Parental Advisory

Parental Advisory Label (“PAL”) Program

Parental Advisory Label
As you get older, it may be harder to be hip, but it’s much easier to be educated. To help guide parents, the RIAA has placed a number of different resources at your fingertips. The parent is the first and most important teacher. No one can take your place.

All music is not always appropriate for all ages. The music industry takes seriously its responsibility to help parents determine what is and is not appropriate for their children. That's why the record companies created the Parental Advisory Label Program. This program is a tool to help parents make the choice about when -- and whether -- their children should be able to listen to a particular recording. Music can be a tremendous tool in fostering dialogue and understanding across generations. Through music, parents or other adults can tune into what kids are thinking and feeling. We need to pay attention to the music children choose and ask questions: why do they like a certain song or album? What do they think the artist is saying? When these opportunities to talk openly are seized, parents, kids AND music are best served.


Background

RIAA Parental Advisory Logo Standards  Effective as of October 23, 2006

 

  • Uniform Guidelines for Determining Whether a Sound Recording Should Use a PAL Notice.
  • Guidelines and Requirements Regarding Use of a Logo on Physical Products.
  • Guidelines and Requirements Regarding PAL Notices in Consumer Advertisements.
  • Guidelines and Requirements Regarding PAL Notices in Digital Distribution.


Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the PAL Program

  • What does a PAL Notice mean?
  • Who decides what receives a PAL Notice?
  • Does a PAL Notice encourage kids to buy the album?
  • How much product receives a PAL Notice?


Improvements to the PAL Program

PAL License Agreement

Background

In 1985, the RIAA worked with the National Parent Teacher Association (National PTA) and the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) to address their concerns regarding explicit content in sound recordings. The organizations reached an agreement that certain music releases containing explicit lyrics, including explicit depictions of violence and sex, would be identified so parents could make intelligent listening choices for their children.

Since then, the RIAA has provided record companies and artists with the labeling tools that alert parents to explicit content and help them make the right decisions about the music to which their children listen. The recording industry’s PAL Program lets parents undertake that responsibility for their families and respects the core American value of freedom of expression that tolerates unpopular speech and frowns upon censorship.

The RIAA created and now administers the PAL Program. Individual record companies and artists decide which of their releases should receive a “PAL Notice” indicating that the release contains explicit content. Depending on a number of factors described in more detail in the Standards, a PAL Notice may take the form of the specific PAL Logo, or an additional indicator approved by the RIAA for such use.

There are a number of factors considered when a record company chooses to release a record. Once a record company signs an artist to a contract, the artist is typically given a recording budget and goes off on their own with producers and musicians to record. Typically, the record company will have more involvement in material and song selections for new artists than established artists, but in all cases the initial recordings are the artist's personal vision.

In some instances, record companies ask an artist to re-record certain songs or to revise lyrics because a creative and responsible view of the music demands such a revision. Sometimes songs are simply removed from an album altogether. In other instances, the artist and the record company agree that there is musical and artistic credibility in the whole of the work even when the lyrics may be too explicit for mainstream distribution. In those latter instances, the RIAA's PAL Logo is typically applied prominently to the outside of the permanent packaging. The Logo or a similar PAL Notice may also appear in advertising for the sound recording, and throughout online and mobile products or services that allow consumers to receive and play a sound recording on their personal computer or mobile device.

The RIAA and its member companies take the PAL Program very seriously and continue to update the PAL Program to account for new music delivery methods online and through wireless services. Further, artists appreciate that this is a voluntary program which, instead of seeking to censor their words, permits them greater freedom of expression while still providing them the opportunity to help parents and families make informed consumption decisions.

The RIAA does not represent the record retailers, but works closely with the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), the Digital Media Association (DiMA), the wireless industry, and leading technology companies on this issue. A good number of traditional retailers have in-store policies prohibiting the sale of records displaying the PAL Logo to those younger than 18, and many online retailers now are implementing parental control mechanisms. In addition, some retail outlets choose not to stock PAL-labeled product if they believe such a policy would best serve their own communities.

