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Research Support Guide for Law Postgraduate Students and Academic Staff

Research support assistance and useful library resources for Postgraduate students and Academic Staff

What is Copyright

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Copyright is a 'bundle' of exclusive rights, given to authors and creators, to protect their original works (i.e. literary, musical, and artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings, published editions, and computer software). It is not the 'right' of the user to copy!

Authors and creators have these exclusive rights in terms of the SA Copyright Act No. 98 of 1978 (as amended):

  • To reproduce the work in any manner or form;
  • To publish the work if it has not been published before;
  • To perform the work in public;
  • To broadcast the work;
  • To cause the work to be transmitted in a diffusion service;
  • To make an adaptation of the work

Copyright provides an incentive for creativity and a means of financial compensation for authors and creators of intellectual property.

To have Copyright protection, a work must be in a material format.

Ideas do not have Copyright protection - only the expression of those ideas is protected.

There is no Copyright in facts, the news of the day, or in political speeches. Authors however have the exclusive right to make a collection of their speeches.

One can safely assume that if something is Copyrightable in print, it is also Copyrightable in electronic forms.

Authors/creators also have moral rights, i.e. the right to be named as the author of the work and the right to protect their works from mutilation or distortion.


Copyright Laws in SA

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Copyright is governed by the Copyright Act No. 98 of 1978 (as amended) and its Regulations (Section 13).

South Africa is a signatory to various international intellectual property agreements, e.g. the Berne Convention (which obliges South Africa to give recognition and protection to Copyright works from signatory countries) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Copyright Ownership

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The author or creator of the work is the owner of the Copyright, unless the person is in employment, and the work is created in the course and scope of the employment, in which case the employer holds the Copyright.

It is, however, possible for the creator of the work to commission or share Copyright, as in joint authorship, or to contractually assign in writing, the Copyright or part thereof, to a publisher or other third party, either on an outright basis or for a limited purpose or period.

When to Apply for Copyright

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If you are reproducing other people's works beyond the ambit of 'Fair Dealing' or the Exceptions in Section 13 (Regulations) of the Copyright Act, then you will need to apply for Copyright permission.

Researchers, lecturers and students need to be careful when using third party intellectual property.  Copyright infringement relates to a 'substantial portion' being copied without the Copyright owner's permission.  However, quality rather than quantity generally applies, e.g. if the crux or essence of a work is captured in one page and it is copied without permission, this would be Copyright infringement.  One has to use one's discretion. 

You must apply for Copyright Clearance if you intend including copyrighted material in the following:

  • A Course pack/study pack (e.g. a compilation of articles or extracts from books)
  • Any e-learning platform. 
  • On Short Loan reserves (whether in print or electronic);
  • In a Departmental Resources Centre (where students are able to copy from articles)

For Personal purposes (e.g. for inclusion in theses, dissertation, journal articles, books, etc.), you need to apply for Copyright directly to the rights owners/publishers.

Copyright Compliance

By law, we are obliged to comply with the South African Copyright Act No. 98 of 1978 (as amended). UWC's policy ensures that we respect the rights of authors and publishers, and pay reasonable licence fees, where required by law. Copyright infringement could result in legal action and possible awards of damages. 

The viability of local publishers depends on compliance with the Copyright law.

Copyright gives authors an incentive to create new works and to be compensated for their efforts.

Infringement deprives them of an income and affects sales, prices and production of works.

UWC Copyright Clearance Process



Academic / Administrator completes application

Application goes to CHEC PLO

CHEC PLO sends back to UWC Library

UWC Library checks the following:

  • Items are available online and if links can be provided on iKamva
  • Check if items can be included in a printed course pack as allowed by the on-line vendor licence

UWC Library then sends the list back to CHEC PLO


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