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South African copyright rules create more compliance hurdles for companies

Published: 9 March 2012

South African businesses are soon going to have to purchase a licence that keeps them on the right side of local copyright legislation. The not-for-profit South African Reproduction Rights Organisation (Sarro) was launched earlier this year to streamline the licensing process between publishers and those companies that currently contravene the copyright laws.

Sarro is in an advanced state of talks with the major publishing houses to endorse its proposed annual licence fee which will allow companies to copy and share content freely and legally but also deliver an estimated R120-million in lost revenue back to the publishers.

Any company that copies information from South African newspapers, magazines or online publications and shares it across the organisation is in contravention of the South African Copyright Act and would likely require a licence.

“To date, complying with copyright regulations has been a laborious task, requiring companies to approach a publication for permission to copy every time it wants to do so,” says Sarro CEO Brendon Nosworthy. “No wonder we’re seeing very low levels of compliance.”

The annual licence pricing works on a sliding scale based on the number of professional staff in the company as well as the propensity of an industry to consume and copy information; an agricultural concern would pay less than a legal firm for example. This simplified approach to licensing gives the holder blanket rights to copy from thousands of sources without having to approach each publisher individually for permission.

Sarro has worked closely with the media and entertainment division of Deloitte and copyright attorneys DM Kirsch to create an internationally benchmarked solution to the copyright conundrum. Its licence structure is based on an assessment of international reproduction rights organisations’ approach to copyright monitoring and management and closely replicates that of the UK’s Copyright Licensing Agency.

Sarro is committed to keeping costs at an affordable level. Publishers will be compensated up to 75% of all licence fees while the remaining 25% will be retained by Sarro as a management fee.

"For an industry that is currently facing many challenges, the royalties gained from copyright licenses will go a long way to assist in its survival and ensure that the creativity and integrity of journalism is maintained,” concluded Nosworthy.

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