May 302017

South Africa has released the 2017 Copyright Amendment Bill for public comment.  The Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry will accept written comments from the public through June 19, and will hold public hearings on the legislation June 27-29.

Instruction for submissions and further information on the hearing are here.

Six legal scholars from the Global Expert network on Copyright User Rights have sent an open letter to Parliamentarians to applaud the government for the Bill’s strengthening of user rights, and to make two suggestions. They write:

We commend the Department of Trade and Industry for its recognition that inclusion of a modernised general exception (or “user right”) is an important part of updating South Africa’s copyright law. The Bill as a whole would modernise many of the law’s specific user rights. The provisions on temporary copies for technological processes, for educational uses, for library and archive uses, and for uses to provide access to people with all disabilities are notable examples where the Bill follows – and indeed establishes – international best practice in the field.[1] We focus here on the general exception in Article 12, which provides a very useful means for authorising rights of users with respect to copyrighted materials that are not authorised by specific exceptions.[2] We request that the general exception be crafted to be open to application to any purpose, kind of work or type of user so that it can function as a catch-all provision for the use of works in ways that are fair to the author, regardless of whether their specific purpose is envisioned today.

The letter is signed by Tobias Schonwetter and Caroline Ncube from the University of Cape Town, Denise Nicholson from the University of Witwatersrand, Coenraad Visser from UNISA, and Sean Flynn and Peter Jaszi from American University Washington College of Law.