The Minister, Department of Trade and Industry, Government of the Republic of South Africa, Dr. Rob Davies (MP): Amend the Copyright Act 98 of 1978 (As amended) especially Section 21

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The Minister, Department of Trade and Industry, Government of the Republic of South Africa, Dr. Rob Davies (MP): Amend the Copyright Act 98 of 1978 (As amended) especially Section 21

This petition had 2,524 supporters

Dear Dr. Davies (MP)


The COPYRIGHT ACT NO. 98 OF 1978 (As amended) Section 21(1) (b)-(d) under the heading ‘Ownership of copyright’), especially (c), has unfairly and prejudicially discriminated against photographers in South Africa for decades, legally empowering businesses to exploit photographers work, with little or no financial reward to the photographers.

We implore you to ensure that this is changed.

The United Nations values the protection of intellectual property so highly that it enshrined it in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 27

  • (1)  Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to
    enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. 
  • (2)  Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting
    from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. 


Both the Berne Convention and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights specify that the Author of the works has the right to protection NOT the owner of the copyright therein, if the owner of the copyright is not the Author of the works.

The Republic of South Africa is a member of the United Nations, and a signatory to the WIPO, that includes the Berne Convention.

According to WIPO, “copyright and related rights protect the rights of authors, performers, producers and broadcasters, and contribute to the cultural and economic development of nations. This protection fulfills a decisive role in clarifying the rights of different stakeholders and the relationship between them and the public. The purpose of copyright and related rights is to encourage a dynamic creative culture, while returning value to creators so that they can lead a dignified economic existence, and to provide widespread, affordable access to content for the public.”

In many countries copyright can be assigned, sold or licensed to others. Some countries do not allow the separation of authorship and ownership of copyright. The Author is the owner of the copyright to the works by default and cannot assign the copyright but they can sell license for use of the works. We implore you to implement this in South Africa.

The Republic of South Africa has one of the most advanced constitutions in the world, drafted and implemented to ensure that the people of South Africa’s rights are not violated or exploited, yet the current copyright act legally empowers businesses, that are economically dominant to photographers, to exploit both photographers and painters of portraits works. Perhaps the most well known example of this is the iconic photograph of fatally-wounded Hector Pieterson (12) being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo, with Hector's sister Antoinette Pieterson (17) right beside them, on 16th June 1976 by Sam Nzima. The iconic photograph, that helped to bring about the end of apartheid, was published by The World newspaper, who sold the image throughout the world benefitting handsomely from it’s sale, with none of the royalties paid to Mr. Nzima. Mr. Nzima struggled to earn a dignified economic existence. Mr. Nzima was finally rewarded in 1998 when The Star newspaper finally assigned the copyright to him.

To summarise, we implore you to ensure that the current copyright act is amended to ensure that photographers are legally recognised and empowered as the rightful owners of the copyright to their works, that the ownership of the copyright to those works cannot be assigned (divorced from the photographer) and that the photographer be empowered to sell the license to use their works, regardless of the nature of their employment, whether it be on a full time, part-time, freelance or commissioned basis. 

We thank you in advance for your understanding and effective action in this matter.

The Photographic Community of South Africa 


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