Copyright Coalition ups pressure on legislators to follow due process

The Copyright Coalition of South Africa (CCSA) is calling on all affected stakeholders to continue to apply pressure on legislators to follow the prescribed process, which includes widespread consultation before a Bill of this nature is signed into law.

For nearly two years, the CCSA has been running a campaign to apprise lawmakers of the full impact of the Bill on several industries.

A socio-economic impact study conducted by an independent organisation has shown that the Bill, in its current form, if passed into law, will have a devastating impact on several economic sectors.

The CCSA is a body that represents a broad range of stakeholders, including 14 trade and industry associations representing hundreds of local companies. CCSA members are key drivers of investment into the creative and education sectors, creating jobs for tens of thousands of creatives in the publishing, music and film industries.

Chola Makgamathe, Chairperson of the CCSA, says the coalition welcomes President Ramaphosa’s decision to return the Bill back to Parliament for further consideration, however, it is not enough.

A Parliamentary process is underway to reconsider the copyright legislative framework.

“Whilst the review is expected to be confined to the six areas of concern in the Presidential Referral, we believe that this is a tremendous opportunity to re-cast and redirect the Bills as they are central to the economic recovery of the cultural and creative sectors in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Makgamathe.

“The Bill will have a catastrophic impact on the arts industry and as a result, it needs to go through a thorough consultation process where all stakeholders can register their fears,” adds Makgamathe.

Already hamstrung by restrictions on gatherings, the music and creative industry will face further challenges if the proposed Copyright Amendment Bill is passed into law, warns Makgamathe.

Government efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which include restricting the number of people at events, have seen the industry buckle.

With the resurgence of the Lockdown, earlier restrictions on audience attendance numbers coupled with the recently announced measures make it almost impossible for artists to earn a living.

Musicians and other artists generate a large proportion of their income from live events.

Their income is supplemented by royalty payments collected on their behalf by organisations such as SAMRO and other similar organisations, says Makgamathe.

Owing to those restrictions, for artists who were barely managing to scrape a living, the business of music is no longer a financially viable career, and some are contemplating leaving the industry altogether, says Makgamathe.

The copyright legislation in the pipeline is going to take away the little income musicians and other artists might be able to generate post lockdown restrictions, says Makgamathe, adding: “If we ever get there”.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases are rising at an alarming rate in South Africa, and the latest government stats make for grim reading. Earlier this year, the South African government announced record infection rates.

“We know that the world of music creators amongst others will never be the same again,” says Makgamathe. She says the proposed legislation “in its current form” will make the industry “purely a labour of love”.

“South Africa has a thriving creative industry across many disciplines. This industry has long and broad value-chains that in turn support other industries”, says Makgamathe, adding that the copyright amendment bill will result in a near-total shutdown of the industry.

She says the country should be thinking of ways to reboot the economy through every lever “at our disposal”.

“Instead, we are busy scoring own-goals and celebrating with the opposing team,” laments Makgamathe.

“This move makes no social, legal or economic sense, in order to remedy the flaws that are now contained in this bill, it must be subjected to the proper channels and processes as per the country’s constitution.”

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