Legal experts say that the new Cybercrimes Bill signed into law by president Cyril Ramaphosa will give authorities ‘extra teeth’ to go after internet pirates in South Africa.
While piracy is not specifically highlighted as a cybercrime in the bill, the legislation does make specific reference to the theft of ‘incorporeal property’, said Wendy Tembedza, senior associate at Webber Wentzel.
Tembedza said that the bill also specifically provides that a person can be found guilty of the offence of theft that was committed or facilitated through electronic means.
“Unfortunately, the bill does not include a definition for incorporeal property, but an ordinary understanding of ‘incorporeal’ refers to intangible property such as films, music etc, which are typically the subject of piracy.
“Since the content that is usually pirated is incorporeal property, the bill is likely to also apply to the act of piracy and consider piracy an offence under the bill.”
Tembedza said that the bill specifically mentions internet service providers (ISPs) and financial institutions which have a duty to report a cybercrime that has been committed on their network – including piracy.
“An ISP or financial institution must report an offence set out in the Bill within 72 hours of becoming aware that such an offence has been or is being committed through its electronic communication service or communications network.
“The ISP or financial institution must also preserve any information that can assist the police in investigating the alleged offence.” Failure to comply could expose the ISP to a fine of R50,000, Tembedza said.
Tembedza said that South Africans should also be aware of other offences created under the bill so as to avoid legal trouble. These include some messages which can lead to a fine or even jail time.
“The bill makes reference to ‘malicious communications’ which include data messages that incite damage to property or encourage violence,” she said.
“The bill also makes it an offence to disclose intimate images of a person without that person’s consent in circumstances where the person had a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Any person that is found guilty of an offence under the bill is liable, on conviction, to a fine or imprisonment or both. The maximum prison term is 15 years.
Image courtesy of Disney.