President Cyril Ramaphosa has sent the controversial Copyright Amendment Bill back to Parliament, reports News24. In the letter to the National Assembly Speaker dated 16 June, Ramaphosa said his office had received many submissions, cautioning against signing the Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performers' Protection Amendment Bill into law.

The two Bills were passed by the National Assembly in March last year despite warnings that some of its proposals, which include not paying royalties to artists whose work is used in education would threaten their livelihoods.

The Copyright Coalition of SA (CCSA) led the fight to try to stop Ramaphosa from signing the two Bills. However, some local artists have openly pledged support for it, appealing to the President to fast-track its gazetting.

In the letter to the Speaker, Ramaphosa said after all the submissions and legal opinion he received, he has several reservations about the constitutionality of the two Bills.

For starters, the two were incorrectly tagged as ordinary Bills that do not affect provinces. But the NCOP ought to have voted on the Bills, too, because they affect the trade of artists' indigenous work, said Ramaphosa.

The President also raised concerns that some provisions in the Bills will ‘substantially’ and arbitrarily deprive artists and authors of their property.

He said: ‘These provisions mean that going forward, copyright owners will be entitled to lesser share of the fruits of their property than was previously the case. The impact of these provisions reaches far beyond the authors it seeks to protect – those that live in poverty as a result of not having been fairly protected in the past.’

The President also said that substantial amendments have been made to the Copyright Amendment Bill following the 2017 public hearings. Yet, these were not put out for public comment before the final Bill was published.

Furthermore, the Bill may be in breach of some international treaties that SA is a signatory to, and may run the risk of violating some of artists' constitutional rights.

News24 notes the CCSA welcomed Ramaphosa's decision, saying that by sending the Bill back to Parliament, the President has shown that he cares about the future of SA's creative sector.

‘The coalition has long argued that the Copyright Amendment Bill is unconstitutional, both procedurally and substantively. The reasoning outlined by the President in his letter to Parliament vindicates our position,’ the coalition's chairperson, Collen Dlamini, is quoted as saying.

He said the President's decision will protect the livelihoods of local artists and content producers, as well as workers who support the sector for their livelihood.

Full News24 report

President's letter to Speaker