10 August 2021 — SECTION27 will make submissions before the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry on the Copyright Amendment Bill (CAB) on Thursday, 12 August 2021. In our submission, SECTION27 will highlight the unconstitutionality of the current apartheid-era Copyright Act 1978 and how the CAB rectifies this by giving effect to the Bill of Rights. The submission underscores the urgency required to pass the CAB in a deeply unequal society. SECTION27 will draw on our extensive work on the right to textbooks and our joint advocacy work to challenge discriminatory copyright laws with BlindSA.

These public hearings come a few weeks after the Portfolio Committee called for consultation on specific clauses of the long-delayed Copyright Amendment Bill. In particular, the call focused on clause 13, concerning exceptions to copyright for educational purposes, including fair use; clause 19B, concerning general exceptions regarding the operability of computer programs under copyright; and clause 20, addressing exceptions to copyright to preserve and protect collections held in libraries, archives, museums and galleries.

In June 2020, these clauses were earmarked by the President as potentially unconstitutional, partly because of fears of ‘arbitrary deprivation of property’ and non-compliance with prospective international copyright obligations that South Africa was yet to undertake. This letter containing the President’s reservations referred the CAB to the National Assembly for reconsideration. The Portfolio Committee’s call for public comments, of which this week’s public hearings form a part, provides a crucial opportunity for civil society to highlight the constitutional significance of copyright exceptions.

SECTION27 will also demonstrate, in our submissions, how clauses 13 and 20 far from being unconstitutional or ‘arbitrary’ are actually necessary to give effect to the constitutional rights to education, equality, dignity, cultural participation, freedom of expression amongst others. We will also show how these clauses rectify the current Act’s unfair discrimination against people with disabilities. These clauses contain several safeguards and limits to ensure that even if there is a deprivation of property, it is in furtherance of constitutional rights and in line with existing case law on the right against arbitrary deprivation of property, the right to education, and the right to equality among others.

SECTION27 will also explain that the CAB is compatible with the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, which South Africa has committed to ratifying soon. The relevant provisions also further South Africa’s existing obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.

After months of delays and in a global pandemic exacerbating long-standing discrimination against disadvantaged groups, it is vital that the CAB be passed urgently.

SECTION27 will present its oral submissions on Thursday 12 August from 15:35 to 16:05, and will be represented by Dr Sanya Samtani and Mr Marcus Low.


For further information, please contact:

Boitumelo Masipa (SECTION27 Communications Officer – +27 81 452 9096)