Possible crunch-down on Copyright Infringement

In August 2015 South Africa released its draft Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill to the public for comment, one of many similar laws that has been released throughout the world.

One of the more interesting points in this bill that comes at quite an odd time due to the known fact that SA is considering amendments to its Copyright Act is the fact that there is one clause in this bill that sees virtually any infringement of copyright as a criminal offence, punishable by up to three years in prison.

The clause states the following:

20. (1) Any person who unlawfully and intentionally, at a time when copyright exists in respect of any work, without the authority of the owner of the copyright, by means of a computer network or an electronic communications network—


offers for download;

distributes; or

otherwise makes available,

any work, which the person knows is subject to copyright and that the actions contemplated in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) or (d) will be prejudicial to the owner of the copyright, is guilty of an offence.

(2) Any person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (1), is liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

This clause covers basically anything that you could possibly do with a copyright work online. Based on this clause even uploading a single file that contains a copyright without the exclusive authorization of the owner of the work is criminalized.

The bill is currently being reviewed by EFF and and is expected to be submitted by the deadline of 30 November 2015.