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Opening address at the launch of the Partners Against Piracy delivered by Minister Ronald Lamola at Monte Casino, 24 March 2022

Distinguished guests,
Colleagues,
Representatives of the Partners Against Piracy;
Members of the Copyright Coalition of South Africa;

Rights holders and fellow members of the South African content industry, thank you for convening this important event, and for your passion in helping to fight this scourge called content piracy.

This gathering comes at a time when our country is hosting its fourth investment conference. This annual event was initiated by President Ramaphosa in 2018 in an effort to secure domestic and inbound investment of R1,2 trillion over five years.

As South Africans, we should all be concerned about the impact of piracy on our economy and the future of our cultural, sporting and creative areas.

As far back as 2014, a study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that counterfeiting of goods is on the increase in South Africa.

At that time, the study found that counterfeit causes South African businesses an annual loss of over R2 billion on imported goods. These include the loss on sales, goodwill and royalties, among others. This has a knock on effect on the retail sector which could in turn create much needed jobs.

Overall the creative industry is a R 74, 4 billion Rand industry and contributes 1,7 percent of our Gross Domestic Product.

A more recent study by a renowned intellectual property law firm in South Africa revealed that the local music market alone, was projected to account for US$1.7 billion, in Rands this is two trillion five hundred six billion eight hundred eighty-eight million Rands (2 506 888 0000,00) in 2021.

It is quite clear that our creative arts industry has immense potential, and upon a careful survey of our economic production patterns, one actually finds that this is one of the industries which has attracted substantial growth and has attracted new investments.

The rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Showmax not only shows growth, but also an appetite to invest in the industry.

The creative industry is far more than just a sector with good economic growth performance and potential. It is a declaration of the human aspirations which has effect of dissecting our social and cultural values as well as promoting social cohesion.

As government, we are determined to lend our support by continuing the fight against content piracy, and we are proud to join the CCSA in this Partners Against Piracy initiative.

Whilst Digital technologies enable great advantages to the cultural industries such as opening up of new markets, easier and more efficient distribution, and direct communication with the consumers of goods and services, piracy is a risk with a great potential to collapse the industry.

Piracy has a serious negative effect on our economy and on the ability of our creative professionals to earn a living. It harms investor confidence and tax revenue collection, and can also affect trade opportunities. If we are not seen as a country where intellectual property is respected and protected, we run the risk of reversing gains the industry could exploit further and create jobs.

We therefore welcome an initiative such as Partners Against Piracy, which raises awareness of the fight against piracy, and helps to combat piracy itself. Coalitions such as these help to reinforce and underscore the commitment to fight content piracy and protect copyright across our society.

Besides the macro-economic implications, the main impact of content piracy is that it undermines the ability of our people to earn a living. Content creators, writers, musicians, academics, actors, directors, camera operators and other professionals… all have a right to earn a living from their work.

Content piracy robs them of that right. As a government, we are committed to creating work opportunities and building a free, democratic, non-racist and non-sexist society where all have an equal chance to build a better future for themselves and their families.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, has recently proclaimed the Cybercrime Act No. 19 of 2020, which can be used to hold accountable those who manipulate intellectual property to the detriment of society.

It reads :
Cyber forgery and uttering

9. (1) Any person who unlawfully and with the intention to defraud makes—
(a) false data; or
(b) a false computer program, to the actual or potential prejudice of another person, is guilty of the offence of cyber forgery.
(2) Any person who unlawfully and with the intention to defraud, passes off—
(a) false data; or
(b) a false computer program,
to the actual or potential prejudice of another person, is guilty of the offence of cyber uttering.
The act defines ‘‘data’’ as any electronic representation of information in any form.

This act allows us to act against piracy and impose harsher sentences on dealers and sellers.

It is not good enough nor is it wise for us to spend state resources in Specialised Commercial Crime Units, with Crime Prevention Units only to confiscate pirated goods and or arrest the traders. We will improve our system must and enable them to identify and arrest the leaders of organised crime, in this case we may win the battle against intellectual property crimes.

Generally it may be difficult to identify and arrest the leaders of intellectual property crimes as they live all over the world, the Cybercrimes Act attempts to resolve some of these complex jurisdictional challenges.

It is clear though that the state alone cannot tackle these types of crimes alone.

One of the weaknesses we have also identified is the lack of co-ordination in the criminal justice system. Through Customs and Excise data from SARS, along with SAPS and the Department of Home Affairs, we will integrate and match the sophisticated technology which perpetrators use to carry out their crimes.

As partners against piracy, we look forward to working closely with yourselves to enable our law enforcement agencies to address some of these deficiencies we are confronted with. There is no doubt that with our collective efforts, we can wage war against piracy.

We therefore thank the CCSA and its partners for this Partners Against Piracy initiative and for their dedication to building a stronger creative economy and its future by fighting content piracy in whatever form it takes. Your work will help to build a better South Africa for all in the content and creative industry.

Thank you.