President Ramaphosa taking SA to the brink over Copyright Amendment Bill   

Issued by Dean Macpherson MP   – DA Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry
29 Oct 2019 in News

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes the announcement by the United States Government to begin a review of South Africa’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) eligibility due to the unwillingness of President Cyril Ramaphosa to send back to Parliament the fatally flawed Copyright Amendment Bill.

On 12 June 2019, I wrote to the President requesting that he send the Copyright Amendment Bill back to the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry for amendments and further consideration.

We warned then, 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 following threats to institute a review on South Africa’s eligibility to partake in the United States Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

To date, he has ignored our letter and failed to respond.

The Bill has now sat on the President’s desk for more than six months, creating uncertainty in the creative industry, with the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) successfully lobbying the US government to reconsider South Africa’s preferential trade access, thereby threatening billions of rand in exports as well as jobs.

The U.S. Government will now consider South Africa’s eligibility as a Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) beneficiary developing country due to the Amendment 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 this review be 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 maintains 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 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; and,
  • Insufficient public consultation on the final version of the Bill which contains clauses that were changed without input from stakeholders.

It is now time that President Ramaphosa shows some backbone and stands up to internal and external lobby groups in the interests of growing the economy, creating jobs. The President 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 without further hesitation.