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The DA has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa requesting him to send the controversial Copyright Amendment Bill back to parliament for amendments and further consideration.
This was after a US lobby group said it would put pressure on the Trump administration to withdraw SA’s trade status should the bill be passed into law in its current form.
The International Intellectual Property Law Association (IILPA) — which represents US companies that produce copyright-protected material, including computer software, films, TV programmes, music, books, and journals (electronic and print) — is objecting to the bill because of the risk it poses to US intellectual property (IP) rights.
As a retaliatory measure, the association said it will be pushing for the US government to withdraw SA’s preferential trade status. This could see about R12bn of SA’s exports losing preferential access to US markets.
DA MP Dean Macpherson said the latest fallout with IILPA vindicates the party’s objection to the bill.
“In the fifth parliament, the DA even petitioned the president to send it back to parliament,” said Macpherson. He said should IILPA’s application be considered and granted by the US, it would have devastating consequences for SA’s battered economy with 16% of total exports at risk of being wiped out.
“At a time when unemployment is on the rise, with a staggering 10-million South Africans already unemployed, and an economy that is struggling to get out of a ‘flat growth trap’, the country cannot afford to lose access to an important market such as the US.”
Macpherson highlighted some of the problems with the bill that need to be rectified, including the introduction of “fair use” which gives individuals the right to use copyrighted work “fairly” — in essence, to circumvent copyright protections and republish them without consent. This follows the example set by the US.
However, unlike SA’s courts, those in the US can award hefty statutory punitive damages in copyright-infringement cases, opponents of the bill say. In SA, an offender would simply have to stop re-using the content and would only have to pay standard royalties.
Tech companies, including Facebook and Google, have backed similar laws in other jurisdictions, arguing that protecting copyright on artistic, news and academic work will limit online innovation and freedoms.
Macpherson said the bill will undermine SA’s commitment to international treaties. Furthermore, no socio-economic assessment study was conducted by the department of trade and industry into the economic and trade-related impact the bill may have, as is required by the department of planning, monitoring and evaluation for all new bills, he said.
Macpherson said local content producers and education contributors will be severely prejudiced due to their works not being protected in SA and abroad. This could have devastating consequences for schools and universities.
Said Macpherson: “If President Ramaphosa is committed to growing the economy, creating jobs and attracting investment as he claims, he has a responsibility to protect our preferential trade access by doing the right thing and sending the Copyright Bill back to the [trade and industry] committee for reconsideration.”
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.