In Switzerland, is it legal to download copyrighted material without permission?

In Switzerland you'll get all kinds of answers to the question "Is it Legal?". The same goes of course for the internet where you will find articles that tell you it's allowed and others that tell you it's not.

So what is the law actually?

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    @Articuno In most countries the download of copyrighted material is classified as piracy AFAIK (also for personal use).
    – Jutschge
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 15:44
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    In most countries sharing is classified as piracy. In many European countries mere downloading for personal use is not considered piracy.
    – vartec
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 9:50
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    @vartec Source? I would think that simply having a copy of a copyrighted work (and neither sharing nor downloading as such) is what's forbidden. In practice, copyright owners tend to go after people who are sharing and it's difficult to get caught otherwise but it's still illegal. That's certainly the case in one country I know (but this country is notorious for its aggressive anti-piracy laws so I guess it might be the exception).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 22:32
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    @Relaxed: it's a quite common misconception. ACTA, SOPA etc. were meant to change that to be the case, but have been rejected by EU. EU is however attempting to change that under EU Copyright Directive. It's not implemented by most member countries yet.
    – vartec
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 21:07
  • @vartec Maybe but I would still need evidence that it's a misconception. Things like SOPA (or HADOPI in France) are entirely focused on enforcement, a completely different question, and do not change the status of illegal copies in any way.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 21:34

2 Answers 2


See: The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property and their 2011 press release. Legal advice is provided by a Swiss Intellectual Property Law firm, Rentsch Partner, in the form of practical examples.

It is legal to download copyrighted material without permission in Switzerland.

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    There are some restrictions - the documents refer to "personal use". Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 19:41
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    Those are restrictions on use, not on downloading. After download, there are restrictions on how you can reproduce or perform the material.
    – user5582
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 19:46
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    @RedGrittyBrick Actually, you could be correct. The statute might be written such that the act of downloading copyright material without permission is only allowed if the downloader has the subjective intent of using it for personal use, and if later, uses the material for other than personal use, that later use as well as the original download become illegal. This would be an awkward construction, but I will look into it nonetheless.
    – user5582
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 20:04

I don't know if this is related or partially answers your question, but there is a one-off tax on blank cassettes, CDs, mp3 players, mobile phones etc, which goes to the SUISA (the collecting society for Swiss songwriters, composers and music publishers), which if I understand/recall correctly was considered to be a pragmatic way to accommodate all sides.

For example, Is it lawful to download music from file-sharing sites? says,

Users of file-sharing sites who do not have such consents are acting unlawfully. The prevailing view, however, is that private downloading in Switzerland does not require the author’s consent – even if the music was unlawfully made available. Since there is no legal precedent so far, the question cannot be conclusively decided (in Germany, for example, it is unlawful to download music files that are «clearly» illegal). In practice, the question never arises in this form. If you have relatively recent P2P software, the titles on your hard disk automatically become available online. This is illegal and unless you obtain the necessary licences you may be exposing yourself to prosecution.

Here is a reference about what is taxed, in French.

The end of this article seems to demonstrate that this is causation and not just correlation.

without such a fee, international law would have forced Switzerland to suppress freedom of private copying currently enjoyed by the public

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    While we prefer English sources, because most of our readers can read English, and we ask for a rough translation of the gist for other languages, you shouldn't be reticent to link to materials in other languages if that's the most definitive source available.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 15:22
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    See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_copying_levy
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 19:10

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