Copyright Amendment Bill Update

The South African government is pushing forward with its plans to pass the Copyright Amendment Bill (CAB), despite concerns about its legal flaws and contradictions. This comes amid an ongoing public debate that has spanned several years.

If the bill becomes law, it is expected to have negative repercussions for producers and could potentially infringe upon authors’ rights and international treaties.

Additionally, it could hamper South Africa’s research economy and lead to an increase in pirated content hosted on servers within the country.

The current South African Copyright Act of 1978 includes the concept of ‘fair dealing,’ which allows for the affordable reproduction of licensed materials for educational purposes within the framework of international treaties. This provision offers clarity and guidance to all stakeholders.

In contrast, the Amendment Bill introduces the concept of ‘fair use,’ which permits the reproduction or use of copyright-protected material without the prior consent of the author or publisher. Notably, this concept lacks restrictions on its application to specific permitted purposes.

‘Fair use’ has been criticised as an inappropriate framework for South Africa, as it diverges from the country’s existing legal framework. While inspired by the Copyright Law of the United States, the South African version introduces a potentially broad interpretation due to the inclusion of a ‘such as’ phrase.

Industry associations representing creative and cultural sectors presented a memorandum opposing the recent adoption of the Copyright Amendment Bill during a meeting of the ANC NEC Arts and Culture and Sports Subcommittee on March 16, 2024.

During the voting process in the National Assembly, the party adopted the Bill as part of their efforts to provide support and growth for the creative industry and to ensure that artists are valued for their creativity and their intellectual property is protected. The adoption of the Bill in its current form will have unintended consequences and will not provide the protection required for creatives intellectual property and creative works. 

The memorandum outlined the following demands: 

  • The decoupling of the Copyright Amendment bill and the Performers Protection bill. 
  • For the Copyright Amendment Bill to be scrapped to enable proper consultations to be held with the creative and cultural sector. 
  • For President Ramaphosa to not sign the bill in its current form but to rather refer to them in the next administration to restart the process. 
  • The President and the minister meet with the creative sector, to discuss their concerns.