Unlike the formal application proceedings of other forms of intellectual property that involves patents and trademarks, copyright registrations aren’t necessary. Through the years, certain classes of copyright have been developed, rather artificially, to describe works eligible for copyright protection. In general, any original work made by a qualified person is eligible for copyright protection. Originality refers to the fact that the author must have created the work through the application of the author’s own creativity and labour. A qualified person refers to any national or resident of South Africa or a Berne Convention country. The right to use the work lies with the author, who is defined by the South African Copyright Act as follows:

  • Literary, musical or artistic works – the person who first creates the work.
    (eg. novels, poems, textbooks, letters, reports, lectures, speeches)
  • Photographs – the person responsible for the composition of the photograph.
  • Sound recordings – the person who made arrangements for the making of the recording.
  • Films – the person who made arrangements for the making of the film.
  • Broadcasts – the first broadcaster.
    (electromagnetic transmissions intended for reception by the public)
  • Published editions – the publisher of the edition.
    (usually the first print of a literary or musical work)
  • Programme-carrying signals – the first person emitting the signal to a satellite.
    (a programme signal which passes through a satellite)
  • Computer programmes – the person who exercised control over the making of the programme.
    (instructions directing the operation of a computer)

There are, however, exceptions to these rules. While you won’t need to go through the process of copyright registrations, you can contact Smit & Van Wyk Incorporated for any intellectual property assistance.

Originality refers to the fact that the author must have created the work through the application of the author’s own creativity and labour. A qualified person refers to any national or resident of South Africa or a Berne Convention country.

Copyright Duration

This depends on the type of work that has been created. Generally, the term of copyright is 50 years, subject to the following:

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.
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.
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.

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.