Blind justice: ConCourt gives Parliament two years to remedy defects in Copyright Act

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Parliament was given 24 months by the Constitutional Court to cure defects in the Copyright Act after declaring sections invalid.
Parliament was given 24 months by the Constitutional Court to cure defects in the Copyright Act after declaring sections invalid.
PHOTO: Roger de la Harpe, Gallo Images
  • The Constitutional Court declared sections of the Copyright Act invalid, unconstitutional and inconsistent with the rights of persons with visual and print disabilities.
  • The apex court gave Parliament 24 months to cure the "unconstitutional" defects in the Act.
  • The case was lodged by BlindSA and Section27 in April last year.

The Constitutional Court has given Parliament 24 months to cure defects in the Copyright Act after declaring sections of the Act invalid, unconstitutional and inconsistent with the rights of people who have visual and print disabilities.

On Wednesday, the apex court found that the Act limited visually impaired people's access to published literary works and artistic works. 

BlindSA and Section27 launched the litigation in April last year. However, before it reached the Constitutional Court, the Gauteng High Court ruled that the provisions imposed a "book famine" for the blind and visually impaired and that this amounted to an "unjustifiable limit to their rights."

"The evidence marshalled by BlindSA establishes that those with print and visual disabilities struggle to secure books in accessible format copies that they require for their education."

READ | Electoral Amendment Bill: ConCourt hands Parliament 'lifeline'

"Children, and especially poor children, cannot secure the textbooks they require. Others who are admitted to university cannot access the articles and books they need, a substantial impairment to the benefits of a higher education."

BlindSA's argument was that the Act was an "apartheid-era" law that infringed on the rights of persons with visual disabilities, particularly the rights to equality, dignity, basic and further education, freedom of expression, language and participation in the cultural life of their choice.

The case went to the apex court for confirmation and it said the parliamentary process had taken too long.

ALSO READ | Blind people can now convert material to braille as ConCourt rules Copyright Act unconstitutional

"The need to address the infringement of rights is pressing. There must be a remedy granted that provides immediate redress," it added.

BlindSA Jace Nair said the organisation was ecstatic that the judgment provided for the exceptions it has been advocating for, for so long.

Nair said:

We would like to thank the Constitutional Court for recognising the impact this violation has had on the lives of blind and partially sighted persons for decades.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo told News24 they would familiarise themselves with the judgment.

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