Publishers debate changes to copyright law

Mpuka Radinku Executive Director of the Publishers Association of South Africa PASA:

Publishers are worried that the new Copyright Amendment Bill, currently being discussed in Parliament, could have negative effects.

The Publishers Association of South Africa (PASA) held a media conference in Cape Town last week.

Pasa is concerned about the negative economic impact that “copyright exceptions”could have, especially in the education sector.

They also presented to Parliament last week an economic impact assessment of the detrimental impact that certain provisions of the 2017 Copyright Amendment Bill would have on the publishing industry, especially educational publishing, if it is passed in its current form.

The group said when the bill was issued for public comment in 2015, Pasa made submissions to the Department of Trade and Industry but never got a sense that submissions were taken into consideration.

Part of Pasa’s main concern is the economic impact that the bill could have on the country. They also said at the media briefing on Monday that they thought it was important for the people within the publishing industry to conduct an economic impact assessment.

Brian Wafawarowa, chairperson of Pasa, said he thought the discussion around copyright was a very important one. “It’s about the context of where somebody’s work is used and I think the bill speaks to that.”

Mr Wafawarowa added that this is an industry that had far greater potential than what was being realised now. He said respondents in the survey indicated that 7 657 people were employed in the industry. “This is far less because it is an industry that relies a lot on freelancers. It is also an industry that has a far reach. We believe that people in the printing sector, bookselling sector and including librarians are part of the value chain.”

He said the bill could potentially affect as many as 20 000 people in the business.

He said the implication of the new bill on well-researched textbooks could have a negative impact. Mr Wafawarowa stressed that education account for 60% of all publishing in South Africa.

The other concern that they had was about licence fees. “We believe that our industry is moving towards a licensing model and the reason that is the case is we see textbooks being phased out over time. They will be replaced by what we call digital education solutions. They are learning tools which bring in a lot of components from different sectors. It’s becoming more and more an industry that it’s dependent on licensing.”

He said the law must look into the future of how business will be conducted, particularly with education and exceptions for education. “We agree that we would like to increase greater access but we should be careful not to conflate issues of copyright with issues of funding. We believe funding is a societal role, through the state, and not necessarily something that should be done by rights holders.” However, Wafawarowa said they had a role to play in making the content affordable but the burden couldn’t be solely shifted onto rights holders.

He said there was already a high level of infringement and piracy that the industry had to deal with in the country. “There is nothing being sold in the book shops anymore; it’s all to do with people who are printing stuff on their own. Our education writers write for a living and have absolutely no other job and rely on royalties for their work.”

He added that Pasa believed there would be a significant reduction in royalties as a result of the bill. “We have already seen evidence of this and a lot of the universities have already not renewed their licences for next year. The alarms are not ghost stories, they are based on things we are beginning to see.

“We feel that it could reduce investment in education at a time when innovation in education is much needed. If people feel that they already have the content from publishers they are mistaken. The amount of investment that is required to take us to the next level is huge. We will be left behind again as we were left behind in the printing environment.”

Mr Wafawarowa, who is also the former head of the African Publishers Network, said the industry worked very closely with the Department of Basic Education to make sure that pupils with visual impairments got their books at the same time as everyone else. He said they were involved with several initiatives to make books more accessible. “We need to have different access in terms of different leads.”

He said 140 members took part in the survey. “When it comes to laws of this magnitude, we feel that they should be accompanied by impact assessments.” He said they could see a decline in sales, of as much as 33%, as well as revenue (R2.1 million) as a result of the new law. They also believe that imports will increase as a result. The majority of publishers, surveyed by Pasa, believe the bill in its current format will impact negatively, leading to retrenchments and restructuring of businesses.

Andre Myburgh, of Pasa, said they were concerned about the lack of assessments about how the bill could impact different industries. He said that there was “no one size fits all” approach and there needed to be impact assessment on the different creative industries. “The problem with the bill is that it has taken recommendations from the music industry and stretched it out over all aspects of copyright. There are nine different categories of works that are affected by copyright works.”

He also said the “fair use” proposal was also problematic.