Copyright in music

About copyright law

The Federal Copyright Act of 1992 (as amended in 2008 and 2019) constitutes the legal basis for the protection of literary works and works of art. It also governs neighbouring rights, i.e. the rights of performers, sound and audiovisual recording producers and broadcasting companies.

The Copyright Act stipulates the rights and obligations of the five Swiss collective management organizations.

SUISA, a co-operative society, manages the rights of composers, lyricists, and music publishers in trust. This means that it collects the remuneration for the authors’ rights and distributes it as royalties to the entitled parties.

Musical works are automatically protected

Pursuant to the Copyright Act, every musical work of an original nature is automatically protected from the moment it is created. It does not make sense to join SUISA unless your works are publicly used (e.g. if they are performed or broadcast).

Who has to pay remuneration for authors’ rights?

Compositions and lyrics belong to their respective authors. Whoever publishes, reproduces, performs, broadcasts or otherwise disseminates a work requires the consent of the author, or of SUISA as the holder of the rights transferred by the author.

Since it is not possible for every user to negotiate with each individual author, SUISA grants users licences on the authors’ behalf for the use of music in Switzerland and in Liechtenstein. Concert organizers, record producers, radio and television broadcasting stations, clubs and restaurants must all obtain a licence.

Weddings and club events

Private use is not subject to remuneration and does not, therefore, require a licence. Private use includes private birthday parties and weddings, for example, but not office and club gatherings, school performances, or background music in shopping centres. SUISA answers your inquiries free of charge if you want to know whether a work is protected, how much a licence costs and which uses are exempt from royalties.

The 2019 copyright law revision

To ensure adequate copyright protection in the digital age, the Federal Copyright Act was revised in 2019; it has been in force in its current form since 1 April 2020.

The most important changes for rightholders and for users of the works and services protected by copyright are:

  • Under certain conditions, providers of internet hosting services are required to prevent the unlawful uploading of works and recordings (stay-down obligation).
  • Data processing for the purpose of prosecuting the illegal use of protected works was simplified.
  • Authors are granted a new entitlement to remuneration for the online use of audiovisual works and performances. This does not apply to music because SUISA already manages the right to use music in films and videos.
  • The term of protection for performers, sound and audiovisual recording producers has been extended to 70 years.
  • The existing exemption for the use of orphan works (works whose rightholders cannot be traced) and works by persons with disabilities have been reinforced.
  • The collective management organizations henceforth have the possibility of granting extended collective licences. They can thus also manage the rights of authors whom they do not represent.
  • Photographs are now also protected even if they are not of an original nature.

Literature on copyright

Literature on the musicians' rights

Specialist literature on both topics can be found in German and French only on the correspondant language version of our website (DE, FR)

FAQ: Frequently asked questions

  • The Copyright Act protects all musical works of an original nature created by individuals. Apart from music, other acoustic works of an original nature, characterised by the use of sounds and not notes, are protected. All these works are protected regardless of their value or purpose. A symphony and a radio jingle enjoy equal protection under the Copyright Act. SUISA only manages what are known as “small rights”, i.e. the rights to non theatrical music. This includes:

    • non theatrical musical works, with or without lyrics, including oratorios;
    • concert versions of theatrical (dramatic) musical works;
    • dance musical works which can be used without dance;
    • excerpts from theatrical musical works which do not comprise a complete act and are not longer than 25 minutes in the case of a radio broadcast, or 15 minutes in the case of a television broadcast.
    • musical works in films or other audiovisual or multimedia works (except in the case of films of dramatic musical works).

    SUISA is responsible for performance, broadcasting and retransmission rights, public broadcasting rights, the right to make music available (online rights), mechanical rights (i.e. the production of sound and audiovisual recordings, including audiofiles) and blank carrier and rental rights.

  • The Federal Law  of 9 October 1992 on Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights (the Copyright Law) is the legal reference basis for SUISA's activities. The Copyright Law regulates the rights of authors, performers, record producers and broadcasting companies in their works and services and stipulates the duties of the collective administration societies. The Copyright Law also defines fundamental terms such as “work” or  “author”, and specifies what rights an author has in his works. The Law also places limits on copyright protection.

    Pursuant to the Copyright Law, the author is the owner of his work. An author's work can only be published, reproduced, performed in public, broadcast or otherwise disseminated with his consent. In exchange, the author is entitled to remuneration.


Contact us for help and guidance. SUISA's support team will be pleased to assist you and answer your questions.