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What to do about restricted books

Posted on 9 January 2014 by Michelle

Each year a small number of books are submitted for classification. If a restricted classification is assigned, this affects how the book needs to be handled by libraries, bookstores, and anyone else supplying the book.

Films need to be classified before they are supplied to the public. Books (and magazines) are different - they are generally only classified as a result of complaints from members of the public, or enforcement action by New Zealand Customs, Police, or the Department of Internal Affairs.

I'm concerned about a book I've found in a library or a bookstore

In the first case, have a chat to a staff member at the library or bookstore. It may simply be that the book would be better located in a different section. If you think the book may need to be restricted due to matters of sex, horror, crime, cruelty, violence, offensive language or self harm, then you can either contact the Censorship Compliance Unit at the Department of Internal Affairs or seek leave from the Chief Censor to have the book classified.

I work in a library/bookstore - how do I handle restricted books?

An age restriction on a book means that it's illegal to supply it to an underage person. Parents or guardians can not give permission for an underage person to have a restricted book. In practical terms, an age-restriction on a book means that if it's stored on open shelves, there would be no way to ensure an underage person did not have access to it. Instead, you might consider keeping the book behind the counter or in the stacks. In many cases when a book is given an age restriction, the classification decision will include display conditions such as the requirement that the book carry an official classification label (these are the same labels you see on DVDs). If this display condition has been made, then labels must be obtained from the Film and Video Labelling Body.

Even if there hasn't been a requirement made for a classification label, the restriction must still be enforced. In this situation, libraries/booksellers may find it useful to apply their own label to the book which indicates its restriction.

Recent classification decisions on books

caption here
Title Classification decision What the decision means
Into the River Unrestricted No official label required, can be supplied to anyone
Fifty Shades of Grey M: Sex scenes (Classification Office decision) No official label required, can be supplied to anyone but is recommended for a mature audience
Kate & Wills Up the Aisle: A Right Royal Fairytale M (Classification Office decision) No official label required, can be supplied to anyone but is recommended for a mature audience
Stripped Bare: The Body Revealed in Contemporary Art R18: Nudity and sexual content that may offend (Classification Office decision) Official label required, must not be supplied to anyone under the age of 18
100 Most Infamous Criminals R13 (Classification Office decision) Official label required, must not be supplied to anyone under the age of 13

If you have any questions, we're here to help!

You can phone us on 0508 236767 or email us on info@classificationoffice.govt.nz

Michelle works in the Information Unit at the NZ Office of Film and Literature Classification. Her views do not represent those of the Chief Censor or of the Classification Office. The Information Unit provides information to other staff, to the public, and to industry members - they are not involved in assigning classifications. Keep up with our blog posts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Books on shelves

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