Copyright law although rather broad in the variety protected does not extend to cover ideas not expressed in tangible format. Saying and thinking something will not qualify the idea for copyright protection. To be protected under copyright law the idea must be expressed in a tangible form that is: written, composed or broadcasted. Even though in tangible format slogans, titles or names cannot be protected under copyright law.
Protection for the names etc. can be obtained under trademark law if the requirements are met. Common property may also not be copyright protected. A telephone directory or public lists will thus not be eligible for copyright protection in South Africa. Copyright in South Africa differs from other forms of intellectual property in that it does NOT need to be registered. Unlike patents, trademarks or registered designs, copyright vests in the author of a work once the work is created in a material form.
Each type of copyright work is defined specifically in the Act. It isn’t always easy to identify which type of “work” a creation resorts under and it may be that one work may embody different types of copyright protection. This is a specialised area of intellectual property law and should there be any confusion as to which type of work your creation resorts under, or you need advice on the legal use of copyrighted works, please feel free to contact us.
Literary, Musical or Artistic Works – copyright exists for the life of the author plus 50 years following death, calculated from the end of the year the author died in or 50 years from the date of first publication, performance in public, offering for sale of records thereof or the broadcasting thereof , whichever is later.
Films and Photographs – 50 years from the end of the year in which the work is made publicly available, or the end of the year in which the work is first published, whichever is longer, or fifty years from the end of the year in which the work is made
Programme-carrying Signals – 50 years from the end of the year in which the signals are emitted to a satellite
Published Editions – 50 years from the end of the year in which the edition is published
Sound Recordings – 50 years from the end of the year in which the recording is first published
Broadcasts – 50 years from the end of the year in which the broadcast first takes place
Transfer of Copyright
Much like other property, copyright can be transferred by assignment, testamentary disposition or by operation of law. Copyright can also be licensed to a licensee for royalties. It is important to note that an assignment and an exclusive license (which precludes anyone else, including the author from using the creation) must be in writing and signed by the assignor to be valid. A non-exclusive license may be written or oral, or inferred from the conduct of the parties.