Johannesburg - The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has welcomed the judgment by the Constitutional Court allowing visually impaired people to convert books into accessible formats without requiring the authorisation of the copyright holder.
This followed a court battle between Blind SA, the minister of trade, industry and competition and others on the constitutionality of the Copyright Act.
The ConCourt declared that Section 6 and 7, read with Section 23 of the Copyright Act 98 of 1978 are unconstitutional, invalid, and inconsistent with the rights of persons with visual and print disabilities
It said the Copyright Act unfairly and unlawfully limited access of people living with disability to publish literary works and artistic works as may be included in such literary works and in accessible format copies.
The teachers union said it had been its long-held view that the Copyright Act of 1978, which it called 'an apartheid-era statute', was unconstitutional.
"It discriminated against people with disabilities as it denied them access to information. It is heart-breaking that it had to take the Constitutional Court to order the Department of Trade and Industry to do the right thing – to protect and uphold the constitutional right of the visually impaired to access information," Sadtu said.
Sadtu said South Africa had a long history of people fighting for their rights, and that it applauded “the vigour and strength Blind SA has shown in fighting for theirs”.
"Sadtu has held demonstrations with Blind SA and ReCreate South Africa highlighting the plight of those affected by that apartheid-era statute and calling for the copyright amendment bill to be signed," Sadtu the union added.
It accused the government of having chosen to listen to those who benefited from apartheid and those “who wanted a lobby group to threaten our sovereignty”.
The union said the Copyright Amendment Bill should have been signed into law a long time ago.