Copyright bill jeopardises R12bn in US exports

South Africa runs the risk of losing its status under the US Trade Act which secures at least R12 billion in exports to the States after Parliament approved the contentious Copyright Amendment Bill.

According to the bill’s opponents in the US, the bill will compromise agreements whereby intellectual and artistic material is distributed and replicated by American concerns importing and distributing South African printed and online content.

US lobby group International Intellectual Property Association (IPPA) has already indicated that it has approached President Donald Trump about removing South Africa from the trade act if President Cyril Ramaphosa signs the bill into law.

But the local Coalition for Effective Copyright (CEC) has hit back at the IPPA, accusing the US of double standards, arguing that America has very strict copyright regimes that prevent South African businesses – mainly those operating in the tech, media and artistic sphere – from using content protected by its copyright laws.

According to the CEC, South Africa is merely tightening up on its own copyright regimes.

Facebook and Google have since waded into the debate, saying the bill will make it very difficult if not impossible for their platforms to disseminate content created in South Africa.

Of importance is the revenue South African businesses exporting material to the US derive under the “fair use” principle protected by the US Trade Act.

Should Ramaphosa approve the bill, South African content creators, innovators and artists may find that their rights are better protected, but the US market could be closed off to their work – if Trump listens to the IPPA.

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