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Protection

Copyrightable works

What works are eligible for copyright protection in your jurisdiction?

The expression of an idea (eg, a novel written by an author) is copyrightable, while the idea underlying the work is itself not protectable (eg, the idea supporting a love story).

A work has to be the creation of a human being, not a thing found in nature or created by coincidence. In addition, the work has to show individual character. The work itself has to be individual – as a rule of thumb, this means that another author would not have created the work in the same way. The standard for individuality is however relatively low.

Are there any special provisions for the protection of non-artistic works (eg, software and databases)?

Software is protected similarly to works of literature – the same requirements apply in order to warrant copyright protection. However, the Copyright Act provides specific rules with regard to some of the rights and exceptions applying to computer software.

Switzerland applies no sui generis right to databases. Databases are protected when the selection or arrangement of data shows individual character. Hence, an exhaustive database in which the data is arranged by criteria such as alphabetical order, numerical order or chronology, for instance, is not protectable under the Copyright Act.

Are any works explicitly excluded from copyright protection?

No works are excluded from copyright protection.

Related IP rights

Can copyrightable works be protected by other IP rights (eg, trademarks and designs)?

Under Swiss law the various sets of rules providing for IP right protection are applied independently – that is, copyrightable works can be protected by other IP rights too if they comply with the applicable requirements for protection.

Ownership

Eligibility

Who may own copyright in a work?

The original rights owner is the author – that is, the individual who created the work. Legal entities cannot acquire original right ownership.

Joint and collective ownership

What rules and restrictions govern the joint or collective ownership of a copyright work?

In case two or more authors create a work together, they own the copyright in such work collectively. If the rights owners have not entered into an agreement addressing such questions, each of the owners can veto the exploitation of the work, unless such veto violates the principle of good faith. That said, each of the owners is entitled to enforce the copyright in the work, but they can request relief in favour of all co-authors only.

A special rule is applicable where the parts created by an author can be separated from the rest of the work: such author can exploit his or her part separately, as long as this does not hinder the exploitation of the entire work.

Employee and commissioned work

What rules and restrictions govern the ownership of copyright in a work created in the course of employment (including works by employees and commissioned works by independent contractors)?

In principle, it is always the individual creating the work who originally acquires the copyright. This is also applicable where independent contractors or employees created the work. However, an agreement can provide for a transfer of copyright. Such a transfer of rights need not be made explicitly. It can be based on contract interpretation or tacit mutual understanding. Especially, but not only, in employment agreements a transfer can occur despite the lack of an explicit provision. On balance, though, it is better to address formally the question of who should become the rights owner.

Ownership

Eligibility

Who may own copyright in a work?

The original rights owner is the author – that is, the individual who created the work. Legal entities cannot acquire original right ownership.

Joint and collective ownership

What rules and restrictions govern the joint or collective ownership of a copyright work?

In case two or more authors create a work together, they own the copyright in such work collectively. If the rights owners have not entered into an agreement addressing such questions, each of the owners can veto the exploitation of the work, unless such veto violates the principle of good faith. That said, each of the owners is entitled to enforce the copyright in the work, but they can request relief in favour of all co-authors only.

A special rule is applicable where the parts created by an author can be separated from the rest of the work: such author can exploit his or her part separately, as long as this does not hinder the exploitation of the entire work.

Employee and commissioned work

What rules and restrictions govern the ownership of copyright in a work created in the course of employment (including works by employees and commissioned works by independent contractors)?

In principle, it is always the individual creating the work who originally acquires the copyright. This is also applicable where independent contractors or employees created the work. However, an agreement can provide for a transfer of copyright. Such a transfer of rights need not be made explicitly. It can be based on contract interpretation or tacit mutual understanding. Especially, but not only, in employment agreements a transfer can occur despite the lack of an explicit provision. On balance, though, it is better to address formally the question of who should become the rights owner.

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