What is a Copyright?

A Copyright is an exclusive right granted by law for a limited period to an author, designer, etc. for his/her original work.

Works eligible for copyright protection
The Copyright Act protects certain classes or categories of works.
The following works are eligible for copyright in South Africa (in the Republic).
  • Literary works e.g. books and written composition novels.
  • Musical works e.g. songs.
  • Artistic works e.g. paintings and drawings.
  • Cinematograph films e.g. programme-carrying signal that has been transmitted by satellite.
  • Sound recordings.
  • Broadcasts e.g. broadcasting of films or music.
  • Programme-carrying signals e.g. signals embodying a programme.
  • Published editions e.g. first print by whatever process.
  • Computer programs.
For a work to be eligible for copyright protection, it must be original and be reduced to material form.

Copyright infringement

What constitutes copyright infringement?
  • Making photocopies for private use is not an infringement of copyright.
  • Copying a public speech or a lecture does not constitute infringement.
  • No infringement results if work is acknowledged when one is copying or citing from another author’s work.
  • Generally, in respect of written material, the following guidelines apply:
    Wherever possible, the author’s permission should be sought to reproduce his/her work.
    If in an article, paper or speech, when referring to the work of another, it is required that details of the reference be provided in the form of the name of the author and details of his/her publication i.e. title of book or magazine, publisher, date of publication etc.
    If only a small portion of the work is used, say a few sentences or a paragraph, and provided that an acknowledgement is made, permission is not needed.
    If a "significant" section is reproduced, such as a chapter, then permission should be obtained.
    It is generally accepted that work that is being used in academic institutions, research or for private use may be reproduced.
  • Clearly, if you were to copy a tape or a CD and sell this, it would constitute copyright infringement. But when a Dee-Jay at a party plays CDs, is copyright being infringed?
  • As a general guide, copyright infringement can be said to occur where the copyrighted material of others is used for commercial gain as opposed to private or personal use.
  • Copyright infringement does not occur if you copy a public speech or lecture, made for information purposes, or photocopy government publications for public usage.

What is the lifespan of copyright?

The lifespan of copyright depends on the type of work protected:
  • The copyright of literacy works lasts for 50 years after death of the author.
  • The copyright of computer programs lasts for 50 years after the first copies were made available to the public.
  • For sound recordings, the copyright lasts for 50 years from the day the work was first broadcast.
  • For films, 50 years from the date the film was shown.
A Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created. Using the Copyright symbol © along with the year of first publication (or creation for unpublished works), and the author’s name signify the Copyright. For example, © 2010 BizFilings. Copyright infringement can be avoided by showing that the work in question was created independently of the copyrighted work.