What is a copyright?

Copyright is an exclusive right granted by the law to the authors of original works of authorship. If you create an original work that people can see or hear, you have copyright. Having copyright means that you own that work and you can control its commercial use. Your copyright can protect your work from being copied or reproduced without your permission.

How do I obtain copyright on my idea?

If you have an original idea you cannot have copyright on it. You must put your original idea into material form such as a book, a CD, a painting, a picture, a screenplay or a film. Other works subject to copyright are published editions, computer programs, broadcasts etc.

When do I need a copyright?

You need copyright if you want to control the use of your work for monetary gain (economic right). Copyright also gives you a moral right as the author of literary or musical works (this is the right to claim honour or reputation on your work as the author).

How do I apply for a copyright?

Most works eligible for copyright protection do not require registration or other formalities except for cinematograph films. You can create your own copyright by putting the words “COPYRIGHT” or “COPYRIGHT RESERVED” or an internationally recognized copyright symbol followed by your name and the year e.g © Baloyi 2011. The above words must be put on the original work.

However if you want to have a copyright in a film, DVD and video, you must apply to the Registrar of Copyright on prescribed forms:

RF1, in duplicate
RF2, in duplicate
RF3, in duplicate
RF9 together with the Statement of Case, and a payment of R510.00 debited from the CIPRO account.

What works are protected?

The following works are eligible for copyright protection:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works 
  • Artistic works 
  • Cinematograph films 
  • Sound recordings 
  • Broadcasts 
  • Program-carrying signals 
  • Published editions 
  • Computer programs
How to secure a copyright?

Copyright is secured automatically upon creation provided that the work meets the requirements. Most works eligible for copyright protection do not require registration or other formalities except for cinematograph films.

How long does copyright protection endure?

Currently the duration of copyright is the life of the original creator and fifty years from the end of the year in which the author dies.

How does it help to have copyright?

Copyright affords the author the exclusive right to stop others from copying or using his work without his permission. If somebody copies your work without your permission; this is called copyright infringement, which is a violation of author’s rights. If infringement occurs the author may sue the infringer.

Please note that the Registrar’s office does not handle copyright disputes but can advise you on what to do or refer you to the relevant institutions.

It is the responsibility of the author to proof ownership and also to sue in case of infringement. Author can also conclude license agreements with the users for his copyright works and enjoy royalties payment from the licensees.