Gauteng Department of Economic Development launches IP conference for creative industries

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SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

In an effort to increase awareness and understanding on the concept, scope and nature of intellectual property (IP), the Gauteng Department of Economic Development and its steering committee partnered with the Association of Independent Recording Companies of South Africa to host the first Gauteng Creative Industries IP Conference.

Chairman of the Gauteng Creative Industry Public Sector Steering Committee, Francina Nstimane, expands: “Our joint vision is to use the conference as a platform to identify intellectual property knowledge gaps among concept developers, content developers and content/concept owners in the creative sector and identify tools to bridge those gaps.”

The two-day event, which ran from 6 to 7 February 2020, was held at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Boksburg, Johannesburg.

At the inaugural event, the focus was on the four key creative industries that generate the largest revenue streams in the country – film, animation, craft and music – and the IP issues faced by these industries.

The first day of the conference commenced with an introduction to IP, using Solomon Linda’s song, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,as a case study. The song, which was composed and recorded by Linda, a Zulu singer and hunter, in 1939, became a worldwide sensation with at least 150 cover versions thanks to the popular Disney movie, The Lion King.

“IP is a crucial element in any SMME,” stressed Nstimane. “The ownership of content assets is what makes it possible to license concepts or the use of creative products in exchange for royalties. Therefore, if we do not start to find tools to assist artists to gain knowledge on how to own what they create, the current trend of IP theft will continue leaving artists to die without enjoying the fruits of their labour,” she added.

An overview of the different forms of intellectual property – namely patent, trademark, design and copyright – were presented by the deputy chairperson of Association of Independent Recording Companies (AIRCO), Stanley Khoza. The presentation was followed by break-away sessions hosted by AIRCO, Composers, Authors and Publishers Association (CAPASSO), Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), the Gauteng Film Commission and Animation SA.

The purpose of these breakaway sessions was to provide participants with a clear understanding of the specific IP challenges faced by their industry. Industry sessions were facilitated by consultants from the aforementioned organisations and guest speakers.

Nstimane expands: “In each session, there was a focus on the current legislative processes and how the outcomes of these processes will either build or destroy the growth in each sub-sector. There were discussions on contracting and various legal options available in case of a copyright dispute. Another significant focus was that of evaluating what happens to IP concepts throughout the four value chains as a concept moves from one step to the other.”

Nick Cloete, chairman of Animation South Africa (ASA), led the animation session and invited guest speaker Stephen Hollis from Adams & Adams to speak on the value of IP and how copyright protection and enforcement will be affected if the current draft of the Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performance Rights Bill were to succeed.

Hollis expanded on the implications of any changes to the Copyright Amendment Bill and the Performance Rights Bill​, including concerns that the bills have not been adapted to provide protection in the digital space.​

Cloete gave practical insight into how these laws would affect the various business models, including the lack of legislation alignment between domestic IP legislation and global legislations.​

“We need to demystify and simplify legislation without losing any complexity, so it’s more readily accessible for professionals,” asserted Cloete. “It may be useful for the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) to commission explainer videos of copyright law so it’s easier to understand for those who don’t understand it,” he added.

Unathi Malunga, a writer, publisher and entertainment lawyer, led and facilitated the session targeted at the film industry. In her presentation, Malunga went through the purpose of IP, with a focus on what happens to IP as it moves throughout the entire production value chain.

A wide variety of discussions and concerns arose from Malunga’s presentation, such as ​ the duration and expiry of copyright, access to information on IP and access to professional services.

Speaking about her session, Malunga said: “The response was amazing and people expressed how much the session really, really, opened their eyes.

“People are hungry to learn about this area. I have started writing a series of books to educate this industry – the problem has been taking the time off to write. I need to complete them as soon as possible and get them out for people!” she added.

Malunga also said that more needs to be done by the government to ensure that people are educated about IP legislature in the creative industries. “We cannot be having high-level discussions without the foundation being in place. All government and other sources of funding have focused on the creative and production process – nobody is investing in the professional services underpinning this industry and ensuring that people are educated about it. I have spoken and spoken to the government institutions at length about this but there has been no progress,” Malunga concludes.

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Gezzy S Sibisi
Gezzy S. Sibisi is a senior journalist at Screen Africa. She is experienced in print, broadcast and digital media. Her portfolio of work includes working as a lifestyle reporter as well as contributing business and education articles to The Times, Sowetan, and Daily Dispatch publications. As a freelancer, she has worked on content development for corporate newsletters, community newspapers, blogs and educational websites.