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RIAA Parental Advisory Logo Standards Effective as of October 23, 2006


“The Parental Advisory is a notice to consumers that recordings identified by this logo may contain strong language or depictions of violence, sex or substance abuse. Parental discretion is advised.”

The following guidelines and requirements (“Standards”) apply to all participants in the voluntary, RIAA-administered, parental advisory label (“PAL”) program. Any such entity is referred to herein as a “Participant.”

This version of the Standards in its entirety is effective as of October 23, 2006, and supersedes all prior versions. The RIAA reserves the right to modify these Standards at any time with or without notice, and encourages Participants to review the Standards frequently to ensure that Participants are aware of any modifications.

The Standards include the following guidelines and requirements:


1. Uniform Guidelines for Determining Whether a Sound Recording Should Use a PAL Notice.

2. Guidelines and Requirements Regarding Use of a Logo on Physical Products.

3. Guidelines and Requirements Regarding PAL Notices in Consumer Advertisements.

4. Guidelines and Requirements Regarding PAL Notices in Digital Distribution.

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Uniform Guidelines for Determining Whether a Sound Recording Should Use a PAL Notice


Participant record labels and/or artists should use the following guidelines to determine whether any particular sound recording contains strong language or depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse to such an extent as to merit parental notification, as described in more detail in these Standards. Strong language or depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse to such an extent is referred to herein as “PAL Content.” Only the record label or artist that owns and/or distributes the particular sound recording may determine whether the sound recording contains PAL Content and warrants the use of a PAL Notice.

A determination that a sound recording contains PAL Content is not a statement as to whether the sound recording is or is not suitable for particular listeners. Nor is the absence of any notification that a sound recording contains PAL Content a statement that the sound recording is completely devoid of all references to strong language or depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse. Rather, it is utilized to (i) provide parents, consumers, and companies within the sales or distribution chain notice that parental discretion is advised when purchasing the particular sound recording for children or when listening to the sound recording with children present; (ii) guide the labeling, marketing, and distribution of the sound recording; and (iii) provide notice whether an Edited Version (defined below) of a sound recording exists. A record label or artist determination that a sound recording contains PAL Content shall result in the use of PAL Content indicators, as more fully described in these Standards, to provide notice of the PAL Content. Such indicators are referred to herein as “PAL Notices.”

It is obviously not possible to define each individual situation in which a record label or artist should determine that a sound recording contains PAL Content. In making such a determination, however, record labels and artists should consider:

1. that contemporary cultural morals and standards should be used in determining whether parents or guardians would find the sound recording suitable for children;

2. the context in which the material is used, as some words, phrases, sounds, or descriptions might be offensive to parents if spotlighted or emphasized, but might not offend if merely part of the background or a minimal part of the lyrics;

3. the context of the artist performing the material, as well as the expectations of the artist’s audience;

4. that lyrics are often susceptible to varying interpretations, and that words can have different meanings and should not be viewed in isolation from the music that accompanies them (i.e., lyrics when accompanied by loud and raucous music can be perceived differently than the same lyrics when accompanied by soft and soothing music);

5. that such a determination requires sensitivity and common sense, and that context, frequency, and emphasis are obviously important; isolated or unintelligible references to certain material might be insufficient to warrant labeling a particular sound recording as containing PAL Content;

6. that these Standards apply to the case of a single track commercially released as well as to full albums (whether released in the form of a CD, cassette or any other configuration); and

7. that a sound recording may contain strong language or depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse, yet due to other factors involved, may not merit a designation as containing PAL Content.

The record label or artist determination that a sound recording contains PAL Content shall affect the marketing, sale, and distribution of such sound recording, as described in greater detail throughout these Standards. For purposes of clarification, only the applicable record label or artist shall determine whether any particular sound recording contains PAL Content, and all other Participants shall abide by the applicable record label or artist’s determination.

