IFLA has called for South Africa’s Parliament to return the country’s Copyright Amendment Bill to the President for signature, and to reject the questionable allegations of unconstitutionality made against it.

For a decade, South Africa has been working to reform its copyright laws. At over 40 years old, the current rules are no longer fit for purpose, and limit the ability of the country’s libraries to provide effective services to users.

In 2018, the country’s parliament approved a reform which promised to modernise the framework, as well as provide creators with new rights and introduce much needed regulation for collective management organisations.

For libraries, the bill offers clear provisions that would reflect international best practices, and enable South Africa’s libraries to operate effectively in a digital age, without causing unjustifiable harm to markets.

However, instead of signing the bill into law rapidly, the President unfortunately waited. During this time, he was subject to intense lobbying both from local organisations giving questionable impressions of the nature of the bill.

He also received letters from major developed countries, echoing the arguments of from major international opponents to reform. In the case of the letter from the European Union, it has become clear that there was no effort to consult organisations representing libraries or users.

In the end, the President returned the bill to parliament, claiming that a number of measures which reflect international best practice, or indeed which are taken directly from international law, are somehow unconstitutional.

IFLA’s letter underlines that these arguments should be rejected, and the bill returned as rapidly as possible for signature.  

The need is pressing. The delay has meant that rather than being able to provide support and services to users throughout lockdown using the possibilities that digital technologies offer, libraries have instead been left with the old rules.

Others to suffer have been people with print disabilities, who cannot benefit from Marrakesh Treaty rights that would have been implemented in the law.

On behalf of its members in South Africa, IFLA hopes for a rapid move towards the finalisation of this long-overdue legislation.

See IFLA’s other news stories about South Africa, including our previous interventions on copyright reform in the country.