Smit & Van Wyk Patent, Trademark & Registered Designs

Copyright Law

South Africa

Copyright does NOT have to be registered in South Africa.

Copyright in South Africa, like in most other countries, differs from other forms of intellectual property in that it is not a right that needs to be registered (except in the USA). Unlike patents, trade marks or registered designs, copyright vests in the author of a work once the work is created in a material form. Read more about Copyright Infringement.

What is eligible for Copyright protection?
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. Please contact us, should you require an updated list of Berne Convention countries. In addition, the work that is to enjoy copyright protection must have been reduced to a material form. In other words, mere ideas are not considered protectable by way of copyright. The author must have written down or recorded the creation in a material form for copyright to come into existence. As technology has progressed, the types of works eligible for copyright have expanded to include new creations which were previously unknown, such as computer programs and broadcasts. In terms of the South African Copyright Act (No. 98 of 1978), the following works, if original, are eligible for copyright protection:

Literary Works
(eg. novels, poems, textbooks, letters, reports, lectures, speeches)
Musical Works
Artistic Works
(eg. paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs)
Cinematograph Films / Videos
Sound Recordings
Broadcasts
(electromagnetic transmissions intended for reception by the public)
Programme-carrying Signals
(a programme signal which passes through a satellite)
Published Editions of Books
(usually the first print of a literary or musical work)
Computer Programs
(instructions directing the operation of a computer)

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 specialized 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. Copyright in South Africa differs from other forms of intellectual property in that it does NOT need to be registered. Unlike patents, trade marks or registered designs, copyright vests in the author of a work once the work is created in a material form.

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

Copyright Requirements

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.

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.

More information regarding Intellectual Property:

Copyright Films
It is possible to copyright films in South Africa under the Copyright Act of 1978, because any cinematograph film or storage, fixation, and production such as signalling of data to produce the work fall under the protection. 

Nigeria Trademark Registration
Nigeria is a first to file country and trademark registration is mandatory to be granted rights over a mark.  Nigeria trademarks are valid for 7 years from the filing date and renewable for further periods of 14 years.

Mauritius Trademark Registration
Mauritius trademarks recognise the Nice Classification of goods and services, and allows for multi-class filing. Mauritius trademarks are valid for 10 years from the filing date and renewable for periods of 10 years each upon payment of the renewal fee.

Franchise Agreements
Franchising legal advice is specialised and differs from other areas of law, thus you need find yourself an attorney that specialises in this specific type of law. Franchise attorneys represent the franchisor, as well as the franchisee. 

Validation of European patents in Morocco
The system for validating European patents in Morocco introduced under the validation agreement between the European Patent Organisation and the government of the Kingdom of Morocco provides European patent applicants with a simple and cost-effective way…

PCT National Phase Patents in Africa
The PCT National Phase is the second of the two main phases of the PCT procedure. It follows the international phase and consists in the processing of the international application before each Office of (or acting for a Contracting State) that has been designated in the international application.

Copyright Law - Copyright Attorneys - Software Copyright
Copyright Law - Copyright Attorneys - Content Copyright
Copyright Law - Copyright Attorneys - Photography Copyright
Copyright Law - Copyright Attorneys - Music Copyright