10.05.01 Copyright protection of photographs

10.05 Copyright

On 1 April 2020 (no joke!) the revised Swiss Copyright Act (CopA) came into force. According to this law, photographs are now generally (telquel) protected, even if they do not have an individual character (CopA 2 IIIbis), i.e. even if they are not particularly original. This means that now especially so-called snapshots are also protected by copyright, i.e. photographs whose motif is captured in the picture just as it is found, such as the pug I photographed here. This photo would probably not have been protected before the revision of the copyright law.

According to the revised Copyright Act, «reproductions produced with a process similar to photography» are also generally protected by copyright. This includes, for example, images produced by infrared and X-rays, micro and macro copies, prints from a negative film and individual images from visual or audiovisual works, such as film stills.

The prerequisite for the general protection of photographs is that they depict a three-dimensional object. Thus there is no telquel protection of photocopies, photographs of photographs, etc.

CopA 2 generally requires for copyright protection that the work in question is an «intellectual creation». Such a creation can only be created by human hands. This rule still applies to photographs. Thus, for example, photographs produced automatically, such as radar photos, photos from surveillance cameras or from speed traps, do not get copyright protection.

In accordance with CopA 80, these provisions also apply to photographs taken before their entry into force. However, if someone used a photograph taken before these new rules came into force, before the revised Copyright Act came into force without the consent of the rightholder, e.g. on a homepage or in a brochure, he or she does not now have to remove it. However, reuse in another context is no longer permitted without the consent of the holder of the rights in question.

10.05 Copyright