South African Copyright Law is governed by the Copyright Act of 1978 and subsequent amendments. Under South African Copyright Law, the right of the author to control usage, distribution, and exploitation of creative, literary, and artistic works in South Africa is protected under the Copyright Act. Since South Africa is a member of the Berne Union, the WIPO Copyright Treaty and a signatory to the TRIPS agreement the copyright laws of other member states also come into place. We thus recognise foreign copyright protected works of member states in South Africa under our copyright laws provided that the works meet the criteria as stipulated in our Copyright Law.

Classes of work that qualify for copyright protection:

  1. Musical works – not the words sung with the music.
  2. Sound recordings – excluding film sound tracks.
  3. Literary works – including lyrics, novels, articles, plays, scripts, speeches, and reports.
  4. Cinematography films – including the film, tape, digital media and soundtrack.
  5. Broadcasts – including radio wave signals which are intended for reaching the public.
  6. Published editions – where typographical arrangement of musical or literary works is protected.
  7. Programme carrying signals which are transmitted by means of satellite.
  8. Artistic works – including sculptures, photographs, drawings, architectural drawings, craftsmanship, and paintings.
  9. Computer programs – including instructions which direct computer operation.

Under South African Copyright Law a work must meet the criteria of originality and creativity. According to our copyright laws, ideas cannot receive copyright protection, only the tangible form thereof. The author must have showed some form of skill and creativity in creating the work. One doesn’t have to register copyright, except for a cinematograph film. It is automatically assigned. Contact us at Smit & Van Wyk Intellectual Property Attorneys to assist in matters relating to the South African Copyright Law.