Less than half a percentage of published works are available in accessible formats for blind and partially sighted individuals, this has led to a so-called “Book Famine” across South Africa.
In an effort to address this problem, BLIND SA, represented by SECTION27, took (amongst others) the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition to court in September last year and challenged the Copyright Act for the way it discriminated against persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Under this Act, any person who wanted to convert a book into an accessible format such as Braille or Large Print, had to obtain the permission of the copyright holder first. This placed an enormous and costly burden on persons who are blind and visually impaired and limited the way they were able to access books in a format they could use.
BLIND SA therefore asked the High Court to declare the Copyright Act unconstitutional, as well as declare that section 19D be immediately “read into” or included in the Copyright Act, so that persons who are blind and visually impaired can start to benefit from this provision. The High Court judge agreed with BLIND SA and handed down a judgement in our favour.
Although the Copyright Act now reads as if it includes section 19D, the Constitutional Court needs to confirm this, based on this, Blind SA submitted its application for confirmation in the Constitutional Court.
It is therefore with absolute delight that in the very same month that we celebrated World Braille Day, that we inform you Blind SA has received notice that its copyright matter will be heard by the constitutional Court on 12 May 2022 and that all documents need to be submitted by 17 February 2022. Blind SA CEO, Jace Nair said, “I am thrilled that we got a court date within the first half of this year”. We trust that the copyright violation of the rights of the blind and partially sighted will soon be history.
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