4 new laws sent to Ramaphosa to sign – including controversial copyright changes

 ·1 Mar 2024

Despite strong and vocal opposition from people in creative industries, the National Assembly (NA) passed the controversial Copyright Amendment Bill on 1 March 2024.

It now sits on the desk of the president, along with three other bills, awaiting his signature to be passed into law.

The legislation looks to amend the Copyright Act of 1978 – the first comprehensive effort to modernise South Africa’s copyright law in nearly 50 years.

According to a statement released by Parliament, it (among other things) “allows for further limitations and exceptions to the reproduction of copyright works and providing for equitable remuneration or the sharing of royalties on copyrighted works.”

It also provides access to copyrighted works by people with disabilities – meaning that a person converting a work into a format which is accessible to persons with disabilities, for example (like Braille), must ensure that the integrity of the original work is respected.

However, many are saying that while the bill has noble aims – including the above-mentioned, which provides solutions for people with various disabilities – it presents some flaws.

As such, members of parliament (MPs) from the Economic Freedom Fighters, Democratic Alliance, the African Christian Democratic Party, and the Freedom Front Plus rejected the bill during voting.

One of the world’s largest non-profits that promotes the legal protection of copyright and authors’ rights, the Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Auteurs et Compositeurs (Cisac) has slammed the legislation in its current form.

Cisac said that “the bill will harm South Africa’s creative community, devalue creators’ works and be out of step with international best practice.”

“The Bill is a positive initiative that fails to serve the intended purpose – to protect creators and ensure that South Africa has a modern, fair and fit-for-purpose copyright environment,” said Cisac.

Some of the shortcomings argued are:

  • 1 – It includes “a long and open-ended list of exceptions to copyright.” This “devalues works, opening up many new uses for which creators will no longer have the right to earn royalties,” said Cisac.
  • 2 – The concept of “Fair Use” that has been outlined is argued to be “a lose-lose situation for both creators and users.”

The issue of creative labour being freely accessible to the government and the education sector has been a major taking point.

Cisac says that this “will lead to uncertainty in the market, for which the only fix would be expensive and wasteful litigation.”

“Creators do not have deep pockets to afford that; wasting time and resources for everyone in courts is not what good legislation should do,” it added.

The Daily Maverick reported that this would benefit Big Tech such as Google.

Big Tech “stands ready to trawl for and monetise local creative and scholarly work, and then render these products ‘free’ to ‘users’ (which include themselves),” wrote members of the Academic and Non-Fiction Authors’ Association of South Africa, Keyan Tomaselli and Hetta Pieterse in the publication.

The Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill

The Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Performers’ Protection Act of 1967 by inserting, deleting and substituting certain definitions.

The Bill seeks to, among others, provide for the protection of rights of producers of sound recordings, to broaden the restrictions on the use of performances, and provide for royalties or equitable remuneration payable when a performance is sold or rented out.

The Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill were both sent to the Portfolio Committee on Trade, Industry and Competition for consideration after the National Council of Provinces made amendments.

The National Road Traffic Amendment Bill

The National Road Traffic Amendment Bill seeks to amend the National Road Traffic Act by providing for the suspension and cancellation of the registration of an examiner for driving licences or an examiner of vehicles, if such person has been convicted of an offence listed in Schedule 1 or 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 or has a direct or indirect conflict of interest.

The amendments also provide for the registration of, among others, manufacturers, builders, body builders, importers and manufacturers of number plates, including manufacturers of reflective sheeting for number plates.

The amendments require a provincial department responsible for transport or local authority to register a driving licence testing centre before operating as a driving licence testing centre.

It also prohibits the use of unauthorised aid during a test for a learner’s licence or a driving licence test, and the disqualification thereof.

Furthermore, the Bill provides for the registration and grading of driving school instructors and driving schools.

Economic Regulation of Transport Bill

This Bill is aimed at addressing shortcomings through consolidation of the economic regulation of transport into a single framework.

It also aims to establish the Transport Economic Regulator, the Transport Economic Council and makes consequential amendments to related acts.

Some of the duties of the Regulator include exercising economic regulation of transport facilities and services in line with national strategic objectives.

The Regulator also regulates the provision of adequate and efficient transport facilities and services and promotes efficiency in transport facilities and services by facilitating competition, where possible and determining price controls for transport facilities and services.

The National Road Traffic Amendment Bill and the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill were both sent to the Portfolio Committee on Transport for consideration after the NCOP made amendments to the bills.
All the bills will now be sent to the President for assent.

Read: South Africa facing copyright catastrophe: experts

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