Copyright infringement: A R10,5m award fires a warning shot

A High Court award to an aggrieved copyright holder has fired a strong warning shot across the bows of potential infringers.

The background is that two municipalities had, without authorisation from the holders of copyright in a computer program, copied it after an initial licence agreement had terminated.  They then illegally changed security keys and expiry dates so that they could continue using the program without paying any fees.

The Court, in addition to interdicting the municipalities from continuing to hold or use the program and authorising the copyright holder to check the municipalities’ computer systems for compliance, also awarded it R10,5m in “reasonable royalty” payments (plus monthly royalty payments from date of summons, interest and legal costs).

It seems that copyright infringers who think that the worst sanction they face if they get caught is an interdict, some legal costs and a nominal damages award, could well be in for a major shock.

For more advice and practical solutions you are welcome to contact our Intellectual Property & Information Technology (link) department.

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