Government to clamp down on pirated movies and shows in South Africa

Justice and Constitutional Development minister Ronald Lamola says the government plans to crack down on pirated content in South Africa as part of a move to further bolster investment and protect jobs.

Speaking at a piracy seminar in Johannesburg on Thursday (24 March), Lamola said the rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Showmax not only shows growth but also an appetite to invest in South Africa’s film industry.

“While digital technologies enable great advantages to the cultural industries such as opening up of new markets, easier and more efficient distribution, and direct communication with the consumers of goods and services, piracy is a risk with a great potential to collapse the industry,” he said.

“Piracy has a serious negative effect on our economy and on the ability of our creative professionals to earn a living. It harms investor confidence and tax revenue collection, and can also affect trade opportunities. If we are not seen as a country where intellectual property is respected and protected, we run the risk of reversing gains the industry could exploit further and create jobs.”

Besides the macro-economic implications, the main impact of content piracy is that it undermines the ability of people to earn a living, he said.

“Content creators, writers, musicians, academics, actors, directors, camera operators and other professionals all have a right to earn a living from their work.”

New legislation to give teeth 

The recently-introduced Cybercrime Act, proclaimed by president Cyril Ramaphosa in December 2021, will give the government extra teeth in tackling piracy and will be used to hold accountable those who manipulate intellectual property to the detriment of society, Lamola said.

Lamola said the Act specifically allows the government to act against piracy and impose harsher sentences on dealers and sellers.

“It is not good enough nor is it wise for us to spend state resources in specialised commercial crime units only to confiscate pirated goods and or arrest the traders.

“We will improve our system must and enable them to identify and arrest the leaders of organised crime, in this case, we may win the battle against intellectual property crimes.”

Generally, it may be difficult to identify and arrest the leaders of intellectual property crimes as they live all over the world, however, the Cybercrimes Act attempts to resolve some of these complex jurisdictional challenges, Lamola said.

The minister said that the government was also working to address some of its historical weakness around piracy through collaboration with the South African Revenue Service (SARS), SAPS, and the Department of Home Affairs.

“We will integrate and match the sophisticated technology which perpetrators use to carry out their crimes,” he said.


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Government to clamp down on pirated movies and shows in South Africa