What constitutes copyright in South Africa and how can it be protected?

What constitutes copyright in South Africa and how can it be protected?
27 Feb 2019

In South Africa, the owner of copyright in a work is by statute given the exclusive right to perform certain specified acts in respect of his or her work or to authorise others to do so and hence to prevent unauthorised persons from performing those acts. Only certain specified categories of works defined in the Copyright Act No. 98 of 1978 are eligible for copyright protection.

Only works that fall within the following categories are eligible for copyright protection:

  • literary works, irrespective of their literary quality:
    literary’ works include: novels, stories and poetical works; dramatic works, stage directions, cinematograph film scenarios and broadcasting scripts; textbooks, treatise, histories, biographies, essays and articles; encyclopaedias and dictionaries; letters, reports and memoranda; lectures, speeches and sermons; and tables and compilations, including tables and compilations of data stored or embodied in a computer or a medium used in conjunction with a computer;
  • artistic works irrespective of their artistic quality:
    ‘artistic works’ include: paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and photographs; works of architecture, being either buildings or models of buildings; and works of craftsmanship; and
    ‘drawing’ includes any drawing of a technical nature or any diagram, map, chart or plan;
  • computer programs;
  • musical works;
  • cinematograph films;
  • sound recordings;
  • broadcasts;
  • programme-carrying signals; and
  • published editions.

The respective terms of copyright protection for the different categories of works are as follows:

  • literary works, artistic works (other than photographs) and musical works – for the life of the author and 50 years from the end of the year in which he or she dies;
  • computer programs, photographs and cinematograph films – 50 years from the end of the year in which the work is lawfully made available to the public or is first published, whichever term is the longer. If neither of this happens within 50 years from the making of the work, 50 years from the end of the year in which the work is made;
  • sound recordings – 50 years from the end of the year in which the broadcast first takes place;
  • broadcasts – 50 years from the end of the year in which the broadcast first takes place;
  • programme-carrying signals – 50 years from the end of the year in which the signals are emitted to a satellite; and
  • published editions – 50 years from the end of the year in which the edition is first published.

It is always advisable to consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney who can give you specific advice relating to your work and the protection thereof.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Kevin Dam
Kevin Dam

Kevin is a Director, heads up KISCH IP’s Commercial Department and is a member of the firm's Executive Committee. Kevin has extensive experience in the negotiation, preparation and drafting of commercial agreements, corporate law, transactional IP matters, the structuring of such transactions and the regulatory and compliance matters involved. These agreements include IP license agreements, sale agreements, joint ventures, strategic alliances, collaboration and partnering arrangements, manufacturing, supply chain and logistics agreements, acquisition and supply terms. He also advises local and international businesses on the establishment of regional and national franchise systems and he provides strategic advice to established operations.

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