It is not necessary to formally submit copyright applications in order to receive copyright protection. Copyright exists automatically in force of creation. In other words, as soon as the qualifying work is written or recorded on some physical medium, its author is automatically entitled to copyright in the work, and to any derivative works, including its publication, distribution and adaptation.

Ownership of copyright

The Copyright Act provides that the ownership of the copyright vests in the author, except that:

  • the copyright in a literary or artistic work made by an author in the course of his employment by the proprietor of a newspaper, magazine or the like, belongs to the proprietor of the newspaper, magazine, etc. for the purpose of being so published, but in all other respects the copyright subsisting in the work vests in the author;
  • a person who commissions a photograph, the painting or drawing of a portrait, the making of a gravure, the making of a cinematograph film or a sound recording, and pays for it pursuant to the commission, will be the owner of the copyright subsisting in the work so made;
  • where the work is made by or under the direction or control of the state or an international organisation, copyright is conferred and vests in the state or in the relevant international organisation;
  • the work (with certain exceptions) must have been written down, recorded, represented in digital data or signals, or otherwise reduced to material form;
  • in the case of all works not falling within the above categories and which are made in the course of an author’s employment by another person under a contract of service or apprenticeship, the copyright will be owned by such other person (ie the employer).
Cinematographic Films

South Africa does not have a formal system for the registration of copyright, except for cinematographic films which in terms of the Cinematograph Films Act, 1977 (Act 62 of 1977), may be registered for copyright. An application for registration of copyright in a cinematograph film shall comprise the following documents:

  • Form RF 1, in duplicate, one copy of which shall be signed by the Registrar and returned to the applicant as proof of lodging. Any document in a language other than the English or Afrikaans languages shall be accompanied by an exact translation thereof, certified to the satisfaction of the Registrar.
  • Form RF 2 in duplicate. (c) Statement of case giving particulars as required by subregulation 9 (2), verified by a sworn declaration made on Form RF 9 by the author or by some person authorised to act on his behalf and approved by the Registrar.
  • In the event that the applicant is not the author of the cinematograph film, appropriate documentary proof of his title or authority to apply to the satisfaction of the Registrar.
  • Any other relevant supporting duly authenticated documents or copies thereof.
  • An abstract on Form RF 3, in duplicate. (to be summarised from the information contained in the statement of case as required by regulation 9 (1) and (2) and the storyline shall be in narrative form and shall not be more than 150 words.)

In respect of cinematograph films, registration is possible but it is not necessary for copyright to exist.