Edited Versions

It is recommended, although not required, that when practicable the applicable record label or artist create an edited version of a PAL Content sound recording that does not include all of the same content contained in the original, and that no longer merits a PAL Notice. Such version is referred to herein as the “Edited Version.” An Edited Version need not remove all potentially objectionable content from the sound recording. For example, some such content might be retained in order not to compromise artistic expression.

Audio-Visual Products

The applicable record label or artist shall review all audio-visual products that incorporate a sound recording as a predominant feature (e.g., DVD music videos, concert performances, music videos, etc.) separate and independent of any review solely related to the sound recording component. Such review shall utilize the standards listed herein and shall take into account the audio and visual components as a whole. In situations where a third party Participant other than a record label or artist owns the audio-visual product containing the sound recording, such third party may utilize the guidelines listed herein to determine whether the audio-visual product contains PAL Content. For purposes of clarification, (i) any audio-visual product that contains a PAL Content sound recording shall also be deemed to contain PAL Content and (ii) the use of a sound recording that does not contain PAL Content shall not preclude a determination that the audio-visual product contains PAL Content.

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Guidelines and Requirements Regarding Use of a Logo on Physical Products

Participants shall apply the following guidelines and requirements to the labeling of physical products that contain PAL Content sound recordings.

Any physical product that contains a PAL Content sound recording as a predominant feature of the product shall include the PAL Notice listed below (the “Logo”). All such physical products are referred to herein as “Covered Physical Products,” and shall include CDs, DVDs, DualDiscs, Enhanced CDs, and such other current or future physical media in which a sound recording may be embodied. The RIAA owns all right, title, and interest in and to the Logo, and a Participant shall not use, reproduce, display or distribute the Logo in any manner absent the execution of a separate written agreement between the RIAA and a Participant authorizing such use, reproduction, display, or distribution.

A Covered Physical Product shall not include any designation to indicate that a sound recording does or does not contain PAL Content other than as specifically described herein. For example, a Participant shall not label an Edited Version of a Covered Physical Product as “Clean” or “Non-explicit.”

A Covered Physical Product shall not contain a PAL Notice that is inconsistent with a record label or artist’s original designation as to whether a sound recording contains PAL Content. For example, a Participant shall not label a sound recording as containing PAL Content if the applicable record label or artist determines that the sound recording does not contain PAL Content. Similarly, a Participant shall not fail to label a sound recording as containing PAL Content if the applicable record label or artist determines the sound recording contains PAL Content.

Covered Physical Products that contain PAL Content sound recordings shall include the following Logo:

The use of the Logo on a Covered Physical Product is not a determination of whether the Covered Physical Product is or is not appropriate for particular listeners. Nor is the absence of a Logo a statement that the Covered Physical Product is completely devoid of all references to strong language or depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse. Rather, it is utilized to (i) provide parents, consumers, and companies within the sales or distribution chain notice that parental discretion is advised when purchasing the Covered Physical Product for children or when listening to the sound recording embodied in the Covered Physical Product with children present; (ii) guide the marketing and distribution of the Covered Physical Product; and (iii) provide notice whether an Edited Version of the Covered Physical Product exists.

Participants shall follow the following guidelines and requirements when using the Logo on a Covered Physical Product:


· Participants shall clearly and conspicuously display the Logo in a legible, non-removable form on the Covered Physical Product cover artwork (as opposed to on any wrapper, jewel-case, removable sticker, or cellophane covering).

· It is recommended, although not required, that Participants place the Logo on the bottom left or right corner of the Covered Physical Product front cover, although a Participant may determine the precise positioning on a case-by-case basis dependant upon such factors as the Covered Physical Product’s particular artwork design and color.

· Participants shall display the Logo in black and white. It is recommended, although not required, that the Logo measure no less than 1” by 5/8”.

