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30 May 2008 | Updated on 31 May 2017

‘Towards Détente in Media Piracy’ is a two-year project that examines the nature and extent of media piracy and the effect of anti-piracy legislative and enforcement frameworks on access to knowledge in South Africa. The research phase began in January 2008 and finished in April 2009. It was carried out by researchers from APC and several South African universities and forms part of a larger study by research teams in Russia, India, Brazil, Mexico, and Hungary, on media piracy in their respective national contexts. The full report by the Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC), Media piracy in emerging economies, is now available for download. The South Africa research report comprises:

  • a detailed study of enforcement infrastructure and the anti-piracy industry, including government structures, industry lobbies, corporate legal firms, and the links to judicial and police strategies. This will also include details of ownership of media and recording industries. Attempts will also be made to evaluate the costs involved in fighting piracy – and if such costs are greater than any gains.

  • the opening of a different debate on piracy other than the standard ones of enforcement and criminality. This debate can lead to wider discussions of cultural needs and community practices of sharing and circulation, in societies characterized by conditions of high social inequality. This will include both debate and discussion within South Africa and between project partners in countries such as Brazil, India and Russia.

  • the analysis of methodologies for gathering statistics in enforcement literature retailed by media industry lobbies in order to test presumptions the quality of the data. This will include analysis of the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) methodologies and the impact of such studies. Such statistics are utilized by international enforcement bodies and international and local rights holders to limit any debates about intellectual property to issues of piracy and legislative and enforcement frameworks.

  • an understanding of the nature and extent of piracy amongst different communities in South Africa – and the reasons for piracy. This includes:

    1. analysis of piracy as an economic sector (jobs),

    2. the diversity of supply of pirated goods (what is pirated and what is not and why),

    3. the extent of sales of pirated local goods vs. international goods,

    4. whether or not piracy has assisted in facilitating the emergence of cultural industries on the periphery,

    5. distribution networks

    6. examining what drives the growth of the piracy business (i.e. is it a pricing problem, supply problem or a timing problem?). Note that different communities may be pirating goods for different reasons.

    7. whether or not piracy supports licit sales.

    8. explore the extent and forms of digital piracy by broadband internet users.


The advocacy phase of the project targeted South African government and private sector figures with the findings of the research. A team of researchers and consultants assisted the project, working in tandem with an international project on media piracy conducted by the Social Science Research Council (New York) – in collaboration with research teams in Brazil, India and Russia.

Read the full report by the Social Sciences Research Council: Media piracy in emerging economies.