No right to copy

By Drum Digital
12 September 2011

Copyright can protect your business as it can be used to prevent someone else from copying your original work without your permission n school, teachers reserve the harshest punishment for learners who copy someone else’s work.

And although it’s much more complicated in business, the bottom line is clear: copying someone else’s work is theft. It’s also punishable by law.

Anyone who makes something unique can draw on copyright laws to protect their intellectual property. The legal protection of their work is called copyright.

In this second and last instalment of our two-part series on intellectual property protection,Marumo Nkomo, a commercial law lecturer at the University of Cape Town, helps us to understand copyright and how it can protect your business.


“If you have created an original work – be it a novel, piece of music or a painting – you can protect your work from being illegally copied or published by someone else and this is called copyright,” explains Marumo.

As the rightful owner of the copyright, only you are entitled to sell it, assign or license it. In South Africa, copyright is regulated by the Copyright Act No. 98 of 1978. The Act came into effect on 1 January 1979 but has been revised several times since then.


Copyright is indicated by the symbol ©. It’s a legal term that can be found at the end of a written document or material that is copyrighted.

Under South African copyright law, the following categories are protected:

Literary works such as novels, short stories, poems, broadcasting scripts, essays and articles, sermons and so forth;

Cinematographic films (movies) are protected in any form, such as as a recording on a magnetic tape or a photographic film. Musical works and movie soundtracks are also protected;

Sound recordings on cassettes, tapes, CDs, records and so on;

Radio and TV broadcasts and programme-carrying signals;

Artistic works such as paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs. This includes architectural structures such as buildings or building models, technical drawings and artistic craftsmanship

Computer software. There’s a specific amendment for this that was made to the Copyright Act in 1992.

FAST FACT: The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) has a step-by-step guide to protecting your intellectual property. CLICK HERE or log on to the CIPC website at or call             0861-843-384       for more information.

Read more about copyright in DRUM, 15 September 2011.

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