Thursday 20 May 2010

Afro Ng'ombe

Swaziland Cabinet Approves New Copyright Bill

It’s had a long run, but the 98 year-old Swaziland Copyright Act may be on its last leg.  This week, the Swaziland Cabinet announced its approval of the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Bill of 2010.  The Bill will now move on to the Parliament for further review.

As Times of Swaziland points out:

The Copyright Act No. 36/1912 did not address the development of the latest technology in the field of copyright – for example, the use of computers, satellite signals, compact disks, DVD’s etc.

Hard to address the development of technologies that could hardly be predicted.  When this Act was written, the big technology upset of the day was the replacement of the cylinder phonograph with disc-using gramophones.

The 1912 Act is based on the 1911 Copyright Act of the United Kingdom.  It cites a number of previous UK Copyright Acts, including all the way back to the Copyright Act of 1775.  The Swaziland Act was amended at least once to keep the Act in force through the transition from part of the Commonwealth to independent country.  (See Sec. 3 and Sec. 25(3).)

According to the Times story, the new Bill adds moral rights and neighbouring rights to the already existing economic rights held by copyright owners in Swaziland.  Presumably, it also raises the fines for infringement from the low penalties previously discussed by Afro-Leo here.  Unable to find a copy of the actual Bill, Afro-Leo is unsure whether the new Bill increases the term of copyright beyond the life plus 50 granted in the 1912 Act.

Perhaps most interesting, the Bill allows for the establishment of a Copyright Office within the Swazi government.  The Times is very optimistic about what this Copyright Office will mean for the Swazi entertainment industry.  Afro-Leo, having followed the adventures of some other copyright offices is a little less optimistic.

Afro Ng'ombe

Afro Ng'ombe

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