· Any Edited Version shall include a label that indicates such edited designation by stating “Edited Version” (“Edited Version Label”). Participants shall clearly and conspicuously display the Edited Version Label in a legible manner on the cover artwork itself, or on any wrapper, sticker, jewel-case, or cellophane covering. Participants shall locate the Edited Version Label either on the front cover or on the top spine of the cover. The Edited Version Label provides notice that the sound recording is a modified version of the PAL Content original, does not include all of the same content contained in the original, and no longer merits a PAL Notice. The use of the Edited Version Label does not necessarily mean, however, that the record label or artist removed all potentially objectionable content from the sound recording. For example, some such content might be retained in order not to compromise artistic expression.

· It is recommended, although not required, that any Participant that distributes Covered Physical Products via an online or mobile distribution platform adopt a parental control mechanism designed to aid parents in controlling the distribution of PAL Content sound recordings via the distribution platform.

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Guidelines and Requirements Regarding PAL Notices in Consumer Advertisements

Participants shall follow the following guidelines and requirements in relation to any consumer advertising, marketing, and promotions (“Advertisement(s)”) for sound recordings that contain PAL Content. These Advertisement guidelines and requirements are designed to (i) provide parents, consumers, and companies within the sales or distribution chain notice that parental discretion is advised when purchasing the PAL Content sound recording for children or when listening to the sound recording with children present; (ii) guide the marketing and distribution of the sound recording; and (iii) provide notice whether an Edited Version of the sound recording exists.

Advertisements related to sound recordings that contain PAL Content shall clearly and conspicuously communicate the presence of PAL Content in the sound recording, as well as the availability of a corresponding Edited Version, if such an Edited Version exists.

· For any audio only Advertisement, the Advertisement may state during or immediately after the Advertisement that the advertised sound recording contains PAL Content and whether an Edited Version exists. If such a statement is made, the audio only Advertisement shall only use the words “Explicit Content – Parental Advisory,” and “Edited Version Also Available” in providing such disclosures.

· For any print, television, mobile, or online Advertisement, the Advertisement may include (i) the Logo for the sound recording or (ii) the words “Explicit Content – Parental Advisory,” “Explicit Content,” “Explicit,” or “Parental Advisory,” in legible form and in close proximity to the title or artwork for the applicable sound recording. If an Edited Version of the sound recording exists, the Advertisement may include the words “Edited Version Also Available” in legible form and in close proximity to the applicable sound recording.

· For any print, television, mobile, or online Advertisement that contains a miniature depiction of a Covered Physical Product, or merely the title of the Covered Physical Product, the Advertisement may include the words “Explicit Content – Parental Advisory,” “Explicit Content,” “Explicit,” or “Parental Advisory,” in legible form and in close proximity to the title or artwork for the applicable sound recording. If an Edited Version of the Covered Physical Product exists, the Advertisement may include the words “Edited Version Also Available” in legible form and in close proximity to the applicable sound recording or title.

· An Advertisement shall not include any designation to indicate that a sound recording does or does not contain PAL Content other than as specifically described herein. For example, a Participant shall not label an Edited Version of a Covered Physical Product as “Clean” or “Non-explicit” in an Advertisement.

· An Advertisement shall not contain a PAL Notice that is inconsistent with a record label or artist’s original designation as to whether a sound recording contains PAL Content. For example, a Participant shall not label a sound recording as containing PAL Content if the applicable record label or artist determines that the sound recording does not contain PAL Content. Similarly, a Participant shall not fail to label a sound recording as containing PAL Content if the applicable record label or artist determines the sound recording contains PAL Content.

· Displaying a Covered Physical Product in a manner that renders the Logo on such Covered Physical Product illegible shall not satisfy the requirement that an Advertisement clearly and conspicuously communicate the presence of PAL Content in the sound recording.

