Debate on the revision of Swiss copyright law

By EDRi · April 26, 2006

On April 6, the Swiss copyright office launched a discussion on the proposal
for the revision of the copyright law in Switzerland at its media event in
Berne. The Swiss copyright office presented a pocket guide as well as a
website and commented on the most important changes. The primary goal of the
copyright revision is the ratification of the two WIPO Internet Treaties.

A crucial point is the legal status conferred to technical copyright
protection measures, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM), and ensuring
prohibition of their circumvention. However, in contrast with copyright laws
passed in other countries, circumvention would be allowed for uses
authorized in general by copyright law (personal copies, fair use). File
downloading will remain legal, because users cannot be required to decide
whether a file is offered legally or not. The proposed law clarifies the
legal status of Internet Providers, stating that they can’t be held
responsible for their customers’ copyright infringements. The Federal
Council would also install an Observatory (Observatoire des mesures
techniques) to arbitrate between the different parties and to watch over the
use and misuse of technical protection measures. The Observatory was heavily
criticised by all sides, especially by consumer organisations because it
would lack power. Regarding the payment of rights, the Federal Council
favors the co-existence of their traditional levying by collecting
societies, and of direct automated levying through DRM technologies.

The website and the pocket guide are the result of a joint effort by
different interest groups and the Swiss copyright office. Their aim is to
stimulate the public debate and give a balanced view on the topic, e.g. the
harms and benefits of DRM systems. The pocket guide tries to explain the
proposed changes on a very general level, and quotations of different actors
give a first view on the debated issues. On the website, however, there is a
dubious flash game, sponsored by Microsoft, where people are encouraged to
hunt “pirates of ideas”.

The Parliament will decide about the revision later this year. It is
expected that the different groups will try to change the law and even
expand the revision to include further regulations such as the introduction
of a tax levy for copy machines, or the rights on works made for an
employer. Several civil liberty groups, such as SIUG, comunica-ch and
Digitale Allmend are planning to protect their interests as users and
producers of digital content.

Proposal for the revision of copyright in Switzerland

Swiss Copyright Office – website and pocket guide

(Contribution by Daniel Boos, Member of SIUG and Digitale Allmend)