Brief Introduction to the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (Cap. 390)
The Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (COIAO) regulates the publication or display of articles with obscene or indecent content including material which is violent, depraved or repulsive.
- COIAO covers a wide range of articles including newspapers, magazines, comic books, video tapes, video compact discs, digital video discs, tapes, electronically transmitted pictures and images.
- There is no statutory requirement for articles to be submitted for classification before publication. However, publishers or producers may take the initiative to submit their articles to the Obscene Articles Tribunal (OAT) for classification before publication. The OAT is a judicial body which consists of a magistrate and members of the public from different walks of life.
- In classifying articles, the OAT will take into account the standards of morality, decency and propriety that are generally accepted by reasonable members of the community, the dominant effect of an article or of matter as a whole, the target audience and if the article or matter has an honest purpose. Articles can be classified into one of the following categories:
- Class I (neither obscene nor indecent)
The article can be published to any person.
- Class II (indecent)
The article cannot be published to persons under the age of 18. It should be sealed in a wrapper. At least 20% of the front and back covers should contain the statutory warning notice. Particulars of the publisher should also be printed on the front or back cover of the article.
- Class III (obscene)
The article is prohibited from publication.