Switzerland is a member of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886), and of the Universal Copyright Convention (1956). The Marrakesh Treaty on Facilitating Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled and the Beijing Treaty on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances both entered into force under the revised Copyright Act in 2020. Switzerland has yet to ratify the Geneva Convention and the Rome International Convention.
The Copyright Act (Federal Act of 9 October 1993 on Copyright and Related Rights) protects the rights of the creators of works of literature and art, the rights of practising artists, the rights of the creators of sound and audiovisual media and of the broadcasting companies, and places collecting societies under federal supervision. In order to adapt copyright law to the development of technology and society’s approach to culture, a modernised Copyright Act came into force on 1 April 2020, around 10 years after the revision was initiated, followed by a consultation process:
The copyright working group (AGUR12) appointed by the Federal Council in August 2012 published its final report in December 2013. In the working group, artists and representatives of producers, the economy, users and consumers have collated and intensively discussed, for well over a year, the numerous criticisms levelled at copyright in the digital age. As a result, AGUR12 has proposed a package of measures in five main areas: improving information for consumers, expanding and thus increasing the attractiveness of legal offers, simplifying the fight against piracy, increasing the efficiency and transparency of the collective rights management organisations, as well as adapting the limitations and exceptions to copyright to recent developments. These recommendations are addressed partly to rights owners and the collective rights management organisations, and partly to the legislature and the federal administration. Downloading from the internet should remain permissible; unauthorised uploading, however, will remain illegal.
On the 6th June 2014, the Federal Council dealt with the AGUR12 recommendations and mandated the FDJP to prepare a draft bill for public consultation by the end of 2015. On 27 September 2019, Parliament approved the modernisation of the Copyright Act.
Remuneration for the mass exploitation or release of protected works tends to improve the position of creative artists. Additional fees benefiting the creators of works are levied on the transferring of sound media onto empty cassettes (or data carriers), on the recording of programmes, on the photocopying of works at libraries, schools, and private enterprises, as well as on the rental of copies made of the original work.
Collecting societies in Switzerland include SUISA (music), ProLitteris (literature and the fine arts), Suissimage (audiovisual works), Société Suisse des auteurs (word, music, choreographic, audiovisual and multimedia works), and Suisseperform (rights of performing artists, phonogram producers, audiovisual producers and broadcasters).
Arts, Copyright and Fair Use
The use of published works as “quotations” is subject to the restrictive provision of Art. 25 para. 1 CopA. The quotation must serve as “an explanation, a reference or an illustration, and the extent of the quotation is justified for such purpose.”
Art. 25 Quotations
1 Published works may be quoted if the quotation serves as an explanation, a reference or an illustration, and the extent of the quotation is justified for such purpose.
2 The quotation must be designated as such and the source given. Where the source indicates the name of the author, the name must also be cited.
International context: recent developments
In 2021, the Parliament has approved accession to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications (WIPO). This will allow Swiss beneficiaries of designations of origin and geographical indications to protect their rights abroad through a single application.