ARTRIGHT is a project established to promote professional practice and business acumen in the South African visual arts community.


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Copyright in South Africa is conferred and regulated by the Copyright Act No. 98 of 1978 (the Act) which came into force on 1 January 1979. It has been amended several times since then.

Icon Copyright Act No 98 of 1978 (137.5 KB)

A general definition of copyright is that it is the right that a person (the creator/author of a work or an other person) owns so that the work, which has been copyrighted, may not be copied (reproduced) without authorisation. Copyright, however, only applies to certain types of work. The types of works covered by copyright are works which may be heard or seen in certain forms. 

Unlike most other forms of intellectual property, copyright exists automatically and does not have to be registered. In fact, other than in the case of cinematographic films, no registration procedure is available in South Africa. Copyright, however, is property and it may be sold, assigned or licensed for use by others. 

The following chapters will provide you with an overview of what copyright is, how it works, where it is applicable, what the ownership of copyright entails as well as some case studies where copyright law can help resolve disputes between original works and derivatives.