SADTU Calls on the President to sign the Copyright Amendment Bill Now!

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union would like to wish the African National Congress a happy birthday as it marks 108 years since the historic founding of the people’s organization in Bloemfontein in 1912. History has it on record that at the epicenter of its founding, was the systemic exclusion of the black and poor majority that found expression through restrictive mechanisms such as the Land Act of 1913 and later on the apartheid regime in its formalized form.

The laws and policies that came with apartheid were designed to amongst others ensure the steady production of a  pool of cheap and easily exploitable black labour force to sustain the profit margins that capital was extracting from the raw minerals and energy sectors of this country for the colonial masters.

This was done partly through the introduction of an inferior education system for the poor and disenfranchised majority. SADTU and the African National Congress itself have always identified education as a major societal transformative catalyst for our country given its immediate history and our developmental goals in the context of a democratic dispensation.

Whilst South Africa spends more on education when compared to other countries of a similar anatomy and developmental needs as ours, the system remains heavily burdened by certain hindrances and one of those is the limited access to educational material particularly for the poor and the working class in the age of the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution. The Department of Basic Education spends a significant portion of its annual budget on Learning & Teaching Support Material.

With education undoubtedly being an apex priority for the movement and the government, the Union wants to make an emphatic call to the President as he will be delivering the ANC’s message of hope to the nation to sign the transformative copyright amendment bill that has been on his table for no less than 10 months to date.

As the country celebrates the matric pass rate improvement that reached the psychological 80% mark for the first time in a democratic dispensation and as the President will be leading the “Reading Revolution” campaign, we should equally ensure that we have the relevant legislative framework that will promote access to educational material and archives for the benefit of learners, teachers, academia and the society at large without any apartheid regime and multinational publishing companies inspired restrictions such as the current copyright bill that came into law in the 70s. 

From an education point of view, we believe that the bill when signed into law, will protect authors and publishers while restraining the excesses of a few publishing companies that exploit certain markets with excessive prices. No more than four publishing companies make excessive profits from this and we have previously characterized them as “edu-preneurs” who see our children and education system as a new gold mine. These are the disaster capitalists who are now running a campaign to turn one worker against the other, utilizing falsehoods to ensure that the bill is not signed.   

We are saying the President should not be threatened by the possibility of USA driven sanctions should he sign the bill as is the case right now and should rather do what will benefit the country and its National Development Plan.  The USA has modelled itself as the cheer leader against a transformative Intellectual Property regime throughout the world in defense of the profits of its big multi-national companies like the internet based search engines and publishing companies.

The said country used the global intellectual property regime with the necessary fair use checks and balances to advance its own developmental trajectory from an educational/research point of view but does not want to afford space to other developing nations to do the same through its sanctions scare-talk should the bill be signed into law. The USA has turbocharged innovations and creativity through the use of the fair use and not fair dealing. The USA has allowed flexibility as a requirement for creativity and innovation for more than three decades. In the USA, the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code) controls fair use and it is therefore unacceptable that South Africa is threatened with trade sanctions for applying the same rules. The current Copyright Bill promotes the fair use doctrine which protects the market for the source work and therefore progressive. It’s a myth that this Copyright Bill will damage the market in particular the publishers because when our libraries are supported this will contribute to the health of the overall book sector. As the president lead the “Reading Revolution” libraries will be playing an essential role in developing the writers and researchers of the future as our country demands more books and the fair use doctrine allows that innovation and creativity.

Our President must sign the Copyright Bill without any delay because the urgent reforms addresses the exceptions and limitations for libraries, education and research and the USA is an advanced economy because of these exceptions and limitations.

The current global Intellectual Property regime especially in as far as Africa and other poorer regions are concerned is very narrowly more about the protection of individual publishing company rights instead of being about facilitating development and access for the poor and disenfranchised. In a South African context, the copyright amendment bill proposes the adoption of flexibilities such as those in the Berne Convention that would amongst others enhance access to copyright works for educational purposes.

We call upon President Ramaphosa as he will be delivering his message to sign the copyright bill into law now and to not be intimidated by the scare tactics of monopoly capital through their proxies in the form of the publishing companies that have come up with a well-choreographed campaign to frustrate the signing of the bill.

Our freedom is incomplete without economic freedom and the copyright Bill is a step forward towards the development of the book economy.

Forward with the Copyright Bill, forward.

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat


General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968

Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651

Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157