In its latest submission to Parliament, SECTION27 states that the old apartheid-era copyright law 1978 must give way to the copyright amendment bill. (Photo: Leïla Dougan)
As part of the public consultation process on the Copyright Amendment Bill, representatives of SECTION27 will appear this week before the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry to strengthen their case for the modernization of copyright law in South Africa and the protection of public rights of access to basic education, equality and dignity.
In its last submission to Parliament, the public interest law center SECTION27, made it clear that the old apartheid-era copyright law 1978 must give way to the bill amending copyright which fulfills constitutional obligations such as the rights to education and the freedom to receive and disseminate information. , among others.
The submission responds to Parliament’s call for public consultation on specific clauses of the delayed Copyright Amendment Bill (Cab), such as; Article 13 which concerns exceptions to copyright for educational purposes, including fair use; Article 19B which concerns general exceptions concerning the operability of computer programs under copyright and Article 20 which deals with exceptions to copyright to preserve and protect collections held in libraries, archives, museums and galleries.
These clauses were highlighted by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year as potentially unconstitutional due to fears of arbitrary deprivation of property and failure to meet future international copyright obligations that South Africa does has not yet contracted.
Ramaphosa raised his concerns in a letter dated June 16, 2020 and referred the Bill to amend the Taxi and Performer Protection Bill (PPAB) to Parliament for further consideration.
The Cab amends the copyright law of 1978.
The Cab and the related PSUP had both been adopted by the National Assembly and were sent to the President in March 2019 for promulgation.
Representatives of SECTION27 will appear before the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry this week where they will make their in-person presentation as part of the public consultation process on the bill. the submission has been supported by prominent figures and civil society organizations such as Blind SA, the Treatment Action Campaign, Oxford Human Rights Hub, Right to Know and the South African Guild of Actors.
The organization has spearheaded litigation in recent years to address inequalities in access to the right to education and recently launched a litigation in 2021 on behalf of Blind SA to force the state to ensure that learners and students living with a disability have access to teaching materials at the same time. level that learners and students living without disabilities. At the heart of the legal challenge is the constitutionality of the 1978 Copyright Act, as it restricts the access of people with visual and print disabilities to works in accessible formats such as braille, versions audio or copies of published works in large print. This is because the vast majority of books are published in print form and not in formats accessible to the visually impaired and in print.
In its submission to Parliament, SECTION27 partially declares; “We argue that the longer Parliament takes to remedy this unconstitutional situation, the more it remains complicit in the widespread denial of the right of access to educational and cultural material for people with disabilities.
SECTION27 further asserts that the current copyright law of 1978 is “likely unconstitutional on the basis that it limits several rights in the Bill of Rights, including the rights to equality, education and dignity. We argue that it must be amended to meet the needs of democratic South Africa.
The Cab provides for modern technological advancements that the current Copyright Act 1978 does not and, as such, SECTION27 notes that the law is partly rendered obsolete, as it does not contain provisions taking into account the advent of the Internet.
The global Covid-19 pandemic was a stark reminder of outdated legislation as it could not provide a legal framework for accessing educational materials online.
“In particular, during the Covid-19 pandemic, at different stages of restrictions, the government demanded that educational institutions move tuition fees online, demonstrating the inadequacy of the current copyright law and the need for a law allowing the digitization of educational material… ”the submission read in part.
SECTION27 responds to reported concerns about the copyright amendment bill depriving authors of original works of profit by arguing that the provisions contained in the bill are “necessary to realize the constitutional rights that are currently denied to people living in poverty, people with disabilities and those seeking to exercise their rights to participate in cultural and linguistic life and education at all levels through the copyright law of the apartheid era. Article 9 (2) of the Constitution effectively obliges the state to be proactive and adopt legislative and other measures to promote the achievement of equality for those categories of people who have been disadvantaged by unjust discrimination.
The lawyer for SECTION27, explained Demichelle Petherbridge; “The Cab modernizes the law and will ensure the realization of various constitutionally protected rights, including the right to equality, dignity and basic education by improving access to educational materials, especially for people blind or visually impaired. It further ensures that South African law is in line with developments in international law, in particular international treaties that South Africa has ratified, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“SECTION27 therefore urges Parliament to adopt the taxi as a matter of urgency, as its provisions are crucial in combating inequalities which are further reinforced by current legislation. ”
Copyright and human rights expert Dr Sanya Samtani will present the submission to Parliament this week with Marcus Low, who is the Editor for Spotlight NSP and participating in the Marrakech VIP Treaty negotiations.
Dr Samtani explained: “Access to educational materials has been recognized by South African courts as part of the right to education under the Constitution. Among other things, this obliges the state to take measures to ensure that private parties do not prevent the realization of the right. The exceptions for educational purposes introduced by the Cab would constitute a significant advance in fulfilling the state’s duty to realize the right to education for all and to align the current 1978 copyright law with the Constitution. There is a clear constitutional purpose behind these exceptions – they are not arbitrary. ” SM / MC