I read https://south-africa.visahq.com/customs/#!import-regulations . In the Prohibited section it is written

• Goods breaking copyrights laws

now my lappy does have a variety of movies, music and games, it is next to impossible to provide a history of each and every game/movie that I ever purchased/downloaded or was gifted from people.

I could of course encrypt that entire partition, i.e. one option but would like to have more clarity on the above.

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    Don't concern yourself about it. Nobody is going to check copyright status. They'd need to multiply staff by 1000. It's not going to happen.
    – Berwyn
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 12:49
  • If your friends are giving you pirated stuff without telling you they are not your friends.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 8:35

2 Answers 2


That's aiming more at preventing the import of things like fake-branded or illegally copied goods to be sold in SA, for example a box full of ripped-off DVDs or articles of clothing with trademarked branding (like the Nike swoosh) which aren't made or sold by the real manufacturer.

The customs official is not going to have you power up your laptop and expect you prove you've got legal copies of everything on it, nor is he going to inspect your luggage to somehow check that your fancy shoes really are the 'real thing'.

While returning SA residents might be subjected to a little extra scrutiny by customs because they want to ensure that SA residents pay the appropriate import duties & tax on goods they purchase out of the country (I've been in that situation & had to prove that my laptop was purchased in SA before I traveled), a tourist who is expected to take everything he brings in back home with him is unlikely to be subjected to the same scrutiny.

  • aha... ok now got that :)
    – shirish
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 12:57
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    "nor is he going to inspect your luggage to somehow check that your fancy shoes really are the 'real thing'". Don't know about SA, but don't assume this in general. Even one fake Louis Vuitton bag, Diesel jeans, or Nike shoes will get you in big trouble in most parts of Europe and the US, at least. Example from Switzerland Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 14:10
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    "The customs official is not going to have you power up your laptop" - this is false, at least this guy have been asked to do it. Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 14:36
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    @DmitryGrigoryev - that was to prove that it's a laptop not a bomb, not to inspect all of your software. I have been stopped while returning to SA and had to power up my laptop in order to show that I didn't purchase it while traveling (showed them old documents, etc) as they wanted to charge me an import duty & tax on it.
    – brhans
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 14:41
  • I agree with the ripped-off DVDs, but I suppose that trademark infringements (say, "Polex" or "Roley" wristwatches) are strictly speaking not breaking copyright laws, though trademark and copyright are often artificially addressed collectively under the term "intellectual property". Nevertheless, it is certainly not advisable to import such faked goods. Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 18:23

Actually, there is a risk, albeit very low, that you could get in trouble. First, you do have to switch your laptop on upon request, at least in some countries:

The government guidelines say passengers carrying devices which they cannot switch on "face not being allowed to bring the device onto the aircraft". Passengers would then have to choose between charging the device if possible, leaving it behind (see below) or not getting on their flight.

You may have get away by saying "I lost my charger" if the security officer is kind enough (and provided the charger isn't right there in the bag). But there is no guarantee this will work as the airport security is within their rights to confiscate your laptop in that case.

Second, illegal software/movies have to be discovered on your laptop. In practice, your laptop rarely will be checked at all, unless you draw attention for other reasons (e.g. look like a guy on a red-corner notice). Of course, you may still get in trouble if you have a media player open with a movie watermarked with "not for distribution" labels, or a torrent client running. If a movie or a game on your laptop look reasonably genuine, it's inconceivable for the airport security to verify its origins.

So I wouldn't worry about it so much, but reasonable precautions wouldn't hurt. Keeping your "x-files" on an encrypted drive is a bit of an overkill, but it's not that unreasonable, considering how little effort it requires.

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    While your first point is certainly true, it's not relevant to the OP's question as he is referring to passing through customs when entering the country and you are referring to the security precautions taken before being allowed to board the airplane when leaving.
    – brhans
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 17:50
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    You have to switch your laptop on upon request because that 'proves' it is not a bomb, not because of copyright issues.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 9:36
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    Your first three paragraphs are completely irrelevant to the question. The question is about customs, not security. Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 10:05

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