Copyright Law

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

Anthonyatlaw 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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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. Anthonyatlaw 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