Copyright in cyberspace: New guidelines for online publishers
The high profile Moneyweb (Pty) Limited v Media 24 Limited High Court judgment is significant for all online publishers. In a nutshell, Fin 24 was ordered to pay damages to Moneyweb for copyright infringement in respect of one article, but the Court found against Moneyweb in regard to six other articles and ordered it to pay 70% of Fin 24’s legal costs.
Both sides in the litigation have claimed victory but the important message for us all is this – original creative works are protected by copyright even when posted online.
Strong protections – a summary
Let’s start with our Copyright Act, which since 1978 has been protecting the creators of original works – literary, musical, artistic, photographic, and more recently computer programming, website creation and the like – from plagiarists. The idea of course is to encourage creativity, but without upsetting the balance between a creator’s rights and the public interest.
Copyright protection kicks in automatically as soon as you create an original work. No paperwork or registration is required, and you are covered internationally in all Berne Convention countries (maphere https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention#/media/File:Berne_Convention_signatories.svg). To be protected you don’t have to mark your works with the copyright “©” sign, but it’s good practice to do so, together with your name and the year of creation.
And if your copyright is infringed you can both claim damages from the copycat and put a stop to the infringement.
In cyberspace: What’s fair game? And is it enough to acknowledge source?
What has not been clear until now is the extent to which these protections apply to re-publishing online. The common misperception that anything on the Internet is fair game for wholesale re-publication without permission is of course totally incorrect, and now we have from our courts some solid guidelines which both the creators of online creative works, and those re-publishing them, need to pay heed to.
In outline (this is inevitably just a summary of some very complex legal issues, so seek advice on your specific case) –
If you are interested in reading the full case, click here: Moneyweb (Pty) Limited v Media 24 Limited and Another (31575/2013)  ZAGPJHC 81
The Copyright Act 1978 is also on Saflii by clicking here.
© Copyright Ashersons Attorneys & DotNews
Article disclaimer: While we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide final legal advice as facts and situations will differ from case to case, and therefore specific legal advice should be sought with a lawyer.