What is the blank media levy and who pays it?
The blank media levy is a fee for the private copying of protected works on analogue and digital phonograms, audiovisual and other data carriers which are suitable for recording/storing and playing music, films, images and other data. Besides conventional audiotapes and video cassettes, blank CDs and DVDs, blank media also includes digital storage media on audio/video recorders, mobile telephones or on tablets. Anyone who manufactures such carriers or imports them into Switzerland owes remuneration to the author pursuant to Art. 20 para. 3 CopA; however, claims for remuneration may only be asserted by collecting societies. Depending on the blank media or storage medium in question, the fees are regulated in joint tariffs. (c.f. Joint Tariff 4 and 4i of SUISA). However, the manufacturers or producers of such media usually pass this fee on to the consumers. In reality, this means that a fee will be indirectly charged to consumers for private use.
Complete copying of a book solely for private use on the photocopier of a third party (e.g. a library)
(Art. 19 para. 1 in conjunction with Art. 19 para. 2 CopA)
Pursuant to Art. 19 para. 1(a) CopA, the user may copy a work completely if they do it for their own private use (private use within the personal sphere or in a private circle). However, this limiting provision is only applicable if they use their own photocopier. As soon as the user uses the photocopier of a third party: for example, the library or the copy shop (Art. 19 para. 2 CopA), the use of the work no longer falls under private use within the personal sphere or in a private circle. The user may use the photocopier of the third party for their private use, but they no longer have the privilege of ‘complete copying’. In such a situation, the user is therefore only permitted to make an incomplete copy of the work (Art. 19 para. 2 in conjunction with Art. 19 para. 3(a) CopA). An exception is made in the case of an exhausted work; then, the work in question may be completely copied (Art. 19 para. 3(a) CopA).
Pirated copies, downloading, piracy and private use
Copyright-protected works may only be copied under particular conditions, either because the author or the owner of rights has given their permission for this or because the law permits the copying (limiting provisions). However, music, films and games, etc. are actually often pirated and distributed in the Internet without permission and without respect for the law, which is fundamentally illegal and has the corresponding legal consequences. However, in Switzerland there is an exception in the case of private use in the personal sphere or in a private circle: downloading for this kind of private use is permitted here even when the work is illegally offered (e.g. copying a CD which is a pirated copy or downloading a film that was illegally uploaded onto a sharing platform, etc.). Copying and downloading for private use in the personal sphere or in a private circle is even permitted when the user knows that it is copied from an illegal source (this is not the case under German copyright law § 53 para. 1 German Copyright Act (UrhG), for example). However, in this case, as in other cases of private use, two important aspects must be considered: 1. The work to be copied must have been published; the copying of unpublished works is always illegal. 2. The work may not be uploaded, particularly when downloading protected works using peer-to-peer software. This software is usually configured so that an upload always occurs during the download.