The Democratic Alliance has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa requesting that he send the Copyright Amendment Bill back to the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry for amendments and further consideration. Should the President sign the Bill in its current form, it will lead to a jobs bloodbath and will cost the economy approximately R12 billion in exports to the United States.
While the Bill has sat on the President’s desk for more than three months, creating uncertainty in the creative industry, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) is currently lobbying the US government to reconsider South Africa’s preferential trade access, thereby threatening billions of rand in exports as well as jobs.
The latest fallout with IIPA vindicates the DA’s objection to the Bill. In the fifth Parliament, the DA even petitioned the President to send it back to Parliament.
IIPA’s review application is asking the U.S. Government to consider South Africa’s eligibility as a Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) beneficiary developing country over what it claims are the Bill’s failure to:
- provide “adequate and effective protection” of American copyrighted works and sound recordings;
- provide “equitable and reasonable access” to the South Africa market for American producers and distributors of creative materials.
Should such an application be considered and granted by the United States, it would have devastating consequences for our 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 which is struggling to get out of a ‘flat growth trap’, the country cannot afford to lose access to an important market such as America.
The DA believes there are 5 main problems with the Bill that need to be rectified by the portfolio committee:
- 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
- The Bill will undermine our commitment to international treaties such as the Berne Convention and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of International of International Property Rights.
- No Socio-economic Assessment Study (SEAS) was conducted by the DTI into the economic and trade related impact that the Bill may have, as is required by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation for all new Bills.
- Local content producers and education contributors will be severely prejudiced due to their works not being protected in South Africa and aboard. This could have devastating consequences for schools and universities.
- Insufficient public consultation on the final version of the Bill which contains clauses that were changed without input from stakeholders
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 committee for reconsideration.