21 November 2023, Johannesburg – SECTION27, Blind SA and Daily Maverick will host a webinar on 22 November 2023 explaining how a Constitutional Court judgment, handed down in 2022, changes the Copyright Act 98 of 1978 and improves the way persons who are blind or visually impaired living in South Africa can access reading materials in formats such as Braille or large print.
The judgment declared the Copyright Act unconstitutional and invalid because it limited access to literary and artistic works in accessible formats for persons who are blind or visually impaired. In terms of the Act, anyone wanting to convert a book into a different format like Braille, would need to get permission from a copyright holder (such as the author) to do so. However, this placed a very heavy burden on persons who are blind and visually impaired, which sighted people did not carry. Not only did it assume that individuals had the time, resources and know-how to contact a copyright holder, but copyright holders often ignored requests or refused to grant permission. If a book was converted without this consent, a person who is blind or visually impaired was criminalised, and liable to pay a fine or even be imprisoned.
To remedy this, the Court declared the Copyright Act unconstitutional and ordered the state to fix the defects in the Act within 24 months. However, the Court went one step further and also crafted an exception to copyright for persons who are blind or visually impaired, which was immediately read into the Copyright Act. Now, persons who are blind or visually impaired no longer need to obtain permission from the copyright holder, while we wait for Parliament to finalise its changes to the rest of the Act.
Importantly, this exception also transforms South Africa’s copyright law so that the state is able to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (the “Marrakesh Treaty”). Ratifying this treaty will allow persons who are blind or visually impaired living in South Africa to engage in the cross-border exchange of reading materials, which will open up access to hundreds of thousands of titles in accessible formats. It’s therefore crucial that the state take steps to ratify this treaty as soon as possible.
The webinar will provide insight into how copyright works in South Africa, the Copyright Act, the judgment, and its immediate implications for persons who are blind or visually impaired. The webinar will also address the need for South Africa to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, and Parliament’s ongoing efforts to amend the Copyright Act.
Date: 22 November 2023
Speakers: Dr Sanya Samtani (Senior Researcher at the Mandela Institute at the School of Law)
Marcus Low (Editor of Spotlight)
Moderator: Zukiswa Pikoli (journalist and columnist at Daily Maverick)
Attendee Registration link: https://app.session.com/dailymaverick/Copyright-Act-Amendment?s=1
For media queries contact: Pearl Nicodemus | firstname.lastname@example.org | 082 298 2636