Lobby groups have called on Parliament to consider extending the public participation process on the contentious Copyright Amendment Bill aimed at modernising SA’s copyright law.

Parliament’s trade and industry portfolio committee embarked on public hearings on the bill late in 2017. Interested parties raised various concerns at the hearings, with some calling for a task team to be established to deal with issues raised, especially on what are regarded as questionable provisions such as the application of copyright to social media platforms.

In the latest submission to the committee, Media Monitoring Africa said the bill had so many gaps that it fails to deal with emerging issues and is already at risk of being outdated in the digital era.

Digital media

The South African National Editors’ Forum said it endorsed Media Monitoring Africa’s submission on the bill to address problems about the application of copyright to digital media, fair use rights, the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for the blind or visually impaired, the need for the rights of the media to report unhindered on newsworthy events to be protected, and for due regard for universal access to and distribution of pictures, videos and other multimedia content.

Media Monitoring Africa said the response it had received from the portfolio committee to the matters it had raised "fails to adequately address the range of concerns raised".

While the organisation "does indeed support the need for fair use provisions, we also raised concerns in this regard that needed to be addressed. This included … the need for appropriate and practical mechanisms to protect fair use rights."

Although the response "identifies the concerns raised by [the organisation] in respect of the application of copyright to social media platforms and the concerns with take-down notices, no response is provided to this", Media Monitoring Africa said.

The organisation remained concerned that the bill did not adequately address the application of copyright in the digital age, particularly to digital media.

The public participation process required that "a genuine … effort must be made" to obtain the views of the industry or interested parties and the public, it said.

The organisation was "concerned with the present approach to limit the call for further submissions to only limited provisions of the [amendment bill]. In [our] view, there is no rational basis to call for further submissions on these provisions, whilst ignoring some of the more contested provisions … such as the fair use provisions.

"[We] therefore urge the [portfolio committee] to continue to engage in a public participation process on the amendment bill as a whole, and to continue to review the provisions of the bill holistically."

The need to consider the bill holistically was well illustrated by the need for technologically neutral or appropriate terminology in the proposed law that adequately caters for the application of copyright to digital media, it said.