Monday 15 April

MEDIA ADVISORY: CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO DELIVER JUDGMENT IN BLIND SA CASE ABOUT COPYRIGHT ON WEDNESDAY 21 SEPT 2022

Constitutional Court to determine whether Copyright Act is unconstitutional for violating the rights of persons with visual disabilities.

20 September 2022, Johannesburg — The Constitutional Court will tomorrow deliver judgment in the BLIND SA v. Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition and Others case, which concerns the 1978 Copyright Act and how it impacts the rights of persons who are blind or visually impaired, and their ability to access works under copyright in accessible formats such as Braille.

BLIND SA, represented by SECTION27, argued at the Constitutional Court on 12 May 2022 that the apartheid-era Copyright Act of 1978 infringes on the rights of persons with visual disabilities, and in particular their rights to equality, dignity, basic and further education, freedom of expression, language and participation in the cultural life of one’s choice. The matter was not opposed by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition or any other government departments.

The current Act has resulted in a Book Famine for persons who are blind or visually disabled, with only 0.5% of published works available in accessible formats like braille in South Africa. We have asked the Court to declare the Copyright Act unconstitutional and immediately ‘read-in’ or add an exception to the current Copyright Act which allows persons with disabilities to convert published works into accessible formats like Braille easily. Currently, blind persons must get permission from copyright holders before converting a text into a format they can read – which can be costly and time consuming, and requests are often ignored. We have also asked the Court to make this reading-in permanent should Parliament not remedy the defect within one year.

Our relief, should the Constitutional Court grant it, would immediately and vastly improve access to accessibly formatted books and other reading materials for persons who are blind or visually impaired. Our relief would also reverse decades of unfair discrimination against persons with disabilities, and give persons who are blind or visually impaired the same access to books and reading materials as persons who are not disabled.

Media are invited to attend the delivery of this important judgment. 10 members of the media, identified with media tags, will be allowed in the Court chamber for the handing down of judgment, which will take place in-person. Details are as follows:

  • Date: Wednesday, 21 September 2022
  • Time: from 9.30am
  • Location: Constitutional Court of South Africa (Constitution Hill, 1 Hospital St, Braamfontein, 2017).
  • To request permission to use a camera, email Hlengani T Rikhotso rikhotso@concourt.org.za

You can read more about our arguments at the Constitutional Court in our heads of argument, here.

BLIND SA and SECTION27 hope that the Constitutional Court confirms that #BrailleIsNoCrime and delivers a judgment which will #EndTheBookFamine for persons who are blind or visually impaired.

[ENDS]

For media queries contact:

  • Julia Chaskalson (chaskalson@section27.org.za 0834402674)
  • Lebohang Tekela (pr@blindsa.org.za 0691178652)

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