Copying music, videos and e-books for their personal entertainment: Consumers in Switzerland have been enjoying this freedom for a very long time. For several years, rightsholders have been paid royalties for copies made on smartphones and tablets. Starting this summer, they are now also going to receive remuneration for copies on laptops and external hard drives. Text by Anke Link
Some 30 years ago, the fact that you could make tons of music copies on audio cassettes kicked off private copying levies to be anchored into legislation. Since then, it has been permitted in line with the Swiss Copyright Act to make copies of protected works for the use in people’s private circles or home lives. The range of blank media subject to a licence fee has increased in the course of technological developments; today, digital storage built into devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops is predominantly relevant.
In return for the many ways in which music, films and other works can be stored, authors and performers of music, filmmakers, writers, etc. are entitled by law to remuneration for these private copies.
Such a levy must be paid by the manufacturers and importers of the recording and storage devices. The collective management organisation regularly negotiate with the associations of these companies about the level of the levy and for which memories it must be paid. The licence fee for private copying is then collected by SUISA according to so-called “Common Tariffs” for all Swiss collective management organisation and distributed to the respective rightsholders.
Levy for private copies on laptops and external hard disks
In the summer of last year, the associations agreed with the collective management organisation that from 1 July 2022 memory in laptops and notebooks as well as external hard drives is also going to be considered blank media subject to a mandatory levy. These storage facilities therefore now also fall within the scope of Common Tariff 4i (CT 4i). In the case of external hard disks, it does not matter whether they are magnetic hard disks (hard disk drives) or contain another storage technology (solid state drive or a combination of both). It only matters that they are intended for connection to personal computers (desktop computers, laptops, notebooks or tablets). Connections like these can be made via cable (e.g. USB or Firewire) and via ports such as BUS and PCI slots of personal computers. External hard disks are all storage extensions for personal computers, regardless of whether they are connected or installed outside of the computer. However, so-called “server grade” hard disks, which are intended for the server infrastructure of companies, are exempt from the obligation to pay a fee.
In contrast to the previous CT 4i, which still provided for different fees according to the equipment category, uniform remuneration rates will apply to almost all storage facilities covered by the tariff from 1 July 2022. The fees were based on the corresponding price of the devices and external hard disks, and the proportion of the respective storage devices used in connection with private copying. On this basis, uniform fees were calculated and negotiated, which are now only dependent on storage capacity and apply per device or per external hard disk. Only MP3 players are still subject to separate levies:
For MP3 players and the like:
|Storage capacity||per device|
|up to and including 4 GB||CHF 2.40|
|up to and including 8 GB||CHF 4.20|
|up to and including 16 GB||CHF 4.70|
|up to and including 32 GB||CHF 7.80|
|more than 32 GB||CHF 12.40|
For all other devices covered by the CT 4i or for external hard disks:
|Storage capacity||per device/hard disk|
|over 16 GB up to and including 32 GB||CHF 2.10|
|up to and including 64 GB||CHF 2.90|
|up to and including 128 GB||CHF 3.85|
|up to and including 256 GB||CHF 4.80|
|up to and including 512 GB||CHF 5.60|
|up to and including 1 TB||CHF 6.50|
|up to and including 2 TB||CHF 7.50|
|more than 2 TB||CHF 8.30|
With the exception of MP3 players, the fees are only due for devices or external hard drives with a storage capacity of more than 16 GB. For external hard disks, a maximum fee of CHF 4.50 also applies, even if the storage capacity is very high. This takes into account the fact that the prices of external hard drives are lower compared to the other devices covered by the levy. Value-added-tax is owed in addition in each case.
Registration of storage devices subject to a mandatory levy
Even though there is such a uniform levy for almost all storage devices, it is important in the context of the correct distribution of the collected amounts to the rightsholders that the manufacturing and importing companies distinguish between the device categories when registering their storage devices that are subject to a mandatory levy. This is due to the fact that films and movies are copied to laptops, tablets and external hard drives more frequently than to smartphones, for example. Levies collected for these memories must thus be split in a different way than the fees collected for smartphones. Only in this way is the money allocated to the correct creators and any other rightsholders who are entitled to it. SUISA will provide its clients with corresponding reporting forms from July 2022, which will form the basis for invoicing.
This extension of CT 4i ensures that consumers can continue to copy their favourite works to the devices of their choice without having to have a guilty conscience and that those who create these works are compensated for doing so.
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