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FAQ: Frequently asked questions
Membership as authors
According to our Articles of Association, to join SUISA you must satisfy one of the following conditions:
- you must be the author or the arranger of a musical work;
- you must be a lyricist, arranger or translator of a musical work, or
- you must be heir or legal successor to an author of musical works.
You can complete the application form directly on our website, or contact us at one of the following addresses:
SUISA, Bellariastrasse 82, Postfach 782, CH-8038 Zurich
Phone +41 44 485 66 66, Fax + 41 44 482 43 33, email
SUISA, Avenue du Grammont 11bis, 1007 Lausanne
Phone +41 21 614 32 32, Fax +41 21 614 32 42, email
SUISA, Via Soldino, 6900 Lugano
Phone +41 91 950 08 28, Fax +41 91 950 08 29, email
Once you have signed the rights administration agreement and paid the entry fee, you qualify as an associate member of SUISA.
Bear in mind that joining SUISA only makes sense if your works are already performed in public or will be so in the near future. Only then can SUISA claim your royalties and remit the proceeds to you.
You can become an ordinary member, with full voting and election rights, once you have been an associate member for at least one year and have received a total of at least CHF 3,000 in royalties during that time.
To join SUISA, you pay a one-time entry fee of CHF 200 (including VAT). There is no additional yearly membership fee.
SUISA’s administrative costs for rights management are financed by a cost-coverage deduction charged to domestic (Switzerland and Liechtenstein) and foreign royalty income. The cost coverage deduction on foreign income is 4%; the cost coverage deduction charged on income from Switzerland and Liechtenstein is set each year.
From the moment they are created, musical compositions and lyrics are automatically protected by copyright as original literary and artistic works. Authors' rights are enshrined in the law; in Switzerland they are valid for 70 years after the author's death. Only the author is entitled to decide if and how his works are used. This also applies to arrangements, which can only be made with the author's permission. Authors are entitled to remuneration for the use of their works. The Copyright Act therefore refers to rights of use (see Article 10). If a work is performed in public, for example, or broadcast or reproduced - i.e. used - the lyricist, composer and publisher of that work are entitled to a royalty (licence fee). Authors can grant their own licences and collect their own royalties. But they can also entrust the management of their rights to a collective administration society.
Performing artists are singers or instrumentalists who perform or record a composition, for example. If the performing artist is also an author, naturally he or she can become a member of SUISA.
Performing artists who are not authors cannot join SUISA: performers' rights are managed by SWISSPERFORM.
Yes. Authors who are not members of SUISA can manage their own rights and negotiate royalties directly with users. Individual rights management is complicated, however, and extremely costly in terms of time and effort. For example, how can an author know when one of his works is played on the radio - here or world-wide? Mass uses, on the internet in particular, make individual rights management even more difficult, if not impossible.
The concession of the Swiss radio broadcasting company (SRG) stipulates that Swiss music must be reasonably represented in the company’s broadcasts. But the term ”reasonably” is not defined. Like for films, SRG regulated its co-operation with the music industry in the Charta of Swiss Music signed with industry representatives in 2004. Its purpose is to promote the renown of Swiss music and to foster musical talent. In the Charta, SRG has undertaken to broadcast a reasonable proportion of Swiss productions in its radio programmes. Swiss music is understood as meaning sound recordings or live broadcasts of Swiss composers, performing artists or producers and recordings with decisive Swiss participation. SRG's partners establish annual guidelines for the share of Swiss music in SRG's programming. In recent years, SRG not only met, but exceeded the guideline. According to the Charta, the domestic repertoire must correspond to at least 20% of programming content.
SUISA does not publish scores or sound recordings, nor does it sell any. SUISA is always pleased to provide information on Swiss works (composers, authors and publishers) and can tell you where you can buy their scores and CDs.
For an overview of the works of Swiss composers, we invite you to visit SUISA's online database at the following link: https://pws.suisa.ch
Our music department will be happy to assist you with any further inquiries (available scores, search by musicians, etc.) E-Mail Music Department
Yes, as a rule: SUISA has concluded reciprocity agreements with over 100 foreign sister societies. Through these reciprocity agreements, SUISA represents the members of its sister societies in Switzerland and its sister societies represent SUISA’s members abroad. If the work of a Swiss author who is a member of SUISA is performed at a concert abroad, for example, the local organiser must pay the corresponding royalties to the society in that country. The latter will remit the royalties to SUISA who will pass them on to the Swiss author.
