Major global film and music studios have sent a letter of warning to Ramaphosa – here’s what it said

30 August 2019

Regulation & Policy

A number of top international film and music bodies have sent an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, warning about the impact of South Africa’s new copyright bill.

Currently awaiting presidential approval before being signed into law, the Copyright & Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill’s primary aim is to provide fair compensation to publishers, artists and film producers.

However, the bill has also come under intense scrutiny as some provisions allow for the ‘free use’ of certain copyrighted material.

The letter – which is signed by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and the International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP) among others – asks that Ramaphosa take the bill back to parliament for a ‘proper, sector-specific impact assessment and meaningful consultation with affected stakeholders’.

“The South African Government has committed itself to modernising South African copyright law to bring it into line with the WIPO Internet and Beijing treaties, which South Africa intends to ratify,” it states.

“Our communities fully support these policy aims. Regrettably, the Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill, as currently drafted, would not only fail to achieve these stated aims but they would instead undermine South Africa’s creative communities.

“The proposals contained in the bills would, if adopted, limit the creative sectors’ ability to protect their rights and invest in South Africa, substantially weakening the South African internal and export markets for creative content.

“This would harm South Africa’s creators, its strong creative culture and, ultimately, its citizens.”

While companies and individuals stand to lose out if the new bill is passed, experts have also warned that the bill may have a more serious impact on the country’s economy.

According to copyright lawyer Carlo Scollo Lavizzari, the bill will lead to South Africa breaching its international obligations, causing unnecessary diplomatic stress.

“(The bill) translated into the real world, will damage filmmakers, musicians, authors, TV productions and software businesses by diminishing access to publishing for authors locally, forcing them to publish for overseas audiences,” he said.

He said that this would decimate the local film and music industries.

“For South Africa to come ‘first’ the country needs to have a first-rate, up-to-date copyright act that benefits the creative sector.

“Today, having sound laws on copyright is simply the price of entry a nation pays to compete for talent.

“Respecting world standards of copyright protection in the digital world is no contradiction to offering world-class opportunities for creators and knowledge workers — it is actually a pre-condition.”

Read the letter on the Business Tech Website here.