Switzerland’s National Council has passed amendments aimed at modernizing the country’s copyright law to make it more fit for the digital age. While services that host pirate sites or distribute content can expect a tougher ride moving forward, users will still be able to download pirate content for personal use. Furthermore, Swiss Internet service providers will not be required to prevent their customers accessing pirate sites.
Sitting in the heart of Europe geographically but outside the European Union politically, Switzerland is largely free to make its own legislation.
On the copyright front, this has brought the country out of line with standards adopted by its neighbors, something that has drawn criticism from entertainment industry companies, particularly those in the United States.
In 2017, proposals to amend the country’s copyright laws were drafted but they failed to fully address key complaints from the United States Trade Representative (USTR) made on behalf of rightsholders.
A major complaint is that the country’s private copying exception shouldn’t apply to content obtained from illegal sources, i.e pirate copies of movies circulating on peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent. The USTR also had issues with the current liability framework for sites and hosting services that facilitate and profit from piracy.
After a long trip through the corridors of power, Switzerland’s National Council adopted amendments to copyright law Monday but at first view, there seems little to please the United States.
First up, regular citizens who download copyrighted content from illegal sources will not be criminalized. This means that those who obtain copies of the latest movies from the Internet, for example, will be able to continue doing so without fear of reprisals. Uploading has always been outlawed and that aspect has not changed.
Second, the drive to have pirate site-blocking introduced into Swiss law has been rejected. Unlike elsewhere in Europe, where the practice is widespread and supported by EU law, ISPs will not be required to block ‘pirate’ platforms as some copyright holders had demanded.
On the hosting and liability front, there will be changes, but at this early stage, it’s unclear how that will play out on the ground.
SwissInfo reports that the reforms will force local hosting providers to remove illegal content from their servers but adds that parliament rejected rules that would compel online platforms to check whether uploaded content is copyrighted.
A “take-down-stay-down” system had been championed (which would presumably require content to be checked against previous takedowns) but elsewhere it’s claimed that the new legal framework “favors self-regulation” to fight piracy at the hosting level.
While an extension from 50 to 70 years copyright protection for musical and photographic works will be welcomed by copyright holders, the failure to outlaw downloading of pirated content for personal use will be absolutely unacceptable to the United States and the MPAA in particular.