Parliament passes copyright amendments despite objections


“It is extremely regrettable that despite large-scale criticism from copyright experts and genuine care from South Africa’s authors who rely on copyright for their bread and butter, the legislature chooses to simply proceed with this bill.”

This is what Bernard Odendaal, chairman of PEN Afrikaans, says about the National Assembly’s acceptance of the controversial copyright amendment bill.

This bill was submitted yesterday (February 29). However, it seems that objections from opposition parties and large-scale opposition from the creative industry have fallen on deaf ears.

RNews reported earlier that the amendment bill on copyright proposes a hybrid model that is based on copyright exceptions and makes use of the so-called “fair use” principle.

Among other things, the bill provides that content from films and books can be reproduced “within reasonable limits” without payment of royalties.

Various organizations, writers’ associations and legal experts felt that experts were not consulted in the process and, moreover, it is not clear whose interest the legislation wants to serve.

A petition was started last week in an attempt to block the adoption of the amendment bill on copyright.

It was launched by PEN Afrikaans, the Academic and Non-Fiction Writers Association of South Africa (ANFASA) and PEN South Africa, in collaboration with the Publishers Association of South Africa (PASA) as part of a joint protest action against the adoption of the bill.

In less than a week, more than 4,200 people signed the petition, which includes some of the country’s leading writers.

Despite the gloomy outcome and less and less chance of success, PEN Afrikaans has no intention of backing down.

“It remains a matter of seriousness for us, in the interest of our members and the larger South African book industry, to raise the voice of authors on this. We intend to continue doing just that,” says Odendaal.

The bill will, as was the case in 2020, now again after pres. Cyril Ramaphosa for signature. If he is still concerned about the constitutionality of certain provisions therein, he can refer it to the Constitutional Court.