FPB Amendment act signed into law by President Ramaphosa

The Presidency of South Africa has announced that Cyril Ramaphosa has assented four bills into law, among those bills is the highly contentious Film and Publication Board Amendment Act.

The news was announced today by way of a notice on the website of the Presidency.

“In the area of printed and audio-visual content, the Films and Publications Amendment Act provides for the establishment, composition and appointment of members of an Enforcement Committee that will, among other tasks, to regulate online distribution of films and games,” wrote the Presidency.

While the president has now signed the bill into law, it’s unclear whether the law will be promulgated and ultimately put into effect.

“The law further regulates the classification of publications, films and games and allows for the accreditation of independent commercial online distributors by the Film and Publication Board,” added the Presidency.

“Through the Board, the law will regulate the creation, possession, production and distribution of films, games and certain publications with a view to protecting children from disturbing and harmful content.”

Despite going through various iterations, the FPB Amendment bill drew the ire of South Africans. This ire was stoked by a number of nebulous sections of the bill that could make posting a meme to Facebook without the permission of the FPB, illegal.

When we spoke to the FPB earlier this year the organisation made it clear that unless South Africans were creating content that contained child pornography, hate speech, incitement to violence, violence or sexual violence, it would not interfere with the day-to-day happenings of South Africa’s internet denizens.

However, speaking to lawyers at Schindlers Attorneys we learned that this bill could cause the FPB some headaches down the line.

“We are of the view that the wording of the Bill is vague and can in most instances be interpreted in more than one way,” Schindlers Attorneys told us back in April.

“One could argue that the wide scope of the Bill infringes upon fundamental constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and expression, however until such time as this is tested in a court of law this remains a topic of debate.”

For now the way forward is unclear but in the coming weeks we should have a clearer view of what the future of content distribution in South Africa looks like.

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