Representatives of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which seeks to counter software piracy, and the South African Federation against Copyright Theft (SAfact), which polices content theft in the entertainment world, have called for South Africa's outdated Copyright Act to be given a refresh.
At a round table discussion yesterday, attended by the BSA, SAfact and the attorney representing the BSA, it was revealed that the existing Copyright Act was promulgated in 1978, with the most recent amendment being in 1992 – both dates well before the widespread adoption of packaged software or the Internet.
Delegates to the meeting agreed that the existing Act was insufficient to cover the current situation, with electronic and digital rights being much more prominent now than they were when the Act was set out.
They also agreed on the definition of IP theft as being the unauthorised copying and distribution of intellectual property (IP), with IP being any copyrightable work.
In South Africa, the extent of software piracy is thought to be about 35% of the total market, costing the economy at least R1,2-billion, although there is a school of thought that this figure is low.
The cost of piracy to the entertainment industry is estimated to be about R400-million a year.
James Lennox, chairman of SAfact, comments: No legitimate business can compete with stolen products."
Delegates all agreed that IP theft is probably a symptom of a society with little respect for law, and many individuals believe it is a victimless crime – or even no crime at all.
"Whether it's victimless or not is irrelevant. Someone's property has been illegally copied and sold, with there being no intention of paying anything towards society.
"The moral issue is the problem."
While SAfact is involved in the criminal prosecution of companies and individuals who are found to be copying or distributing content, the BSA takes a softer approach.
Generally, say BSA representatives, companies that are found to be pirating software are given the chance to legitimise their installations. If they don't, they would face legal action.
Companies have been sued in the past, and judgements handed down.