Website blocking not the best way to fight piracy in South Africa

In the last 10 years, at least 42 countries have adopted or implemented the blocking of access to websites which facilitate copyright infringement.

According to Motion Picture Association Canada, the countries include members of the European Union, Australia, Iceland, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, and South Korea.

With so many nations running a blocking regime, it raises the question as to whether it is inevitable that similar laws will be passed in South Africa.

The Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft (SAFACT) is strongly in favour of blocking websites in South Africa.

The Film and Publication Board is advocating for similar bans to protect children from harmful content.

However, the Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) has warned that blocking websites alleged to aid copyright infringement is a dangerous path to tread.

Enabling censorship

“ISPA understands the challenges facing copyright holder associations and has engaged with them on responses which fall within the current legislative framework,” ISPA’s Dominic Cull told MyBroadband.

“Copyright holders, on the other hand, need to understand that the broad actions which they propose create unintended avenues for censorship that are particularly concerning in light of our recent history.”

Cull said South Africa has copyright legislation and that a Copyright Amendment Bill is expected to be debated in Parliament this year.

Concerns about the adequacy of the current legal position should be addressed to that forum, he said.

“ISPA’s members have made it clear that they will not block websites other than through a lawful process or order of court,” said Cull.

“South Africa, a country with a short democratic history, must not allow legitimate concerns by intellectual rights holders to lead to questionable website blocking that threatens freedom of expression.”

Ster-Kinekor on pirate sites

Ster-Kinekor said it is involved in fighting piracy, and contributes and participates actively in anti-piracy education and campaigns.

It has also has partnered with SAFACT in this regard.

“No one solution will combat piracy. The reasons for the existence of piracy sites vary and so should the solutions,” said Ster-Kinekor.

It said that one can’t necessarily compare South Africa to other countries when it comes to solutions for piracy, as they have their own regulations.

While banning piracy sites may have an impact, Ster-Kinekor argued that website blocks may not be as effective in a country like South Africa – where broadband Internet access is not highly prevalent.

“The fight against piracy should also be about showing how enjoyable legal and authentic means of consuming content can be, so that consumers see value in them and see no need to pirate movies.”

Now read: Parliament approves “Internet Censorship Bill” – What happens next

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Website blocking not the best way to fight piracy in South Africa