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Copyright & Regulation

Opinion: South Africa needs a comprehensive, multifaceted strategy to curb the economic impact of piracy

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Chola Makgamathe is the chairperson of the Copyright Coalition of South Africa and the General Manager of Legal Services at South African rights society SAMRO. In this opinion piece she explains why the current Copyright Amendment Bill, currently discussed at the South African Parliament, falls short of protecting creators from piracy and infringement.

On September 1, 2022, the Bill was passed by the National Assembly by 163 votes for and 45 votes against. The Bill is now headed to the National Council of Provinces for a vote.

Chola Makgamathe

Africans create powerful creative content in, among others, the music, film, sports, gaming, publishing, broadcast and animation sectors. However, this wealth of content is jeopardised by the relentless scourge of piracy which robs creators and rights holders of their livelihoods and threatens the value and longevity of African content.

Pirating occurs when an individual, who is not the copyright holder, copies content and resells it for a significantly lower price than what the copyright holder charges. Many preparators of piracy don’t realise the impact it has on content creators and the economy.

According to Irdeto, a world leader in digital-platform cybersecurity, people in five major African territories made a total of about 17.4-million visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites between June and August 2021, with music, literature, video content and software websites receiving the most visits.

Negative effects on the economy

The high rates of piracy, however, are not exclusive to the African continent. Digital video piracy costs the entertainment industry up to $71-billion every year, according to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center – harming businesses and destroying lives and livelihoods in an economy hard-hit by Covid.

It is without question that piracy has negative effects on the economy and the ability of creative professionals to earn a living. Left unchecked, the theft of content can severely harm investor confidence and tax revenue and can also affect trade opportunities.

Although not a silver bullet, one of the key strategies to curb the rise in piracy in South Africa is the careful refining of the Copyright Amendment Bill.

Not a remedy from content theft

Stalling the refining and passing of a bill that has the potential to preserve the livelihoods of South African content creators is of utmost concern. The bill should not be passed in its current form. It should be discussed and significantly refined. The direct consequence of passing the bill in its current form would be the death of any reward for our creators and it would not remedy all the problems which arise from content theft.

However, as the rates of piracy increase, regional anti-piracy efforts have been ramped up with the creation of initiatives such as Partners Against Piracy (PAP). PAP is a collaboration between government agencies, law enforcement agencies, distributors, content creators and rights owners which seeks to inform and educate the public about the effects of piracy. Africa’s leading entertainment company MultiChoice has thrown its weight behind PAP.

The PAP partnership has already yielded results – a joint operation between law-enforcement officers and content-piracy investigators nabbed a group for distributing episodes of the popular Showmax series The Wife earlier this year.

Facilitate a meaningful engagement

Although this is a step in the right direction, advocacy efforts do not exist in a vacuum. There needs to be a multifaceted approach that recognises the role of the justice system in bringing perpetrators to book and of policymakers in refining the Copyright Amendment Bill.

Strong laws mean strong economies. We need to show other countries that we protect copyright in our creative industries so they feel confident to invest in our economy. That is why we need partners like the department of justice and correctional services; business; civil society and NGOs.

We call on everyone with a stake in the war against piracy to join us. To preserve African content, and have an environment that nurtures and protects creators, policymakers urgently need to facilitate a meaningful engagement that addresses the glaring weaknesses of the current law and consumers need to call out illegal activities.

Let us not be the ones to destroy and undermine our own content.

By Chola Makgamathe

Copyright & Regulation

The European AI Office has launched

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The European Commission has officially launched the European AI Office on 22 February 2024. The new organisation is tasked with enforcing and coordinating the European Union's AI regulation.

More specifically, the AI Office will oversee the implementation and enforcement of the recently adopted AI Act, which gives the EU a comprehensive legal framework on AI. The Office will also "play a pivotal role in strengthening the development and use of trustworthy AI, driving coordination of AI poli...

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Copyright & Regulation

News/Media Alliance urges US Copyright Office to adopt the proposed rules on group registration of online content

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The News/Media Alliance has asked the US Copyright Office (USCO) on February 20 to immediately adopt on an interim basis the proposed rule on group registrations of updates to a news website.

The claim was made in a filing with the USCO in response to its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Group Registration of Updates to a News Website. "The proposed rule paves the way for a long-awaited ability for news publishers to efficiently register all of their online content, something that is effect...

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Copyright & Regulation

UK government closes the door on a possible implementation of equitable remuneration for music streaming

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The British government has announced that it will not pursue the implementation of equitable remuneration for music streaming payments.

In a letter to Caroline Dinenage, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee at the House of Commons, Julia Lopez (Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries) and Viscount Camrose (Under Secretary of State at the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology) wrote that "in light of the risks it presents, the government does not in...

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