It can happen that a sister society fails to record and settle a use abroad. That is why we recommend that you inform us as soon as you become musically active abroad. In order to follow up with our foreign sister societies, we need the following information:
- date and place (city, country, name of theatre, club or other venue)
- organiser’s name and address (if known)
- all works performed (list)
- printed programme (if available)
- date of broadcast
- name of radio or television station
- name of program (if known)
- all works broadcast (list)
- publication date
- name of label or producer
- catalogue number
- name of sound recording and artist
- all works on the recording
SUISA manages the rights to non-theatrical music: it does not manage any rights to theatrical musical works. Theatrical musical works are works with a plot portrayed by persons playing set roles which rely on music to such an extent that they cannot generally be performed or broadcast without it (for example, musicals, operas, operettas and ballets). All other musical works are non theatrical musical works and SUISA manages the corresponding rights (known as "small rights").
The rights to theatrical (dramatic) musical works are managed directly by the author, by his publisher or by SSA (these are known as "grand rights").
SUISA manages the following authors' rights ("small rights") in works:
- 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).
In conjunction with the General Terms and Conditions, the Rights Administration Agreement (RAA) is the most important tie between SUISA and its members; it constitutes the foundation for SUISA's rights management. By signing a rights administration agreement, members instruct SUISA to manage important copyright assets in Switzerland and abroad (via sister societies) on a fiduciary basis for their account. SUISA is thus empowered to claim royalties from the users and to distribute them to its members (rightholders).
For detailed information on the rights administration agreement, please see the “Explanatory note on the rights administration agreement”.
No. You can regulate the use of your music with your publisher at your discretion. However, as regards the publisher's share of the royalties, you must respect the limits set in the Distribution Regulations. SUISA treats all rights on an equal footing, making no distinction between those assigned directly by the author and those assigned indirectly through a publisher.
Yes. However, foreign collective administration societies cannot operate in Switzerland or Liechtenstein. If a reciprocity agreement has been signed with SUISA, SUISA represents them here. If you join a foreign society, SUISA will represent your rights in Switzerland and Liechtenstein and will transfer your royalty entitlements to the foreign society which will then pass them on to you.
SWISSPERFORM manages the rights that performing artists, producers and broadcasters have in their own performances and services. In this case, it is not a matter of protecting the works themselves (compositions), but of protecting services allowing the works to be represented, perceived and distributed. In copyright law, this group of rights is referred to as "neighbouring rights". SWISSPERFORM asserts the claims of rightholders of neighbouring rights arising from secondary uses of their services (e.g. radio broadcasts of commercially available sound recordings).
Membership for publishers
To join SUISA as a publisher you must show that you already work as an original publisher or sub-publisher. Once you have concluded publishing contracts with authors or other publishers, you may apply for membership. Your application must include
- a duly completed application form;
- a copy of the extract from the commercial register (mentioning the publishing activity) or, for firms that are not registered, an equivalent document for your firm;
- declarations for the works published by your firm, accompanied by the relevant publishing contracts and supporting documents.
To join SUISA, you pay a one-time entry fee of CHF 400 (including VAT).
Once you have signed the rights administration agreement for publishers and paid the entry fee, you qualify as an associate member of SUISA. After a period of at least one year, and provided you have earned the minimum amount of royalties set by SUISA's Board, you become a full member. Membership entitles you to vote at, and be elected by, the General Meeting.
The most suitable legal form for a publishing house depends mainly on the type and scope of your planned publishing activities. The following legal forms may be suitable depending on the circumstances:
- One-man firm
Suitable for activities conducted on a small scale by one person; simple and inexpensive; registration with the commercial register is mandatory as of CHF 100,000 in turnover. Disadvantage: liability extends to all assets – personal assets included.
