Intellectual Property can be split into Patents, Trademarks, Designs and Copyright. Copyright is the only form of intellectual property that does not have to be registered in South Africa and most African countries. Countries that are signatories of the Berne Convention will protect your work when you place the copyright symbol © along with your name and the date on your original work.

Copyright protection means that no one else may copy or use the work without your express permission. Copyright protection is extremely important for people who express their ideas on paper (or the like) for a living. For example, authors, poets, artists and webmasters. Copyright is similar to any other form of property and may be disposed of in the same. For example, an author may sell or otherwise transfer the rights to publish a novel that he has written to a particular publishing company in return for a straight payment or royalties. To avoid ambiguity in the courts of law, it is advised to transfer copyright in writing.

Proof of Ownership

Although in most African countries it is not necessary to register your copyright, it is advisable to seal the original manuscript along with signed witnessed document in an envelope and to date it. The holder of a copyright for a particular work enjoys several exclusive rights such as to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell those copies (including electronic copies). He may import and export the work or copies thereof. He may adapt or change the original work in any way he sees fit. He may perform or display the work in public. He may dispose of these rights to others by selling them, leasing them or disposing of them in any other manner he sees fit.

Exclusive Rights

The phrase “exclusive right” means that only the copyright holder is free to exercise these rights, and that others are prohibited using the work without the consent of the copyright holder. Copyright is often called a “negative right” in that it serves to prohibit people (e.g. readers, viewers, or listeners, and primarily publishers and would be publishers) from doing something, rather than permitting people to do something. Copyright protection for written works remains the property of the owner for 50 years after his or her death, and for computer programs for 50 years after they were first made known to the public.