Are you a client or designer that are paid to create a design for a client? The author of a copyright work is generally the person who makes or creates the work, but this is not always the case. If you commission artwork or design work and have fully paid for it then you will be the copyright owner. Please read more on copyright in South Africa…


The word ‘author’ is defined in the Act as follows:


  • in respect of a literary, musical or artistic work, to mean the person who first makes or creates the work;
  • for a photograph, to mean the person who is responsible for the composition of the photograph;
  • for a sound recording, to mean the person by whom the arrangements for the making of the sound recording were made;
  • for a cinematograph film, to mean the person by whom the arrangements for the making of the film were made;
  • for a broadcast, to mean the first broadcaster;
  • for a programme-carrying signal, to mean the first person emitting the signal to a satellite;
  • for a published edition, to mean the publisher of the edition;
  • for a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or computer program which is computer-generated, to mean the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work were undertaken;
  • for a computer program, to mean the person who exercised control over the making of the computer program.
  • The author is, generally speaking, the first owner of the copyright which subsists in the work.  This is not always the case.  An amendment of the Copyright Act was effected in 1980 (by the Copyright Amendment Act No. 56 of 1980, with effect from 23 May 1980). It provides that as a general rule, the ownership of the copyright vests in the author, except in the following cases: 
  1. The copyright in a literary or artistic work made by an author in the course of his employment by the proprietor of a newspaper, magazine or the like, belongs to the proprietor of the newspaper, magazine, etc. for the purposes of being so published, but in all other respects the copyright subsisting in the work vests in the author.
  2. A person who commissions a photograph, painting or drawing of a portrait, making of a gravure, making of a cinematograph film or making a sound recording, and pays for it pursuant to the commission, will be the owner of the copyright subsisting in the work so made.
  3. – In the case of all works not falling within the above categories and which are made in the course of an author’s employment by another person under a contract of service or apprenticeship, the copyright will be owned by such other person (ie. the employer).
  • Copyright is transferable as movable property by assignment, testamentary disposition or operation of law (section 22).  To be effective, an assignment of copyright must be in writing and signed by the assignor. For further information on Assignment and Licensing of Copyright, please click here.




This article is a general summary and should not be construed as legal advice or as an exhaustive overview.