The Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft (Safact) has filed criminal copyright infringement charges with the Commercial Crimes Unit in the Western Cape against another person.
That’s the word from Safact CEO ,Corné Guldenpfennig, following the recent conviction of South Africa’s first Internet pirate on charges brought by the organisation.
On 17 April 2014, Mr Majedien Norton from the Cape Flats pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him as part of a plea bargain with the state.
As part of the bargain, he received a suspended 5 year prison sentence and no fine. The maximum punishment stipulated by the Copyright Act for a first offender is a 3 year sentence and/or a fine of R5,000.
Guldenpfennig said that Norton’s co-operation in the case was taken into account when his plea bargain was struck.
She said that Norton identified to the police where he got his copy of the film (Four Corners), which he uploaded to the Internet via The Pirate Bay, and also removed it from the popular torrent site when asked to do so.
“Satisfactory outcome” for Safact
Asked whether Safact was pleased with the outcome of the case, Guldenpfennig said that the group had hoped for a judgement that would set a precedent in case law, but added that someone cannot be denied their right to plead guilty.
“In this case, the suspended sentence is satisfactory given his co-operation and the fact that that he showed remorse,” Guldenpfennig said.
According to Guldenpfennig, a precedent that was set despite the case not going to trial, was that this kind of copyright infringement – i.e. ripping a film, creating a torrent, and seeding it – is criminal.
Norton could not have received a criminal sentence had the offence not been a crime, Guldenpfennig said, and the fact that such copyright infringement could result in a criminal record should be a deterrent.
“A criminal record limits you as a person for the future,” Guldenpfennig said, adding that it causes hassles when you apply for things like visas to other countries, and could even result in a country declining to issue you one.
“Anyone who sits with a criminal record faces greater restrictions. It limits your freedom of movement,” Guldenpfennig said.
New Internet piracy charges brought
In the next case that Safact wants to bring before the Commercial Crimes Court, Guldenpfennig said there are a number of South African films involved.
She said that, if it weren’t for the number of hits on the files uploaded by the accused, they would not have pursued criminal charges.
Asked for more details about the new case, Guldenpfennig said the organisation couldn’t reveal more until the details for the arrest had been finalised.