After several failed attempts to contact SAFACT via email (turns out some people aren't so pleased with what they're doing, so they are SPAM nuking their email), I decided today to phone them to put this baby to rest.
I spoke with an individual by the name of James, who was sitting in London somewhere at the time of our call, and we spoke briefly about my concerns. Below is a paraphrased edition of the conversation:
Bryan: Is downloading of TV series off the internet legal or illegal in South Africa?
James: It's an infringement on copyright, and no-one has the right to offer TV series for download in South Africa
Bryan: So it's illegal? What are the consequences?
James: It's a civil infringement if you download it. It becomes criminal if you distribute or share it.
There you have it, if you copy a TV series, you are committing a CRIMINAL offence.
James went on to say: Right now we are trying to start a campaign of awareness because most people don't seem to realise the consequences of their actions. If an owner has not given permission for someone to take something that doesn't belong to them, it's theft. If someone finds out about the theft, the thief can be charged. There's also the issue about how the theft impacts on the industry. Take District 9 as an example, once it's pirated or made available for download, it's going to sink District 9's profits. In the UK we are dealing with people who even refuse to pay for legitimately available downloadable material, so it's a mindset that needs to be changed.
And so he went on with some really interesting observations and I couldn't help but agree with him on everything he was saying. He also commented that he wanted to make sure people didn't view SAFACT as the bogeymen who were trying to pressgang people into submission. They're trying to protect people's rights and at the same time are very aware of the potential for freely downloadable stuff becoming unavailable if their measures are too strict.
So the bottom line is, downloading TV series is illegal - if you are doing it, you're a thief. Pretty much most people reading this post are not poor enough or desperate enough to need to steal a loaf of bread for survival, so what's your excuse for stealing a movie or series? If you claim to be a Christian, then even more reason to not download or share TV series any more. You've been convicted, and hopefully that's now enough to ensure you don't become a convict.