Piracy In SA – What Can Really Happen If You’re Caught?

Many South Africans have turned to the online world for entertainment. At a click of a button, you can watch the latest series and movies without having to pay a cent.

If that’s not enough, you can download them and share these with your friends. Does this sounds all too familiar?

Well, did you know that this could land you behind bars?

Piracy in South Africa is a real thing and the Copyright Act of 1978 strictly states that there are severe punishments for piracy perpetrators.

The Copyright Act of 1978

The Copyright Act of 1978 protects copyright laws and ensures that people don’t use existing content for monetary gain.

The South African Federation Against Copyright Theft (SAFACT) protects the intellectual property rights of its members in the Southern African film, home entertainment and interactive games industries.

This non-profit organisation regulates copyright infringements in SA and take perpetrators to court.

“SAFACT thus deals with all copyright matters affecting our members and the entertainment and publishing industries as a whole,” explains SAFACT’s Jacques Allers.

According to Allers, there are currently over a hundred cases in court happening nationwide. 

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Caught In The Act

“All cases SAFACT registered with the SAPS are successfully charged and subjected to the judicial system which SAFACT has no control or influence over.”

There could be various implications if you are caught pirating content, it all depends on who has caught you.

If the police catch you, however, you will be arrested and will have to appear in court.

“If it is someone else, a complaint has to be lodged with the Police and allow them the discretion to either arrest with a warrant applied through a court or summons you to just appear in court without an arrest. Should the complainant chooses to use civil proceedings instead of criminal, a settlement agreement may be entered into prior to civil court proceedings being instituted.”


There are different punishments that you could receive. The punishments granted are the following:

  • First conviction- you will receive up to a R5 000 fine or 3 years in jail for each item that is distributed;
  • Thereafter- you could receive up to a R10 000 fine or 5 years in jail.

Many people find themselves using websites like Pirate Bay or uTorrent – this is a clear copyright infringement. But what about streaming content online without downloading?

Well, Allers confirms that even streaming content online is a copyright infringement. “Any device used to bypass subscription services or to access copyrighted content such as movies, series or sporting events is in contravention of our law and, as such, a criminal offence.”

Many people believe that if they aren’t storing the content, then they aren’t committing a crime. However, according to the Copyright Act,”no distinction should be drawn between the various forms of copyright infringement. For example, as per section 6(a), the reproduction of a work may appear “in any manner or form” .

So, if you are  streaming, you could face a punishment as well.

How Will They Catch You?

Allers explains that catching someone pirating is really easy. Internet Service Providers(ISPs) have internal tracking and usage monitoring systems on them. This means that your service provider could call you out for pirating content.

There are also anti-piracy software companies that provide protection for film companies.

“So far we have protected hundreds of local movies during the critical pre-release phase. None of the movies sent through our platform so far have leaked,” explains Custostech Marketing Manager, Petrus Malherbe.

Nowadays, watching content online is easier and legal with online subscription platforms such as Netflix and Showmax.

You can find everything you want on these platforms without the chance of involving yourself in illegal activities.


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