How to Copyright Films

Intellectual Property
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What is Copyright?

A copyright is an exclusive right granted to an author of original work for a limited period of time. For a work to be eligible for copyright protection, it must be original and be reduced to material form. In South Africa all these works are automatically protected by copyright as soon as they are created, only films may be formally registered for copyright. The Copyright Act protects certain classes or categories of works. The following works are eligible for copyright in South Africa:

Literary works (books and written composition novels).
Musical works (songs).
Artistic works (paintings and drawings).
Cinematograph films (programme-carrying signal that has been transmitted by satellite).
Sound recordings.
Broadcasts (broadcasting of films or music).
Programme-carrying signals (signals embodying a programme).
Published editions (first print by whatever process).
Computer programs.

How to Copyright Cinematograph Films

You have to be a South African citizen or the film had to be produced in a country that is a member of the Berne Convention. Copyright for films and videos made for commercial use needs to be applied for by completing the relevant documentation. Copyright forms to be filed with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement occurs where the copyrighted material of others is used for commercial gain as opposed to private or personal use. Copyright is NOT infringed when:

  • Copying a public speech or a lecture made for information purposes.
  • If work is acknowledged when one is copying or citing from another author’s work.
  • Making photocopies for private use. (work that is being used in academic institutions, research or for private use may be reproduced)
  • Photocopy government publications for public usage.

Avoiding Copyright Disputes: Always request the author’s permission to use his work, otherwise make reference to the author with details of the date of publication, the title of his film, his publisher, a link to his website, etc.

Public Domain

Public domain refers to films whose copyright protection have expired, been forfeited, or are inapplicable. Public domain films are publicly available and refers to films which are intangible to private ownership or are available for public use. Because copyright protection duration vary in different countries, a film copyright may have expired in one country and not in another.