“The Copyright Amendment Bill [B13B – 2017] had been sitting on the desk of President Cyril Ramaphosa for over a year waiting to be signed into law. In June 2020, when Blind South Africa issued a legal challenge over the delay, the President acted. But instead of signing the Bill that had been approved by the legislature, the President used his prerogative to return it to parliament citing constitutional concerns with certain aspects, including new exceptions for libraries, education and persons with disabilities.
The President’s rejection of the Bill is widely seen as the result of pressure by copyright industries, and the threat of trade sanctions and reduced future investment from the United States and the European Union. …
In advance of the briefing, EIFL wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly and to the Portfolio Committee to pledge support for the Bill. EIFL’s letter sets out how libraries and educational institutions in South Africa, and the millions of South Africans citizens they serve, will benefit greatly from new exceptions designed for non-commercial uses. They will help to re-calibrate the existing copyright system in South Africa which forces resource-deprived institutions to pay high licence fees to largely European and US companies. (For example, the 2011 Copyright Review Commission Report, known as the Farlam Review, confirmed that 70% of copying fees paid by higher education institutions in the previous year were distributed to foreign rightsholders). While this is a windfall for these companies, it is in our view, bad public policy for South Africa.
EIFL’s letter also notes that the exceptions in the Bill are modelled on provisions in the copyright laws of developed countries including Australia, Canada, Israel, Singapore, the UK and the US, that the Bill seeks merely to ensure that libraries and educational institutions in South Africa have the same rights than their counterparts in these countries, and any concerns that they may be inconsistent with South Africa’s obligations under international copyright treaties are misplaced….”