South Africa’s current copyright law was enacted 41 years ago. The Copyright Act No. 98 of 1978 had no provisions for people with disabilities – and that hasn’t changed in more than four decades.

This means that every time a person who is blind, deaf, partially-sighted, dyslexic, or paralysed needs to access any information, the content has to be converted into an accessible format before they can read and understand it.

By Denise Nicholson, The Conversation, 15 September 2019


Aphiwe Nomandla is a second year computer science student at the University of the Western Cape. To date, the cost of prescribed textbooks for his course ranged from R799 to R3,985. He said most students could not afford to buy the required textbooks.

“Well, the textbooks have different editions. So what most students do is get an older version like three versions older. It has the same content still. And others just go to pirate websites and download them there.”

The texts Nomandla and his fellow students need may become much more accessible when the Copyright Amendment Bill becomes law.

By Linda Daniels, GroundUp, 30 August 2019


If the project of decolonising education aims to shatter the barriers that keep formal learning within the province of the elite, in terms of both curriculums and spaces, then expanding access to education (and educational materials) is a crucial piece of the puzzle. The Copyright Amendment Bill of 2017 is a move towards enabling a majority of South Africans to participate in the previously inaccessible community of scholarship. In amending the apartheid-era Copyright Act of 1978 to introduce provisions that enable access to educational materials it contributes to the democratisation of knowledge and the fulfilment of the Bill of Rights.

By Sanya Samtani, Mail & Guardian, 19 August 2019


“Over the past few years, there has been an outcry from the South African creative community, over the lack of a strong legal framework that oversees and moderates the allocation of creatives’ (ranging from actors, filmmakers, writers, photographers to fine artists, activists and academia among others) royalties for the work they have undertaken; both locally and abroad.”

By Jack Devnarain, Startup Africa, July/August Edition 2019


“The South African government is planning to update its four-decade-old copyright legislation, but what that means for filmmakers was up for debate during a contentious and often heated session at the Durban FilmMart this week.”

By Christopher Vourlias, Variety, 20 July 2019


“Even if SA were listed, the likelihood of being sanctioned by the US for a copyright law policy dispute is very low.”

By Nontando Tusi, Business Day, 15 July 2019


“At the heart of this row is the new South African Copyright Amendment Bill, currently waiting for presidential signature and especially, among others, the provisions for the introduction of fair use into the South African creative industries, a topic that has been the subject of many angry and agitated dialogues (and monologues, for that matter).”

By Graysouth, 02 July 2019


The reform of copyright law in South Africa, particularly for the library and educational sectors, has been a long and bumpy road since 1998. Our copyright law is 41 years old – and broken! The exceptions for education, research, and libraries and archives have not been amended since 1978. The Act has no provisions for people with disabilities, nor provisions for galleries and museums. Being so old, it obviously does not address the digital world. “Fair dealing” in Section 12 of the Act is outdated, limited and not ‘future-proof’.

By Denise Nicholson, Info Justice, 07 June 2019


A broad coalition of creators and access to knowledge advocates have petitioned the President of South Africa to urgently sign the Copyright Amendment Bill before him. The petition (https://www.re-createza.org/) is endorsed by organizations representing over half a million South African creators, teachers, people with disabilities and others who rely on copyright access and protection. It calls for the President to sign the Bill “without delay,” including to enact into copyright law “a transformative vision for a more equal and just society.” The petition is the latest step in a decades long campaign to enact development- focused copyright reform that is sensitive to South Africa’s particular social and economic context.

By William New, Info Justice, 30 April 2019


Freedom of Panorama is the right to take photos of public works of art and share them with others, for example placing the photos on the Internet. Examples of this are the public facing façades of buildings, monuments such as statues, or arguably even election posters that are tied to street poles advocating for political parties in the upcoming election. All of which are located in public spaces such as on the street or in parks and walkways.

The current statute does not explicitly allow for this. Worse than that, it is written in such a way that makes it possible for the owners of public works to sue people photographing them and sharing them over the Internet.

By Douglas Scott, Ground Up, 25 April 2019


[I]f you or someone you know has taken a photograph of a recently built monument, such as the statue of Nelson Mandela in Sandton, and shared that photograph with people on Twitter or Facebook (for example) then, according to a strict interpretation of current copyright law, the owner of that statue could sue you.

This opens up possibilities for private censorship in addition to criminalising large numbers of law-abiding citizens for doing something people reasonably believe is both otherwise legal and normal. 

For Wikipedia this is especially problematic. Wikipedia policy takes the strictest possible interpretation of copyright law to guide our use of adding content.

By Douglas Scott, Business Day, 24 April 2019


Visually impaired people in South Africa are being deprived access to millions of publications due to delays in approving the Copyright Amendment Bill, rights group Blind SA has said.

