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Develop and use a classification tool

What is a classification tool?

A classification tool is a questionnaire, computer program or other interface that allows a person or artificial intelligence to classify content. Industry can use approved classification tools to classify online films or computer games in Australia, instead of applying to the Classification Board for a rating.

Tools use algorithms and logic rules that reflect the criteria in the National Classification Scheme. This ensures tool decisions are consistent with Australian legislation and decisions of the Classification Board.

When a tool has classified the content, it sends the decision to us using an Application Processing Interface (API) and it is published on the National Classification Database (NCD). You can search the NCD in the search bar at the top of this page.

Decisions made by approved classification tools are taken to be decisions of the Classification Board.

Approved classification tools

There are three tools approved for use in Australia:

  • IARC Global Rating Tool for mobile/online computer games
  • Netflix Classification Tool for online films and TV series
  • Spherex Classification Tool for online films and TV series.


How do I develop a tool?

We assist industry to develop their classification tool and seek Ministerial approval. We also monitor and evaluate the performance of approved classification tools.

Developing a tool

An individual, entity or group can develop a tool. It is a timely and cost-effective option for classifying content.

A tool must be able to:

  • produce decisions and consumer advice that are broadly consistent with Australian community standards and the decisions of the Classification Board
  • refuse classification to content
  • respond to changes in the National Classification Scheme, and
  • give notice of decisions to the NCD.

We work with tool developers to:

  • program their tool logic
  • test the API and integration with the NCD
  • assess the accuracy of tool decisions against the criteria
  • execute contractual documents
  • seek ministerial approval of the tool.

Please contact us for more information on developing a classification tool.

Getting a classification tool approved

The Minister must approve your classification tool for use in Australia.

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Approval of Classification Tools) Guidelines 2014 contain matters that the Minister must consider when deciding whether to approve a tool. This includes that a tool must:

  • produce ratings and consumer advice that are consistent with Classification Board decisions
  • be able to refuse classification to content
  • respond to changes in the National Classification Scheme
  • give notice of decisions to the NCD.

The Minister can:

  • approve a tool with conditions
  • enter into an arrangement with the tool owner relating to the operation of the tool
  • vary the approval conditions upon mutual agreement with the tool owner
  • revoke the approval if the tool does not meet its conditions or contractual obligations.

Once my tool is approved, what happens?

Using your tool

Once approved, tool owners and users can start submitting classification decisions through the API to the NCD.

A tool owner can also choose to apply for classification if they do not wish to use their tool to classify particular content.

Applying tool decisions to other formats

A rating generated for an online film or computer game by an approved classification tool will apply in Australia to all other formats of that film or game, providing they are identical to the online version classified by the tool. This includes:

  • computer games made available in any other formats such as physical or boxed
  • films made available in any other formats such as public exhibition (cinema release) or physical/boxed films
  • films or computer games made available on other online gaming or streaming platforms.

This is because the National Classification Scheme provides that:

  • decisions of approved classification tools are taken to be Classification Board decisions
  • content which has already been classified by the Classification Board cannot be classified again (except in very limited circumstances)
  • Classification Board decisions (including those produced by a tool) are to be registered on the National Classification Database (NCD)
  • a seller of a game or film is to display the Australian classification decision.

If a developer or publisher has used an approved classification tool to classify an online film or computer game, they do not need to apply to the Classification Board to classify an identical version in another format. The tool decision applies.

Getting an approved classification tool certificate

The Classification Board can issue an approved classification tool certificate (tool certificate) to developers and publishers if they require confirmation that a tool decision applies to identical content they are making available in Australia in another format.

By applying for a tool certificate, the developer or publisher must declare that the versions are identical or any modifications are exempt from classification.

If the tool decision does not apply to other formats due to modifications not being exempt from classification, the Classification Board will not issue a tool certificate and you must apply for classification of the content.

To apply for a tool certificate, please contact us.

Computer games classified using the IARC Global Rating Tool

If you're the developer of a computer game classified by the IARC Global Rating Tool, IARC requires you to apply for a tool certificate. To start this process, please request an Australian Classification Board (ACB) rating check via the IARC link included on the game's Live Rating Notice.

Please contact IARC directly if you have any questions about IARC processes and obligations.

Monitoring and evaluating classification tools

We monitor and evaluate the performance of approved tools. This includes:

  • the Classification Board checking tool decisions
  • checking the display of the tool rating and consumer advice where the content is made available
  • working with the tool owner to update tool logic where needed
  • evaluating the performance of the tool.

Checking tool decisions

The Classification Board may choose to check a tool decision if the content:

  • is the subject of a complaint
  • is part of a series or franchise known to be high in impact
  • has received high media interest.

The Classification Board may also check a tool decision upon request from the:

  • tool owner or publisher of the content
  • Minister.

To request a check of a tool decision, please contact us.

Revoking tool decisions

As a result of a check, the Classification Board can revoke a tool decision if it deems the content should have a different rating or consumer advice. The Classification Board can also revoke a tool decision based on a valid application for revocation.

If the Classification Board decides to revoke a decision, it will:

  • classify the content and produce a new decision
  • publish the new decision on the NCD
  • notify the tool owner of the new decision.