In South Africa, PEN Afrikaans has joined international organizations in protesting against changes in South African copyright law outlined in the Copyright Amendment Bill.
According to a statement from the South African branch of PEN International, the proposed changes to South Africa's Copyright Act will have 'a direct and harmful impact on all South African writers', and are not in line with the international copyright treaties that South Africa has acceded to '.
The group is directly opposing the introduction of 'fair use' provisions rather than 'fair dealing', which is already established in South African copyright law. According to PEN Afrikaans' statement, 'fair use does not work with a closed list of permitted uses, and instead is open-ended, requiring courts to decide if use is classified as fair'.
In early November, the International Publishers Association (IPA) noted that the introduction of a fair use clause 'will allow reproduction and making available the entire works without the consent of the rights holder', adding that the clause 'also contains other features not meeting international best practice '. According to PEN Afrikaans, 'The current fair dealing provisions should have been expanded as required,' as authors can not typically afford 'institute court proceedings to challenge unauthorized use of their work'.
However, South African academic Denise Rosemary Nicholson argues that under fair use, a creator's rights are protected by a legal framework that allows copyright users to assess whether their reproduction, reuse or remixing of copyright works is legal or not. Nicholson adds that the proposed switch from fair dealing to fair use has been welcomed by organizations including tertiary institutions, libraries and archives, who claim that the less restrictive fair use provisions will facilitate better access to information and resource-sharing, along with other benefits like being able formats for individuals with disabilities'. 'Entrenching fair use in South African copyright law is a way to ensure the country steps firmly in the present and, finally, is able to move into the future,' says Nicholson.
PEN Afrikaans and the IPA are also opposing the introduction of wide-ranging exceptions for educational institutions. The International Authors Forum (IAF) also condemned these proposed changes, citing financial losses in the Canadian publishing sector following the institution of these exceptions: five years on from the changes to Canada's Copyright Act, author royalties down 46% year-on-year.
'Many authors earn their livelihood from writing to the education market. The education market is the largest sector in the book publishing industry. Allowing copying of books and inclusion of copyright material in course packs instead of educational institutions to purchase copies of books, or copyright works reproduced to licenses, erodes' writers' rights and their ability to make a living, 'PEN Afrikaans
'The introduction of wide-ranging exceptions and limitations can not be discouraged from authors from writing books and publishers from taking the financial risk to those books, as it will create a climate within which a wide range of purposes for freely copying copyright works are permitted, the group added. 'Authors deserve better than what the legislature has given them in the Copyright Amendment Bill that is being railroaded through Parliament despite local and international opposition.'
The latest draft of the bill was approved by South Africa's Parliamentary Committee in November, and is due to be debated further at the National Assembly.
Tags: copyrightfair dealingfair usePEN Afrikaans
Category: International news