Copyright in 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)
Artistic Works (eg. paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs)
Cinematograph Films / Videos
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.
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.
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
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
How to Patent an Idea – It is important to keep your idea a secret because a patent may only be granted for an idea that i new, inventive and useful. If your idea meets these requirements, generally, it should be eligible for a patent in terms of South African patent law, but once you reveal your idea to the public…
Intellectual Property Law – Intellectual property law in South Africa refers to all legislation concerning patents, designs, trademarks and copyright protection. It is meant to protect the intellectual property of legal entities, as intellectual property can also carry significant value…
International Trademark Search – A word or mark that distinguishes your goods/services from the goods / services of others is considered a trademark and may be registered for protection. To avoid infringing on someone else’s trademark, you need to search for similar trademarks that have already been registered…
Patent Attorneys Qualification – In order to enrol for the Patent Attorneys qualification, a stamped examination entry form must be lodged at the Patent Office Prior to 15th January of the year in which the examinations are to be written. Late entries are accepted until 31st January only on good cause shown.
Patent Law in South Africa – Novelty, Usefulness and Inventiveness. Under the Patent Law the invention must be completely new. As such the patent lawyers will conduct a novelty search in trade magazines, online, through databases, and newspapers…
Provisional Patent Application – How to register a PATENT in South Africa Always keep your inventions a secret – Do not market or sell the inventions until the patent application has been filed. Obtaining a patent is a two-step process spaced 12 months apart. The South African Patent Office…
Registered Designs – A South African registered design protects the appearance of an article, unlike a patent which protects the underlying invention on which an article is based. Even though the underlying principle of operation may be the same as a known article, a new appearance may be protectable by way of a South African registered design…