· Displaying a Covered Physical Product in a manner that renders the Edited Version Label (to the extent an Edited Version exists) on such Covered Physical Product illegible shall not satisfy the requirement that an Advertisement clearly and conspicuously communicate the existence of an Edited Version.

· It is recommended, although not required, that an Advertisement that contains a miniature depiction of a Covered Physical Product contain a PAL Notice in addition to the Logo as embedded within the miniature Covered Physical Product cover artwork.

An example of an Advertisement that adequately communicates the presence of an Edited Version follows below.

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Guidelines and Requirements Regarding PAL Notices in Digital Distribution

Participants shall follow the following guidelines and requirements in relation to the digital distribution of sound recordings.

Any digital distribution platform for sound recordings (including as incorporated into an audio-visual product) shall incorporate the Logo (or such other PAL Notice) and Edited Version Label into such delivery platform, as more fully described below. All such digital distribution platforms are referred to herein as “Covered Digital Platforms,” and shall include online, wireless, cellular telecommunications, and mobile download, mastertone, ringtone, ringtune, and streaming sites and services that distribute sound recordings, and such other current or future digital platforms through or on which a sound recording may be distributed to an end user.

A Covered Digital Platform shall not include any designation to indicate that a sound recording does or does not contain PAL Content other than as specifically described herein. For example, Participants shall not label an Edited Version of a sound recording distributed through a Covered Digital Platform as “Clean” or “Non-explicit.”

A Covered Digital Platform shall not contain a PAL Notice that is inconsistent with a record label or artist’s original designation as to whether a sound recording contains PAL Content. For example, a Participant shall not label a sound recording as containing PAL Content if the applicable record label or artist determines that the sound recording does not contain PAL Content. Similarly, a Participant shall not fail to label a sound recording as containing PAL Content if the applicable record label or artist determines the sound recording contains PAL Content.

The use of a PAL Notice for a sound recording made available via a Covered Digital Platform is not a determination of whether the sound recording is or is not appropriate for particular listeners. Nor is the absence of any PAL Notice a statement that the sound recording is completely devoid of all references to strong language or depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse. Rather, it is utilized to (i) provide parents, consumers, and companies within the sales or distribution chain notice that parental discretion is advised when purchasing the particular sound recording for children or when listening to the sound recording with children present; (ii) guide the labeling, marketing, and distribution of the sound recording; and (iii) provide notice whether an Edited Version of a sound recording exists.

To the extent technologically feasible, a Covered Digital Platform shall follow the following guidelines:

· The Covered Digital Platform shall clearly and conspicuously communicate the presence of PAL Content made available via the Covered Digital Platform, as well as the availability of a corresponding Edited Version, if such an Edited Version exists. The Covered Digital Platform shall provide any such communication prior to the purchase or distribution of the PAL Content sound recording.

· A Covered Digital Platform shall only use the Logo, or the words “Explicit Content – Parental Advisory,” “Explicit Content,” “Explicit,” or “Parental Advisory” to communicate the presence of PAL Content, and the words “Edited Version” or “Edited” to communicate the availability of an Edited Version.

· The Covered Digital Platform shall display the PAL Notice utilized in a clear, conspicuous, and legible manner. It is recommended, although not required, that such notification appear in all stages of the purchasing process – from search results to the shopping cart.

· It is recommended, although not required, that a Covered Digital Platform adopt a parental control mechanism designed to aid parents in controlling the distribution of PAL Content sound recordings via the Covered Digital Platform. It is further recommended that any such parental control mechanism apply to all stages of the purchasing process – from search results to the shopping cart.

· It is recommended, although not required, that a Covered Digital Platform clearly and conspicuously “link” to, or incorporate information from, the entertainment industry’s web page, www.parentalguide.org, that explains the PAL Program and the labeling programs for other entertainment products.

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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the PAL Program

What does a PAL Notice mean?

