Copyright Act of 1978 – Internet piracy case

In a 2014 court case a Cape Townian man was caught for distributing(‘seeding’) a South African movie via a torrent website. I initially thought this was our first case relating to internet piracy, but after a little bit of research I found that another man was fined R5000 and 6 months imprisonment, suspended for five years, for pirating computer programs in 2001. The hype surrounding the 2014 case of the Cape Townian was probably because in 2001 torrents were not used that much and today downloading (piracy) has become more widely used.

Another reason for the hype is the 2009 case against The Pirate Bay and the take-down attempt of the website in 2014 by the Swedish Police.

So I’ve read almost all the comments on articles made by the “ordinary citizen on the block”. Some put blame on the high cost of media (games, movies, music, etc.), while others blame the government (as usual) for the poor economy which contributes to these high prices.

I consider this from two perspectives:

  1. As an ICT enthusiast I feel that authorities should attack the sources and not the users. This is just history repeating itself over and over in a different scenario. Think of someone using drugs. Authorities try to prosecute the drug users in which I can only assume is an attempt to disrupt the demand and therein strong-arming the dealers. For years this have not been working, yet they continue on this path… Why do they expect a different result when it comes to pirating? There will always be users who download movies, music and the likes. Even on sites like YouTube you find full length movies and series episodes. Attacking the user is not the answer, rather take resources to the distributors and dealers of these media.
  2. As a legal person, well it’s simply against the ‘law’. I put the word ‘law’ in brackets for the reasons hereafter. The law is simply failing us, because it is not in balance. Apparently it is legal to download a movie, but it is illegal to distribute (seed) it. In this regard the law is failing and even more so, the courts are failing us, because no decisive rulings have been made. We have a precedent system in the law, which means that lower courts are bound by the decisions taken in higher courts. Further to that, case law is an authoritative source of law. The fact that a settlement agreement was reached with the Cape Townian man, means that there in the light of failing laws, no authority was created. Our courts have a critical role to play here and they can make an immediate difference.

I can go on-and-on about this and have different opinions, which somehow places me on the fence. I must however add that in the lack of proper supportive laws and court decisions, I’m weighing more towards my opinion as in 1 above.

What is your opinion on internet piracy and our law? I’m also very interested to know or to determine if existing South African laws are adequate in terms of piracy from a general ICT perspective and which laws are or can be applicable?

References: MyBroadband – First for SA: Internet pirate arrested in Cape Town



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