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On June 16, 2020, President Ramaphosa of the South African Republic referred the Copyright Amendment Bill (“CAB”) back to the National Assembly on the grounds that he had reservations concerning its constitutionality. In his referral letter, President Ramaphosa stated that the CAB may be in conflict with international intellectual property (IP) treaties South Africa had joined or was planning to join. CAB opponents’ arguments that the CAB is incompatible with IP treaties are based largely on comments prepared by Michele Woods, Director of the Copyright Law Division of the World Intellectual Property Organization, in 2018. Woods prepared these comments as a member of a panel of experts appointed by the Portfolio Committee of the South African Parliament to review the CAB. Woods stated that the comments reflected her views and are not official WIPO interpretations of international treaty obligations.

Additionally, CAB opponents cite comments prepared by Andre Myburgh, a South African attorney, for the Portfolio committee, which likewise argue that the CAB is incompatible with IP treaties.

A close examination of the Woods and Myburgh comments reveal that they failed to prove their contentions that the CAB’s provisions are inconsistent with IP treaties. Moreover, the comments are inconsistent with one another on critical points, such as fair use.