Tech you won’t believe was illegal in South Africa

It may sound like fiction, but just over 10 years ago it was illegal to make a Skype call from South Africa.

Essentially, it was only legal for specially-licensed telecommunications operators like Telkom, Vodacom, and MTN to carry voice calls in South Africa.

During 2004, Telkom even suggested that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) should protect its licence rights.

The limitations on Skype is just one of a few tech-related actions that were illegal in South Africa.

Here are some of the more outrageous examples of Luddism we have had to face in the country.


VOIP warning

Offering voice over IP services was illegal

More significant than the unenforceable outlawing of Skype was the fact that only Telkom, mobile operators, and a handful of other players could legally offer voice services in South Africa.

Competition was extremely limited.

On 2 September 2004, then Minister of Communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri announced that this would change.

Not only would licensed value added network services (VANS) be allowed to offer voice services using whichever protocol they chose, they would also be allowed to build their own networks.

These new rules were set to kick in on 1 February 2005, and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) would finally be legal in South Africa.


Snail slow network cable

Only Telkom, mobile operators, and a handful of other players could build networks that crossed roads

When February 2005 rolled around, Matsepe-Casaburri reneged on her promise to let VANS self-provision network infrastructure.

While you were allowed to build a local area network, you were not allowed to “cross a road with a network cable”, as this would tread on the exclusive domain of licensed network providers.

A number of VANS licensees and other industry players, lead by Altech, took Matsepe-Casaburri to court – and in 2008 won their case.

After threatening to appeal, the former Minister later dropped the case – forcing a modicum of liberalisation into South Africa’s telecommunications industry.


CD piracyYou may not make MP3s from your CDs

Another action that was illegal in 2005 was ripping your music CD to MP3 files for your iPod or phone.

This is because there are no fair dealing exceptions for “format shifting” music recordings in South Africa’s Copyright Act of 1978, even if for personal use.

And guess what – this is still illegal in 2015.


Online gambling

Online gambling is still illegal in South Africa

Something else that remains illegal in South Africa is online gambling.

Not because there are any laws preventing it, but because the government has no regulations or licences in place for it.

The Supreme Court of Appeals confirmed this in a 2011 ruling.

Swaziland-based online casino Piggs Peak lost its appeal despite the fact that physical casinos and online sports betting are legal in South Africa.


Online gambling legalisation bill for South Africa

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Online gambling illegal in South Africa: Supreme Court

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Tech you won’t believe was illegal in South Africa