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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 about Intellectual Property Law

Patents
The first step is to file a South African provisional patent application for your invention. This is done to obtain the earliest possible date from which to claim rights to your invention, much like an option to protect your invention.

Patent Attorneys
Our Intellectual Property law firm specialises in Patent and PCT National Phase applications in Africa including the following countries: South Africa, Angola, Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Nigeria, OAPI and ARIPO Contracting states.

Designs
In South Africa, the designs register is split into two sections. Firstly, an aesthetic design protects the appearance of an article, irrespective of the aesthetic value thereof. Secondly, a functional design protects the appearance of an article in as far as its appearance is necessitated by the function that the article is to perform.

Trademarks – Once a trade mark is registered in South Africa, it needs to be renewed every 10 years to stay in force. However, provided you continue renewing your trade mark registration in South Africa, your rights to the trade mark may last indefinitely. A registered trade mark can be protected forever.

Copyright
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.