Monday 12 August 2019


Critics of South Africa's Copyright Amendment Bill Gather

This seminar took place at World of Yamaha in Sandton. The venue, an auditorium on the premises, was packed to capacity with over 300 participants, and proved to be an ideal and well thought out choice to host the event, not only because of the huge turnout but also the quality of sound during the panel discussions as well as the entertainment in between.

Breakfast was served in the foyer just before the seminar kicked off, and consisted of a tasty variety of sandwiches, cold meat, salmon, cheese, fruit and even muesli with yoghurt!

To kick off the discussions for the day, a music video featuring various South African artists singing “Vikela Mina”, which translates to “protect me”, resounded at the venue.  Vikila Mina, inspired by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s use of Hugh Masikela’s “Thuma Mina”, in his first State of the Nation Address, is a cry to President Ramaphosa to protect the copyrights of South African artists. The dominating views of the speakers and audience is that the President should not sign the Copyright Amendment Bill because, according to them, it is seriously flawed and will not protect, as the song title pleads. The Bill, which has been approved by Parliament, has been submitted to President Ramaphosa for his imminent approval, or rejection. 

The seminar took the shape of a discussion rather than a debate. The participants and panellists consisted of a healthy mix of legal practitioners and creative minds from the arts and entertainment industry, which resulted in discussions that were easy to follow even for the layman.

Where the legal experts shared on their experiences during the apparently rushed consultative process with Government and the submissions they made, the creative minds from the music and film industry gave practical examples of the challenges with the current outdated current copyright legislation, and the impact the Bill would have on their work, if adopted in its current state. The speakers in the third panel focused on international perspectives, challenges and opportunities.

The “fair use” doctrine appeared to be the most controversial aspect of the Bill, which if approved, will introduce a US styled approach that the critics feel will be counterproductive and have unintended consequences.

Though there was a general consensus that there is a need for further consultations and proper research and impact assessment before the Bill can be approved in the South African context, there were a several participants who felt there had been enough consultation and that Government had to come up with the amendments in order to protect artists.

There was so much to discuss that even a week’s seminar would not have been enough. These appear to be the main takehome aspects:
  • From a domestic perspective, the Bill in its current state is flawed and does not meet constitutional muster; 
  • The Bill fails to meet international standards in line with the Berne Convention and TRIPS, both of which South Africa is signatory to; 
  • The Bill has the potential to be best in class legislation especially for developing countries. Consequently, there is a need to look and consider in depth, other best practices and identify how to align with them; 
  • Missed opportunities which should have been addressed by the Bill include the so-called “value gap” which sees big digital providers benefiting at the expense of artist and authors, as well as the  introduction of a private copy levy; and 
  • There is a need for further industry engagement with Government and to this end both legal stakeholders and industry must engage positively with Government.
For pics of the event, please check out the Sightings section here.

This post was brought to you by Afro-Elle. 



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