South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill, 2017

–Statement by the International Publishers Association (IPA) on South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill, 2017


International Publishers AssociationWhen South Africa announced its intention to review and modernize its copyright law, the original purpose was to benefit South African performers and authors who were not receiving fair remuneration for their own intellectual property creations. Unfortunately, the Copyright Amendment Bill strays far afield from this intended purpose. The Bill introduces a broad fair use clause, alongside extended general exceptions and new exceptions for educational institutions, libraries, archives, museums and galleries, thereby weakening the position of South African authors and publishers. It also contains other features not meeting international best practice. The IPA notes with concern that these new provisions are to large extent not supported by statements of underlying policy or by the kind of impact assessment necessary to gauge the potential harm that will result from the Bill becoming law.

The IPA opposes the introduction of a ‘fair use’ clause that captures more permitted purposes than the ‘fair use’ clauses in other jurisdictions, which, coupled with a clause that overrides all contracts, broad co-extensive general exceptions and new exceptions for educational institutions, libraries, archives, museums and galleries, will allow reproduction and making available of entire works without the consent of or remuneration to the rights holder.

The IPA is aware that copyright experts engaged by Parliament have already advised that adoption of the Bill in its current form will conflict with South Africa’s obligations under the Berne Convention and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement and will also not enable South Africa to accede to the WIPO Copyright Treaty or the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The IPA and its members urge the Government of South Africa to return to the original intentions and Parliament to heed the advice of the experts it engaged, and reject the current Bill. Meaningful dialogue with the relevant stakeholders should be undertaken so that the legislation better addresses the needs of authors, publishers, and educational communities.

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