Last April the World Economic Forum (WEF) revealed in a report that South Africa ranks #20 among 144 countries engaged in piracy. Considering that Zimbabwe landed on the last slot with a piracy rate of 92%, South Africa appears to be doing a good job with adhering the copyright and anti-piracy laws. However, WEF has pointed out that if the government can further reduce the piracy rate of South Africa by at least 10%, it will be able to achieve the following:
- Increase in jobs by over 1,600
- Increase in new businesses and economic activity by more than 9 million rand
- Increase in new tax collection of almost 1 billion rand
The Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft (SAFACT) was created in 1999 as a nonprofit organization to protect intellectual property rights in film, games, software and music, among others. Based in Johannesburg and satellite offices in Durban and Cape Town, they are assisted by the Department of Trade and Industry, the police, and the Justice Department.
Compared to other African countries, South Africa has a higher per capita GDP and but also a high rate of unemployment and underemployment. In short, the original goods are available but may be too pricey for many to afford and so counterfeit goods are bought instead. It also does not help that pirated goods can easily come into the country through unprotected borders, lack of enforcement, and the ease in the digital transfer of software and other electronic products.
Authorities through the help of SAFACT have been able to pinpoint the areas in the country where counterfeit goods are more easily available and these are Gauteng, Cape Town, and Durban for physical goods while majority of the goods are flown in through the Johannesburg International Airport and through the porous borders.
The 1978 South African Copyright Act
This law has been controversial since it was passed in 1978 especially as it relates to music and sound recordings. For instance, it is considered illegal to transfer a song you bought and put it in digital format so you can listen to it on your iPod or media player. The law also states that downloading digital products is not a crime but once you start distributing and selling it, it becomes a crime even if you decide to give it away for free.
The penalties if caught would be a minimum of 5,000 rand for the first offense on software piracy and other types of piracy. The penalty doubles and includes jail time for succeeding offenses.
In February this year the BSA/Software Alliance, a U.S. nonprofit trade association with global offices in 11 different countries said that South Africa is losing more than 5 million rand from unlicensed software. The organization has said that the top offenders in software piracy or online piracy of computer software are companies in the graphics, advertising and engineering sectors.
The main reason why companies should buy their software is because it exposes them to greater security risks from backdoor entries, hacking, and other potential damages to their in-house system. Second to this is the fact that online piracy and computer software piracy is damaging the country’s reputation and economy.