copyright protection


Our copyright attorneys provide clients with a full range of legal services relating to the acquisition, enforcement and commercialisation of copyright and other intellectual property rights.

Adams and Adams copyright law services include advising on and handling of transactions involving copyrights. These transactions include licensing and transfer of ownership or assignment agreements, as well as enforcement work including infringement notices and prosecution of formal proceedings in Court.

The partners and associates in our copyright litigation group litigate these issues in courts across Africa. Adams & Adams is the largest IP firm in Africa and is ranked among the leading firms in Intellectual Property in the world.

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is a property right. The principle of any kind of property is that the owner may use it as they wish, and that nobody else can lawfully use it without their authorisation.

Copyright protection affords the copyright owner certain exclusive rights which enable the copyright owner to exploit the copyright work for financial gain and to stop the unauthorised exploitation by third parties.

What Does Copyright Protect?

Copyright protects the expression of an idea, whether intellectual, creative or otherwise. It is the work created in material form that is protected as copyright does not protect ideas.

We are able to assist with clarifying the various rights of copyright. By working with you, your copyright lawyer affords an extra level of confidence. This gives you the space and time to create, knowing that your rights will be defended in respect of:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works
  • Artistic works
  • Cinematograph films
  • Sound recordings
  • Broadcasts
  • Programme-carrying signals
  • Published editions
  • Computer programs
  • Motion pictures / films

How Can I Register Copyright?

Apart from films and movies, it is not possible to register copyright. Copyright exists automatically upon the creation of a work, if it is a category of work recognised and protected by the Copyright Act. The only exception is motion pictures or films, which can be registered by contacting one of our copyright lawyers.

How to Use Copyright – Commercialisation and Monetisation

In order to ensure that you make your intellectual or creative effort work for you, you must maximise the benefit gained in exchange for your consent to the copyright work being used.

Our copyright lawyers specialise in the drafting of contracts required to exploit copyright successfully such as royalty agreements, software development agreements, software license agreements, film rights agreements, photography agreements, architect service agreements, graphic design agreements, freelance designer agreements and assignment agreements.

How to Protect Your Copyright – Copyright Infringement

An owner of copyright can take steps against a work being copied, adapted, published, broadcast or being communicated to the public in certain other manners, as well as against other acts of exploitation as provided for in the Copyright Act , without authorisation.

Steps can also be taken against the importation, sale, rent or distribution of infringing copies where the person trading in the infringing copies is aware of the copyright infringement.

The required ‘guilty knowledge’ can be imparted to a person by issuing an infringement notice to them. Copyright infringement cases are litigated in the High Court and the relief granted may include an interdict, delivery-up of infringing material as well as damages which include damages in the form of royalty claims.

Our copyright lawyers specialise in the enforcement of copyright and can assist you with assessing and prosecuting your claim.

How Can I Create a Copyright Warning?

Marking a copyright work with the internationally recognised copyright sign (©), does not only act as a deterrent, but also serves to give notice to a potential infringer of the impending act of copyright infringement.

Adding the name of the author and the year of creation or publication in the copyright notice – which is sometimes incorrectly referred to as copyright disclaimer – can also assist with some of the evidence requirements when it comes to proving your copyright.

Adams & Adams Copyright Services

“I saw a child fall down. Under a shower of bullets I rushed forward and went for the picture. It had been a peaceful march, the children were told to disperse, they started singing Nkosi Sikelele . The police were ordered to shoot.”

These are the words of Sam Nzima, the man whose photograph of the dying Hector Peterson being carried by a fellow student was published around the world and came to represent the tragedy of a day which changed the course of South African history.

That was in 1976. More recently we, in our capacity as Africa’s largest intellectual property law firm, were involved in facilitating the return of copyright of this famous photograph to Sam. Adams and Adams also assisted with the placement of that copyright in a trust, ensuring that Mr. Nzima’s family will benefit from it in years to come.

The Copyright Law team of Adams & Adams deals with all matters relating to copyright, including:

  • Registration of copyright in cinematograph films and movies
  • Litigation, including piracy (civil and criminal litigation)
  • Licences, assignment and other agreements
  • Information Technology (IT) and computer law

Contact one of our copyright law professionals

  • Dale Healy

    Dale Healy is a partner in the firm’s Trade Mark Litigation section. He was admitted as an attorney in 2005 and became a Fellow of the South African Institute of Intellectual Property law in the same year.

  • Gérard du Plessis

    Gérard du Plessis is a senior partner of the firm and has served as the Chairman of Adams & Adams from 2013 to date. Prior to that he also served for a number of years as Trade Mark Department Co-Chairman(litigation).

  • Godfrey Budeli

    Godfrey Budeli is one of the partners in Trade Mark Litigation section and is currently heading up the Anti-Counterfeiting team.

  • Jani Cronjé

    Jani Cronjé is a partner in the firm’s Trade Mark Litigation department. She specialises in trade mark oppositions and cancellations, trade mark infringement and passing-off disputes, domain name complaints, ASA complaints and copyright infringement matters.

  • Mariëtte du Plessis

    Mariëtte du Plessis is currently a senior partner in the Trade Mark Litigation section of the Trade Marks Department. She has been a partner of Adams & Adams since 1997 and is an experienced top-tier ranked IP attorney with over 30 years of experience in IP.

  • Nishi Chetty

    Nishi is a Partner in the Trade mark Department. She practices at the Durban office and is one of the Managing Partners. Nishi served for seven years on the firm’s Management Committee as Branch Office Chairperson.

  • Nolwazi Gcaba

    Nolwazi has over twenty years’ post qualification experience in the field of trade mark law. She has in the past focused in trade marks and copyright litigation including passing-off and unlawful competition.

  • Stephen Hollis

    Stephen Hollis is a specialist trade mark lawyer who advises local and international clients on brand protection and enforcement strategies with a specific focus on the African market. 

  • Steven Yeates

    Steven advises clients on all issues relating to trade mark selection, searching, registration and enforcement. He is actively involved in creating, implementing and managing trade mark portfolios, enforcement programmes and management strategies, on behalf of our international and local clients in a number of African countries.

  • Wensel Britz

    Wensel advises clients on trade mark portfolio management and registration strategies world-wide across various industries.

  • Werina Griffiths

    Ms Griffiths started her career in the firm’s Commercial Property and Litigation Department before joining the Trade Mark Litigation Department.

  • Mohamed Jameel Hamid

    Mohamed Jameel Hamid is a qualified attorney and trade mark practitioner specialising in litigation relating to trade marks, copyright, passing-off, unlawful competition, domain name disputes and company and business name objections.

  • Nicole Haworth

    Nicole Haworth is a Senior Associate at Adams & Adams and obtained her LLB degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2009 and her LLM degree from the University of Pretoria in 2015.

  • Therése Davis

    Therése specialises in the searching, filing, prosecution, registration and portfolio management of trademarks, with a strong focus and experience not only relating to the territories on the African continent, but worldwide.

  • Cheslin Petersen

    Cheslin Petersen is an Associate in the Trade Mark Litigation department and specialises in civil and criminal litigation in relation to Anti-Counterfeiting in South Africa. He is an admitted attorney and holds an LLB (Summa Cum Laude) degree from the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

  • Whitney Lee Govender-Williams

    Michael is an associate in the Commercial, Property and Litigation department in Pretoria. He is a litigation attorney, practicing as such in Road Accident Fund claims, Medical Malpractice, Professional Negligence, Unlawful arrest and detention, as well as other Personal Injury Claims.

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How can we help you?

We have offices in Pretoria, Cape Town, Sandton and Umlanga , please contact your nearest office for any legal enquiry or assistance.

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