EU warns copyright bill will hit SA
• European representatives warn that pending legislation will have negative effects on creative community and foreign investments
The EU has joined the US in putting pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa to ditch or postpone the contentious Copyright Amendment Bill.
The EU has joined the US in putting pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa to ditch proposed amendments to the contentious Copyright Amendment Bill.
EU representatives said the bill would have an adverse effect on SA’s creative community, as well as on foreign investments, including from Europe. SA was a key trading and investment partner, they said.
Industry stakeholders, including musicians, filmmakers and publishers, have voiced concern about the bill, which is awaiting Ramaphosa’s signature before becoming law.
One of the more contentious aspects of the bill is its introduction of the “fair use” principle used in the US and favoured by Google, which in effect allows free use of copyrighted content.
Parliament approved the bill in 2019. However, the matter has taken a back seat as governments worldwide focus on battling the coronavirus pandemic.
The US is already reviewing SA’s preferential access to its market under its generalised system of preferences (GSP) on concern that SA’s copyright bill will weaken protection for US intellectual property rights. GSP allows emerging markets to export goods to the US without paying penalties.
The US is a major trading partner. SA’s total exports to that country in 2018 amounted to $8.5bn, which was about 9% of the value of all products shipped by SA about the world.
EU ambassador to SA Riina Kionka said in a letter dated March 20 to Ramaphosa’s office that the bloc appreciated efforts to clarify various aspects in the successive drafts, but concern remained about the overall coherence of the bill.
“In particular, we once again regret the foreseen introduction in the SA copyright regime of provisions relating to fair use in combination with an extensive list of broadly defined and noncompensated exceptions.
WE ... REGRET THE FORESEEN INTRODUCTION IN THE SA COPYRIGHT REGIME OF PROVISIONS RELATING TO FAIR USE
This is bound to result in a significant degree of legal uncertainty with negative effects on the South African creative community at large, as well as on foreign investments, including the European ones,” Kionka said.
European right holders continued to express their concern to “us in this regard as they have done during the consultation period”, Kionka said.
“All creative sectors in the EU film industry, music and publishing industry have pointed to the possibility of revisiting their investment plans in SA due to these concerns. Other sectors, such as those which are high technology based, could also suffer as a result of legal uncertainty created by the new regime.
“This significant departure from the level of protection of copyrighted protected works, contrary to the international standards in force in most ... countries, is therefore likely to result in nonnegligible effects for the South African economy.
“We humbly question whether it may not be opportune to defer the adoption of this reform, possibly by engaging in a process which would more closely anchor the South African copyright regime to the international conventions and treaties,” Kionka said.
The presidency could not be reached immediately for comment.
Collen Dlamini, spokesperson for the Coalition for Effective Copyright, which represents a broad consensus in the local creative and cultural sector, said the bill was threatening SA’s duty-free access to the US market. Now it might also threaten investment from the EU at a time when SA could least afford it.
DEPARTURE FROM PROTECTION OF COPYRIGHTED PROTECTED WORKS, CONTRARY TO INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS
“It is crucial to consider the big picture: we need to prepare to rebuild the country postCovid-19.
“It is obvious that a strong education sector that includes strong educational publishing and an effective intellectual property framework, not fair use or gifts to global big technology firms, should be government’s focus,” Dlamini said.