People browse through books at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in South Africa on May 18, 2019. File photo: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
People browse through books at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in South Africa on May 18, 2019. File photo: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

SA copyright coalition lockdown promoting piracy

By African News Agency Time of article published May 12, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG,- The Copyright Coalition of South Africa said on Tuesday it was concerned that what it called the disjointed approach to easing Covid-19 lockdown regulations in South Africa in relation to the publishing industry was encouraging piracy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's government imposed a nationwide lockdown from March 27 which grounded almost all business and social activity save for essential services in a bid to contain transmissions of the coronavirus which has spread around the world since being first detected in China late last year.

South Africa's lockdown regulations were eased slightly from May 1 to allow some operations to resume on a limited basis.

However, the copyright coalition said even under the less stringent level 4 rules, books which were not ‘educational’ continued to be restricted, meaning many South Africans currently unable to work or working reduced hours could not access reading material.

"The consequence of this ill-considered policy has been an increase in the illegal distribution of copyright materials including on social media," Copyright Coalition of South Africa chairman Collen Dlamini said in a statement.

"In the long-term, the extension and entrenchment of these illegal distribution channels will fatally cripple the industry."

He said a number of South African publishers and agents of international publishers had noted the existence of social media platforms distributing illegal e-books and other pirated copies, running into hundreds of titles and including best-selling local and international authors' work.

The he Publishers Associations of South Africa, an affiliate of the copyright coalition, had served cease and desist letters on the administrators of a WhatsApp group as part of an ongoing effort to curb the explosion in piracy.

For months, the copyright coalition has appealed to Ramaphosa to refer back to parliament, a Copyright Amendment Bill passed last year, which it says would infringe on intellectual property rights and expose holders of copyright to exploitation of their creation without remuneration.

"Now, as the reality of Covid-19 bites, we appeal to government to lift the knowledge lockdown so that content producers and consumers can benefit," Dlamini said on Tuesday..

"There is a way to prioritise the health and safety of the nation and keep our creative sector alive at the same time."

- African News Agency (ANA)

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