Swiss copyright law (Loi sur le droit d'auteur LDA - Urheberrechtsgesetz URG) is broadly similar to UK law. (The major difference is that in Switzerland making private copies of a published work is expressly permitted - Article 19 specifically allows copying for distribution to friends, and also in schools and within businesses "for purposes of information.") But while copying by members of a closed group is allowed, this does not apply to open church services.
We infringe copyright when, for a service, we:
The author of the words, the composer of the music and the publisher of a formatted book own the copyright, but they frequently assign it to one or more publishers.
Getting the permission of the copyright holder can be difficult and time-consuming. The typical cost of a licence to make and distribute 100 copies of a single hymn is £6. On the other hand, some publishers (e.g. Kingsway Music) are generous, and will happily give permission on a one-off basis free of charge provided they are notified in advance.
Churches should also note the conditions for copying material from various versions of the Bible, from Common Worship and other books authorized by General Synod.
In Britain and other countries, many publishers of religious music have assigned part of their copyright to a body called Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI). Churches pay a lump sum, and can make copies of hymns published by participating publishing houses under a general licence. They keep a log of what copies they have made, which is used as a key for compensating the copyright holders.
CCLI operates in most of the English-speaking world, and since 2008 has extended its coverage to Switzerland. A subscription for a church with an average Sunday congregation of 50-99 people costs Fr232 a year.
Suisa (Suisse-Auteurs) is the Swiss association for protecting the rights of (primarily, but not only, Swiss) authors and composers. An annual licence costs 7.1 rappen per church member per year (Tariff C). How far this is of use to us is unclear.
We continue to press for the diocese and CCLI to take the matter further.
Page last updated 1 February 2009.