The end of 2018 has seen South Africa move perilously close to implementing a change to copyright law which will be damaging to publishers and authors. Public voices of discontent from the publishing sector started emanating after the Frankfurt Book Fair with IFRRO, then IAF, then IPA making increasingly concerned statements about the ongoing discussions. The local South African publishing industry then stepped things up another notch in the weeks ahead of the vote in the National Assembly of Parliament. Former President of the South African Publishers Association (PASA), and IPA EC member, Brian Wafawarowa published an Op-Ed in the Daily Maverick and PEN Afrikaans launched a petition with the support of high-profile authors including two Nobel laureates publicly backing the previously mentioned international statements. By the time of the vote the petition had gathered over 3000 signatories.
In addition to a number of concerns over the content of the text itself, questions were raised over whether the law would satisfy South Africa’s international treaty obligations and be Constitutional.
Despite all of these concerns, the Bill was adopted on 5 December. Early next year it will be put to the South African Upper House but is not expected to be challenged. IPA’s local member, PASA, will continue to follow the discussions closely.
As if to add insult to injury, just days later The New Publishing Standard reported the South African government was going to reinforce its own publishing efforts in a partnership with the National Library of South Africa.
Publishers’ Association of South Africa Executive Director, Mpuka Radinku responded to the news by saying, “From a publisher’s point of view government’s entrance as a bigger publisher is certainly a threat. It will have a negative impact on small publishers and many will be put out of business because they will find it difficult to compete. Government should be facilitating the country’s creative and cultural development agenda, not being a player and a referee at the same time.”