Data shows that blind people have access to only about five percent of all publications globally, and to alleviate this the Marrakesh Treaty was adopted in 2013 to facilitate access to published works by the visually impaired.

Nearly six years later, over 60 countries have ratified the treaty including nine African countries, but South Africa is not among them, noted Christo de Klerk, chairman of the Braille committee at Blind SA.

"Our government’s position on this matter is that the Copyright Amendment Bill first has to be signed before the Marrakesh Treaty can be ratified," De Klerk said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, this has been delayed for years because of a continuous bickering about the bill," he added.

By Ana Reporter, Independent Online, 23 April 2019


Davies and arts & culture minister Nathi Mthethwa recently met various industry stakeholders to hear their concerns about the Copyright Amendment Bill as well as the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill. Parliament recently approved the bills, which are now awaiting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature before becoming law.

Davies said the bill was not intended to cause harm. On concerns of the fair use clause in the bill, Davies said there are safeguards meant to ensure that the intended use is in fact fair.  He said there are also “technological protection measures” to prevent unauthorised access or use of copyright works. Content that is protected by these measures includes digital music, movies, games and software, said Davies, adding that the Copyright Tribunal will also disputes that may arise.

By Bekezela Phakath, Business Day, 22 April 2019


The bill introduces several overdue fixes specifically for data, application programming interfaces (APIs), interoperability and anti-circumvention. But like any other law, it cannot predict unimagined technologies. Instead, copyright needs to be flexible to adapt to technological change.

The bill introduces flexibility into SA law through a hybrid fair-use clause. Critics of fair use say they prefer highly specific, detailed exceptions. Detailed exceptions are important, but they can only ever be backward-looking, dealing with current uses of current technologies. Only a general exception clause is future orientated. A general exception clause allows courts to balance innovative uses against the exclusivity given to copyright holders, and so enable continuous adaption.

By Andrew Rens, Business Day, 04 April 2019


Wikimedia ZA president Douglas Scott said the current law has contributed to the country falling behind on technology.

“Memes are not allowed under the Fair Dealing law. Also, the sharing of pictures of public monuments is most probably illegal, it’s just that it has not been tested in court yet. Wikipedia doesn't accept photos of newly-built monuments because of the current act, only pictures of colonial-era monuments, such as the Rhodes statue, because its copyright licence has expired,” said Scott.

By Zodidi Dano, Cape Argus, 18 March 2019


The core of the criticism being mounted by international publishers and their local affiliates is that South Africa – the most unequal country in the world – should not broaden the education rights for teachers and students to levels enjoyed in the USA, Canada and elsewhere. 

The proposed change is not actually a major alteration of existing law. Since its enactment in the 1970s, South Africa's copyright law has always had strong and broad rights to use copyrighted materials for education and study purposes. In addition to this right of educators, learners have a separate right to make private copies to facilitate their learning.

The bill makes a just and reasonable effort to clarify the degree to which teachers and students can lawfully make copies to facilitate education. The practices permitted by the bill are more restricted than those routinely followed under apartheid. But they are more liberal than are practiced at some universities that license all copying, even the use of quotations of private copies that current law permits. It is important to note that publishers' claim that schools can copy whole works for all their students is wrong. The law specifically provides that course packs or other forms of copying may not "incorporate the whole or substantially the whole of a book or journal issue, or a recording of a work". It authorises copying of full works only if the work is not available in the South African market on reasonable terms and conditions.

By Eve Gray and Desmond Oriakhogba, News24, 18 March 2019


Claims that favouring creators in copyright reform will harm the economy are not supported by the experiences in countries that have adopted fair use. The economies in Singapore, Malaysia, Israel, Philippines and other countries that have adopted it have continued to grow strongly. Indeed, one econometric study shows that technology industries grow faster — and publishers and entertainment companies expand — as a result of fair use.

It is a frequently-stated falsehood that adopting fair use destroyed Canadian publishing. Studies show that, in Canada, payments to CMOs have been declining as universities and others rely more on fair dealing (they don’t have fair use). . . . Redirection of library resources has, in fact, resulted in more spending on the products of local Canadian publishers.

By Sean Flynn and Nontando Tusi, Business Day 09 March 2019


In December last year, the National Assembly approved redrafted versions of the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill and the Copyright Amendment Bill, that includes stronger protections for copyright holders but also a fair use provision for some users.

In the National Assembly, 197 Members of Parliament voted in favour of the Copyright Amendment Bill with four MP’s reportedly voting against it. There were no abstentions.

By Linda Daniels, Intellectual Property Watch, 14 February 2019