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Changes to Swiss copyright laws should end US criticism, says Swiss government

By | Published on Monday 2 March 2020


Switzerland is about to make a number of reforms to its copyright laws which, it hopes, will stop the US from listing it among problematic countries in its annual notorious markets and copyright watch list report.

Each year the office of the United States Trade Representative publishes lists of countries and specific websites which, it reckons, are hindering the interests of American copyright owners. US copyright industries – including the music industry – make submissions before the lists are compiled. The aim is that the annual document informs intellectual property conversations between the US and other governments around the world. Switzerland has been on the country watch list in past reports.

But the Swiss government reckons that the changes about to be introduced deal with all the issues raised about its copyright system in the past. In particular, it is bigging up a new obligation regarding the takedown systems tech companies must operate in order to avoid being held liable for copyright infringing content uploaded to their servers by users.

In a letter to the USTR, published by Torrentfreak, the Swiss government writes: “Such hosting providers will have to ensure that infringing content, once removed, remains off their servers. It also contains a provision that clarifies that data can be processed for the purposes of prosecuting copyright infringement. This provision also extends to civil claims insofar as the path to civil proceedings is open following a criminal complaint or by joining the civil claims to the criminal proceeding”.

By making takedown-and-stay-down an obligation of websites hosted in Switzerland, the country’s copyright law arguably goes further than the equivalent measures in the US. Although some copyright owners argue that – while the stay down obligation is to be welcomed – the new copyright reforms do not go far enough.

In particular, Swiss lawmakers have opted against introducing a web-blocking system in the country, whereby copyright owners can force internet service providers to block access to copyright infringing websites. Although, web-blocking – while a popular anti-piracy tactic in multiple countries – isn’t currently generally available in the US either.

Some copyright owners also take issue with the private copy exception under Swiss copyright law, and how it applies to the digital delivery of content. It’s argued that the private copy exception is too wide, meaning that – while copyright owners can go after file-sharers who prolifically upload unlicensed content – they can’t go after the downloaders.

Nevertheless, the Swiss government argues that its copyright law reforms successfully balance the interests of copyright owners and web users, and should bring to an end the issues previously highlighted by the moaning Americans.

It’s letter states: “With the conclusion of the revision to its Copyright Act, Switzerland further demonstrates its commitment to copyright protection and enforcement. The revised law constitutes an important step in effectively addressing the challenges posed by the internet and includes effective remedies against copyright piracy on the internet”.

“It should thus”, the letter then concludes, “put an end to criticism directed against Switzerland as a host country for infringing sites. With the upcoming enactment of the revised Copyright Act as of 1 Apr 2020, Switzerland considers a further inclusion on the watch list to be unjustified and inappropriate”.