About R12bn of SA’s exports could lose preferential access to US markets if a lobby group convinces the Donald Trump administration to withdraw SA’s trade status should the contentious Copyright Amendment Bill be passed into law in its current form, notes a Business Day report.

Parliament recently approved the Bill, which is now awaiting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature before becoming law. It proposes changing the country’s copyright regime, which includes the introduction of the ‘fair use’ principle which, in effect, allows for the free use of copyrighted content.

The International Intellectual Property Association (IIPA), which represents US companies that produce copyright-protected material, including computer software, films, television programmes, music, books, and journals (electronic and print media), is objecting to the Bill because of the risk it poses to American intellectual property rights.

As a retaliatory measure, the association said it will, therefore, be pushing for the US Government to withdraw SA’s preferential trade status. According to the IIPA, the Bill contains ‘a proliferation of extremely broad new exceptions and limitations to copyright protection, whose effects would imperil the legitimate markets for educational materials, locally-distributed works, and online works in general’. 

In a letter to Erland Herfindahl, deputy assistant US trade representative, it requested the US to review the eligibility of SA as a GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) beneficiary developing country.

Under the US Trade Act, one of the criteria for eligibility for the GSP programme is that the state ‘provide adequate and effective protection of American copyrighted works and sound recordings’.

Should the US trade representative find that SA no longer meets this criterion, the US President has the authority to suspend or withdraw SA from the programme.

Full Business Day report