Attention: Hon Thandi Modise, Speaker of Parliament
Hon Duma Nkosi, Chair of Parliamentary Portfolio Committee (DTIC)
Hon Amos Masondo, Chair of NCOP
Cc: Hon Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa
Hon Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition
Hon Nathi Mthethwa, Minister of Arts and Culture
Hon Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education
We write to you as our elected representatives in parliament, as our executive and as senior members of the ruling African National Congress.
MEMORANDUM ON INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, DECEMBER 10TH 2020
We are many millions of South Africans. We demand our constitutional rights!
We are Blind and Disabled Persons experiencing a book famine and the criminalisation of braille and other accessible formats, preventing us from building livelihoods for ourselves;
Public Sector and Township Teachers and Learners who are blocked in accessing and sharing knowledge, which is vital to our right to education;
Actors, Musicians, Writers, Photographers, Artists and other Creators who are starved of royalties for our work and who continue to live and die as paupers;
Filmmakers, journalists and other media workers and activists who cannot create new works due to blocking of fair use rights and who depend on access to knowledge and free flow of information as provided for in the constitution.
You have ignored our voices for too long. We have formed an unprecedented alliance between creators and users of knowledge. AS CREATORS AND COMMUNITIES WE STAND TOGETHER FOR FAIR COPYRIGHT.
You claim to care about the blind and disabled.
You claim to care about the majority of historically disadvantaged students and learners.
You claim to care about the creative sector and artists.
You claim to be committed to an inclusive Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The evidence of your inaction does not support your claims.
Today we are still governed by a Copyright law passed in 1978, with no major overhaul since then. This is apartheid era legislation, being enforced by a democratic government. This is intolerable, immoral and unconstitutional. It violates articles 9, 16, 29, 30 and 32 of the Bill of Rights, amongst others, which guarantee non-discrimination, education, information and cultural life.
For over 10 years we have called for:
The right to make braille and accessible copies of copyrighted materials and to purchase braille materials internationally, in line with the Marrakesh Treaty and international human rights instruments
The right to access and share educational materials according to internationally recognised principles of fair use, which outlaw piracy and promote access
The right to be paid fair royalties for creative works, so that as writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers and performers we can share in the income generated by our labours and live as valued members of South African society.
These are our constitutional rights.
They are also vital to ensure South Africa can transition into the Fourth Industrial Revolution to build our knowledge economy in an inclusive way.
These rights are all contained within the Copyright Amendment Bill, passed by our democratic parliament in 2018 and sent to the President for signature. For a year the President sat on his hands. Then under pressure from multinational corporations and their local partners, including hollywood movie studios, record labels, publishing conglomerates and collecting societies, the President suddenly spotted flaws in the new law and returned it to parliament. We do not believe these supposed flaws are based in fact or good legal analysis. We believe the flaws were dreamed up to block our rights.
For another 6 months, Parliament has sat on the Copyright Amendment Bill, facing ongoing lobbying from the same multinational corporations and local vested interests. If there are any flaws they can and must be fixed in days, or a few weeks at most. Nothing justifies the postponement of our rights.
As our democratic government we wish to put you on notice that you have a duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil our rights. The CAB does this by adopting modern copyright exceptions modelled on examples that exist in other open and democratic societies based on human dignity, equality and freedom. You cannot continue to speak of disabled rights whilst causing a book famine. You cannot claim to care about the creative sector whilst denying us livelihoods. You cannot continue to claim credit for the Fourth Industrial Revolution whilst lacking the spine to pass the laws that will bring it about.
The time has come to stand up to vested interests and pass laws that serve the poor black majority in this country. The time has come to return the Copyright Amendment Bill to the President and sign it into law.
We kindly request that you respond to us by 27 January 2021 indicating your proposed way forward to achieve a resolution of these issues rapidly within the upcoming parliamentary session in 2021.
South African Disability Alliance (SADA)
South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB)
South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU)
South African Braille Authority (SABA)
Right2Know Campaign (R2K)
Southern African Freelancers Association (SAFREA)
Concerned Musicians and Creators
South Africa Guild of Actors (SAGA)
Wikimedia South Africa