- General partnership (Kollektivgesellschaft)
Suitable for small publishing houses whose partners are willing to fully commit themselves, their work and their assets. Registration with the commercial register is compulsory and it is advisable to conclude a partnership agreement. Disadvantage: the liability of each partner extends to all his assets – personal assets included.
- Limited liability company (GmbH/Sàrl))
Suitable for small- and medium-sized undertakings; CHF 20,000 minimum capital requirement. Registration with the commercial register is compulsory; a public notary is needed for the incorporation of the company. Advantage: liability is limited to the company’s share capital.
- Public limited company (AG/SA)
Suitable for large and medium-sized publishing houses; minimum share capital requirement CHF 100,000. Registration with the commercial register is compulsory; a public notary is needed for the incorporation of the company, and the tax rate is higher. Advantage: liability is limited to the company’s share capital.
Ordinary partnerships do not have their own legal identity and cannot therefore be members of a cooperative society.
Further information is available from a notary or the commercial register or at the following website www.gruenden.ch
- One-man firm
Firstly, the provisions of the Civil Code on the formation of companies must be observed (Article 944); the rules vary depending on the legal form of the company. Care must be taken to avoid a name which is liable to be confused with that of another company. We therefore recommend that you check with SUISA's publisher division before you make your final choice. E-Mail
Companies are protected by corporate law as soon as they are entered in the commercial register. Moreover, the law protects anyone against unfair competition if he can show he was first to use a name. It is also advisable to file the name as a brand name with the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property – for Switzerland at least, and maybe even internationally.
Publishers and authors (composers, lyricists and arrangers) sign an original publishing agreement. Under the terms of that agreement, the publisher undertakes to artistically and economically exploit the works transferred to him, at his own cost and risk. In particular, this involves
- producing and distributing scores of the work (own publishing rights);
- finding a record company to distribute recordings of the work;
- finding a producer to use the work for a film;
- advertising on radio stations
- finding an artist to record the work; or
- finding a musician to arrange the work.
In other words, the publisher of a work is the manager of the work. A publisher is not a record company. The publisher has to find a record company to produce and release the work. For economic reasons, however, many record companies have their own publishing departments and can handle both sides of the business.
For rights’ management purposes, a distinction is made between the following types of contracts:
- (original) publishing agreements
- co-publishing agreements
- sub-publishing agreements
An original publishing agreement is an agreement concluded between a publisher and an author (i.e. a composer, lyricist or arranger). By this agreement, the author entrusts his works to the publisher for publication, granting him the necessary rights for that purpose. In exchange, the publisher undertakes to distribute the work within a reasonable period and to remunerate the author. Such agreements are generally concluded for an indefinite duration expiring at the end of the copyright protection period, i.e. 70 years after the author's death. SUISA only recognises publishing agreements with a term of at least 3 years.
In practice, a distinction is made between two kinds of publishing agreement: on the one hand, the normal publishing agreement, known as a "Specified Agreement", which only applies to the work specified in the agreement; and on the other, the publishing agreement known as a "General Agreement" (or author's exclusive agreement), covering all an author's works, including those he has yet to create.
Original publishing agreements must contain and regulate the following points at least:
a) Name and address of the contractual partners
b) Title of the work, name of all authors
As a rule, agreements cover one or more works, for example all the titles on an album (Specified Agreement). All the participants in a work must be clearly named in the agreement or in an annex to the agreement. The agreement or the annex must contain the following indications:
- title of the work
- full names of all composers
- full names of all lyricists
- full names of all arrangers
c) Transfer of rights
Under a publishing agreement, the author usually grants the following rights to the publisher:
- Graphical rights: the publisher has the right to publish the work as a score, or to print the lyrics.
- SUISA rights: these are the rights which the author has assigned to SUISA under the rights administration agreement; they include performance and broadcasting rights and mechanical rights. They are therefore transferred to the publisher for “joint administration” with SUISA.
