currently in force is the one set out in the Thirteenth Amendment to the Interstate Broadcasting Agreement (13. Rundfunkänderungsstaatsvertrag – RÄStV). It contains basic regulations for public-service broadcasting and private broadcasting, plus a few guidelines for telemedia.


International law

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of the Human Rights Conventions of the United Nations and is the most important human rights instrument for children. Among the obligations it creates for contracting states worldwide is one to take steps to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.

The Directive on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography applies in the European Union. Within the EU, it harmonises the definition of a criminal offence in relation to the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, and contains provisions for combating child pornography on the Internet. It also determines minimum rules for sanctions and regulates some aspects of prevention and of providing assistance for victims.

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) coordinates legislation for the audiovisual media market throughout Europe. The aim is to harmonise and simplify the cross-border provision of audiovisual media services. The directive is based on the "Television Without Frontiers" Directive (TVWF Directive) from 1989, which was limited to the regulation of television broadcasting. In 2007, the scope of the directive was extended with the growing importance of internet services (Directive 2010/13/EU, renamed: Audiovisual Media Services Directive). In 2015, the EU Commission announced the revision of the AVMSD in order to take account of the changed audiovisual media landscape. The revised directive was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 28 November 2018 (Synopsis of Institute of European Media Law). The requirements must be transposed into national law by 19 September 2020. The directive lays down requirements for TV broadcasts, on-demand services and also for video platforms, for example legal requirements concerning youth media protection such as the protection of minors from inappropriate content (cf. Art. 6a, Art. 28b).

The Directive on electronic commerce unifies provisions within the EU concerning various aspects of electronic commerce. It contains no special precepts for the protection of minors, concerning itself instead with the regulation of aspects of electronic commerce that are of equal importance for all consumers, such as advertising, online orders and contracts, and the liability of service providers.