A PAL Notice is a notice to parents and guardians that recordings identified with the Logo or another PAL Notice contain strong language and/or depictions of violence, sex or substance abuse to such an extent that parental discretion is advised. The PAL Notice is an indicator that record companies, artists, advertisers, and online and mobile merchants voluntarily place on products, advertisements and services to better inform consumers and retailers, while also protecting the interests of artists in free expression and artistic creativity.

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Who decides what receives a PAL Notice?

In most decisions, the decision that a particular sound recording should receive a PAL Notice is made by each record company in conjunction with the artist. In certain situations, a third party owner of an audio visual product may determine whether the audio visual product receives a PAL Notice. The industry as a whole and its individual companies take this program seriously.

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Does a PAL Notice encourage kids to buy the album?

It’s not a PAL Notice that kids look for, it’s the music. Independent research shows kids put limited weight on lyrics in deciding which music they like, caring more about rhythm and melody. The PAL Notice alone isn’t enough incentive.

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How much product receives a PAL Notice?

Recordings that receive a PAL Notice account for a fraction of the music being produced. For example, for the first six months of 2006, less than 5% of albums released by the major record companies carried the Logo.

The PAL Program continues to be successful, yet it is not all the RIAA is doing to help parents and children. RIAA is very involved with the Pause, Parent, and Play campaign, and the industry as a whole is proactive.

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Improvements to the PAL Program


Over the last 20 years, the RIAA has taken a number of steps to enhance the PAL Program's effectiveness in alerting parents to the presence of explicit content.

In 1990, the RIAA set standards that made the PAL Logo uniform and conspicuous so that parents could more easily identify those recordings which may not be suitable for children. At that time, the RIAA also began an extensive outreach program designed to let parents know about the Logo, and how they could use it to make their own decisions about their children’s music selections.

In 1996, the RIAA and NARM conducted extensive research and focus groups which indicated parents feel strongly that they should, and do, have the primary responsibility for instilling in their children proper morals and values. To help parents monitor the music their children purchase, the RIAA strengthened the program by revising the PAL Program to apply to both audio and video product, by encouraging more consistent use and placement of the Logo, and by fostering greater awareness of the Logo through a point-of-sale merchandising campaign in conjunction with NARM and record retailers across the country.

That study dictated the RIAA’s next national campaign for public awareness. The RIAA provided record retailers with a variety of point-of-sale tools that alert parents to the advisory and explains the intent of the Logo. As a result, many record stores now display posters that educate buyers on the meaning of the Logo. The RIAA also reached out to parent's magazines and other media outlets to inform the public of the existence and meaning of the Logo. And the RIAA continues to maintain a dialogue with its member companies on the Logo and its use.

In 2006, the RIAA continued to update the PAL Program to take into account the explosion of digital music services and the ability of consumers to receive sound recordings delivered directly to their personal computer or mobile device. For example, the Standards now mandate that in most instances only the applicable record label or artist can determine if a sound recording contains explicit content. In addition, while requiring that physical products be labeled only using the Logo, the Standards provide alternative explicit content notices for use with advertisements and digital distribution platforms. Further, the Standards now suggest that online retailers and other digital distribution platforms implement parental control mechanisms. The RIAA also has translated certain materials to Spanish, and continues to explore additional outreach programs.

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PAL License Agreement


Prior to using the RIAA Logo, you first must submit a PAL License Agreement for the RIAA's review. You can download the PAL License Agreement at the link below; no license fees are involved. After filling out all of the required information in the PAL License Agreement, please submit one original to the address listed below. Once the PAL License Agreement is executed by the RIAA, a copy will be returned to you via email along with the graphic file of the Logo for your use according to the Standards.

Download the PAL License Agreement here.

Please submit one original to:

PAL Program

RIAA

1025 F ST NW, 10th Floor

Washington, DC 20004

If you have any questions about the PAL Program or the PAL License Agreement, please call (202) 775-0101.

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