- Other usage rights: these are all the rights that qualify neither as graphical rights nor as SUISA rights, namely and in particular, arrangement rights, the right to use the work for advertising purposes, and synchronisation rights. In other words, a publisher may authorise a third party to arrange the work, use it for advertising purposes, or use it in combination with another work (e.g. for a film) against payment.
d) Obligations of the publisher
In a publishing agreement, the publisher usually assumes the following obligations:
- obligation to publish
- commitment to the work during the term of the contract
- to always publish the work with the authors’ name
- obligation to inform
The revenues from the exploitation of a work are generally apportioned as follows:
- Graphic rights or publishing rights: the author receives between 10% and 15% of the retail price.
- SUISA rights: distributed by SUISA in accordance with the regulatory distribution key. As a rule, the regulatory distribution key is:
- Mechanical rights: the publisher receives 40%; this percentage increases to 50% if the publisher assumes the sound (and audiovisual) recording production costs. The author thus receives a share of 60% or 50%, as the case may be.
- Performance and broadcasting rights: the publisher receives 35% and the author 65%. The publisher also receives a share of the royalties when the work is performed in concert or broadcast on the radio.
- Other usage rights: the income from other uses, such as advertising, is generally split equally between the publisher and the author.
The contractual term is the period of time during which the publisher is entitled to exploit the assigned rights in the work. The contractual parties may set the contractual term at their discretion. Publishing agreements are often concluded for the "legal term of copyright protection", namely for 70 years from the date of the (last surviving) author’s death. That is the maximum legal duration. Three years is the minimum term set by SUISA.
g) Contractual territory
Publishing rights may be granted for the whole world, or rights may be assigned only for a specific territory. The publisher must manage the assigned rights for the whole of the contractual territory. But since many publishers do not have foreign branches, they usually entrust the foreign rights to sub-publishers in the different countries. Since in that case a third party is entitled to a share of the publishing income, the author’s share is reduced.
h) Bankruptcy clause
Every publishing agreement should contain the following clause: “If insolvency or bankruptcy proceedings are initiated by or against the publisher, if he liquidates his business or if he is otherwise incapable of paying his debts, this agreement shall immediately terminate and all rights granted to the publisher hereunder shall automatically revert to the author.”
i) Place, date and signature of all contractual partners
A co-publishing agreement is a contract concluded between two or more publishing houses covering works co-authored by several authors who are contractually tied to different publishing houses. Co-publishing agreements regulate how the publishing duties are divided between the participating publishers. One publisher may handle the production of sound recordings, for example, while the other may print and distribute the scores.
A sub-publishing agreement is a contract regulating the relationship between the original publisher and the sub-publisher who is granted sub-publishing rights in one or more works for a specific territory. SUISA requires sub-publishing agreements to have a minimum duration of three years. Such agreements may be extended at maturity.
With regard to mechanical rights, the agreement must specify which basis is used for calculating the sub-publisher's share:
- production: the sub-publisher is entitled to a participation in respect of all sound recordings produced in the contractual territory, regardless the country of sale, or
- sale: the sub-publisher is entitled to a participation in respect of all sound recordings sold in the contractual territory, regardless where they were produced.
The transfer of rights to foreign sub-publishers and the assumption of sub-publishing rights by Swiss publishers must be communicated to SUISA by means of a declaration of works; a copy of the sub-publishing agreement must in any event be attached to the declaration of works.
In practice, a distinction is made between two kinds of sub-publishing agreement: firstly, the normal sub-publishing agreement which only applies to the works explicitly specified therein (Specified Agreement, also known as an option agreement); and secondly, sub-publishing agreements which are not limited to the works already published at the execution date but also cover works which may be subsequently acquired for publication (General Agreement).
SUISA's distribution rules regulate the effective timing of the transfer of sub-publishing rights from one publisher to another. The provisions concerned are set forth in section 184.108.40.206 (paragraphs 5 to 8) of the Distribution Rules. The start date of a sub-publishing agreement is determined as follows:
- the effective date indicated in the agreement is applicable;
- if none is specified, the applicable date is the date the agreement was signed by both parties;
- if the agreement does not contain a date
The end date of the sub-publishing agreement is determined as follows:
- the end date of the sub-publishing agreement indicated in the agreement is applicable;
- if the agreement does not specify the end date, the end date of the sub-publishing agreement is determined based on the start date of the sub-publishing agreement in accordance with paragraph 5 and the indicated exploitation term.