IAB slams Cybercrimes Bill as “excessive limitation to online freedom”

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Digital industry association the IAB, which represents a broad swathe of industry including online publishers and advertisers, has added its voice to the cacophony of critics asking government to rethink the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill.

The bill is is currently with the department of justice following a public consultation that closed last month.

In a statement put out this afternoon Pria Chetty, a member of the IAB’s Regulatory and director of legal firm EndCode, said that while many provisions in the draft Bill would benefit IAB members through greater penalties for online crime, overall the Bill will – if passed – “frustrate the workings of a thriving digital economy in South Africa” and places “excessive limitations to online freedom”.

Chetty singled out sections covering copyright for criticism, saying that they included definitions of copyright not contained in the Copyright Act and which contradict the Electronic Communications Act and the Electronic Communications and Transaction Act.

“One could potentially be prosecuted, even where legitimate reasons to use the copyrighted work exist, or the owner gave tacit consent to use the work,” Chetty said, “Tacit consent is particularly relevant in digital access and use of copyrighted works where express authority of the owner is not present.”

Chetty also says that the clauses which effectively protect any form of information held by the state against whistleblowing as at odds with freedom of information.

“The bill, as it currently stands, is too broad and does not provide for exceptions to accessing and disseminating information on the basis of public interest,” she said, “This is contrary to the Promotion of Access to Information Act and goes against the values that underpin our constitution. These include the right to access to information, and freedom of expression and opinion.”

“The limitations on the right to dissemination of information could have a considerable impact on online journalism and online publishing. According to the provisions in the bill, information can be unduly restricted from dissemination, with the resultant unreasonable limits freedom of speech.”

The IAB also raised objections to the controversial changes to the published bill earlier this year, some of which appears in an amendment to the Film and Publications Board Act tabled last week.

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