The British government outlined its plans for the future of the Digital Economy in June. As part of those proceedings, the government made it clear that the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) system would become legally enforceable in the UK. Last week, the British Parliament published the latest draft of the bill, offering more details on how it plans to handle ratings exemptions.
As had been suggested, all titles that are aimed at younger children will be exempt from statutory classification. Specifically, anything aimed exclusively at those under 12 will not require legal classification, as long as it does not contain "depictions of violence towards human or animal characters," "depictions of violence towards other characters where the violence looks realistic," swearing, encouragement to criminal activity, "words or images that are likely, to any extent, to stimulate or encourage the use of alcohol or tobacco," or anything that might cause offence on grounds of religion, race, sexual orientation, or similar.
All education titles are also exempt, as long as they are taken as a whole "designed to inform, educate or instruct."
A third exemption category has also been outlined in the bill that covers sports, music, and religion-based games. The exemption has previously been applied to other forms of video works through the Video Recordings Act (1984), but it has yet to be applied to video games. For instance, the BBFC has previously given installments in Activision's Guitar Hero series a 12 rating, meaning that under the previous system it was illegal for the games to be sold to anyone under that age even though they were apparrently exempt from rating.
The exemptions for sport and music games are forfeited if the games in question feature "human sexual activity or acts of force or restraint associated with such activity," serious violence against humans or animals, or depictions of "human genital organs or human urinary or excretory function."
UPDATE: When contacted by GameSpot the Video Standards Council--who will be legally responsible for enforcement of ratings in the UK when the new rules come into force--explained that if exempt games were to be submitted for PEGI classification, then those ratings would still carry legal weight.