Africas Copyright


Copyright laws in South Africa and Kenya

South Africa

The copyright law regime in South Africa is governed by the Copyright Act of 1978. These laws are supervised by the Companies & Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) and the Department of Trade Industries (DTI). Being a member of the Berne Convention & the Trips Agreement, South African copyright regime extends protection to copyright works across the globe, as it subscribes to the Berne Convention notion of automatic protection.

Unlike most countries, South African copyright regime has a list of exhaustive works on which copyright can apply. Copyright Act, 1978 applies to computer programs, literary works, broadcasts, cinematographic films, artistic expressions such as music, photography, painting, drawing, and sculpting related works, and architectural works, as well as published editions and sound recordings. The protection for copyright can, at max, last for the lifespan of a person (copyright holder) and 50 years from the year following the death of the copyright holder.

The enforcement mechanism of the rights of a copyright owner can be done through various statutory agencies, mainly under laws stipulated under the Counterfeit Goods Act of 1997 that provides an array of enforcement measures.


The Kenya Copyright regime is governed by the Copyright Act No. 12 of 2001, which in turn empowers the statutory body called the Kenya Copyright Board to take over the functions of the copyright section within the Department of the Registrar General.

The Board comprises of members from both the public and private sectors. The private Board members are nominated by associations that represent fields such as software, film and music industry etc., whereas four experts from the field of copyrights and related rights and five members who alternate between Attorney General, Commissioner of Police, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Heritage and Culture, and the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance. 

The powers and functions of the copyright mandate under the Copyright Board is as following:

  • Implement Copyright laws including the provisions of international treaties
  • License and supervise the activities of Collective Management Organisations
  • Facilitate training and awareness creation on copyright and related rights in Kenya
  • Update copyright legislation
  • Maintain an effective database on authors and their works.
  • Liaise with national, regional and international organisations on matters of copyright and related rights
  • Advise the government on matters of copyright and related rights
  • Facilitates the implementation of the antipiracy security device (APSD)

The Board also takes cognizance in matters of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.

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