Copyright Infringement: File-sharing Online

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In December 2013 one of the first arrests were made in South Africa for copyright infringing file-sharing online. Majedien Machos Norton was convicted of criminal copyright infringement for posting a copy of a local movie, Four Corners, on Pirate Bay. The 29 year old man accused of contravening copyright laws by pirating the movie Four Corners has pleaded guilty to charges against him. Majedien Machos Norton, appeared in the Bellville Specialized Commercial Crimes Court when he entered into a plea agreement with the State. He was charged with contravening the Copyright Act of 1978 read with the Registration of Copyright in Cinematograph Films Act of 1977 and for contravening the Films and Publications Act of 1996. Investigators had picked up on Norton’s piracy from a tweet and then found the movie available on Pirate Bay, a file-sharing site.

The plea agreement states that Norton received a pirated copy of the film from a friend and then uploaded it onto the internet, which was shared with the public. The agreement also states that the accused acknowledged he was naive and did not think about the dire consequences that may be suffered by the producers of the film in the process. He was remorseful for his actions and had apologised to the court and the filmmakers. Norton also helped with the removal of the film from Pirate Bay and had co-operated with investigators. Norton received a 3-year suspended sentence for contravening the copyright laws. He was further fined R3 000 or a six-month suspended sentence for contravention of the Films and Publications Act. Any person who knowingly distributes or exhibits in public a film or game without first having been registered with the Board as a distributor or exhibitor of films or games shall be guilty of an offence and liable, upon conviction, to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both a fine and such imprisonment.

Copyright Facts

In South Africa or the UK, once the work is created in a material form the creator / author / writer / photographer is instantly protected by copyright and may use the copyright © symbol. It is only possible to copyright films in South Africa under the Copyright Act of 1978. Any cinematograph film or storage, fixation, and production such as signalling of data to produce the work fall under the protection. The copyright films enjoy afford ownership rights to the person or entity that made the movie or commissioned it. An infringement can take place when copyright films are duplicated, and rented out or any of the actions such as still photograph productions from the movie are carried out without the consent of the owner/creator.