Multichoice and M-Net have praised government’s new copyright laws, but warn that, in their current state, they could lead to a major drop in local content production and a rise in piracy.

Speaking at parliament’s portfolio committee on trade and industry on Thursday (3 August), the broadcasters noted that the steps made to modernise SA’s copyright law were laudable, but they were also likely to negatively affect investment by broadcasters in local film and television content.

According to a report by BusinessDay the Naspers-owned companies are worried about the powers the new copyright bill gives to the minister of trade and industry and the minister of communications to set local content obligations through regulations they believe would be unconstitutional.

This includes the power to prescribe compulsory and standard contractual terms, as well as royalty rates or tariffs. This would disincentivise investment in creative works, which would lose economic viability.

Multichoice and M-Net also voiced concerns about the lack of provisions against piracy in the new bill.

“The amendment to the Copyright Act is taking place at a critical time,” the companies said.

“The biggest challenge is that local broadcasters must compete with global internet players for audiences and revenues, but these internet competitors are not burdened with any of the heavy regulation imposed on broadcasters, and make no investment in local content.”