Tag Archives: Plagiarism

Personnel changes in SUISA’s Music Department

At the end of September 2018, Ernst Meier, Head of the Music Department, retired after 33 years’ work for authors and publishers. His successor is Andres Pfister. Text by Irène Philipp Ziebold

Personnel changes in SUISA’s Music Department

Ernst Meier, in his office in the SUISA branch at the Bellariastrasse in Zurich in September 2018. The long-term head of the Music Department is now enjoying his retirement. (Photo: Sibylle Roth)

Ernst Meier applied back in 1985 as a musicologist for an assistant’s position in the then Swiss music archives of SUISA, today’s “Music Department”. His passion for music was ignited early on: At the young age of 14, he began to play the organ. By studying musicology at the University of Zurich, he turned his passion consequently into his profession.

As head of the Music Department, Ernst Meier answered many specialist questions which required specific musicological knowledge. He thus examined cases where the suspicion of plagiarism arose, or checked registrations of arrangements of works that were no longer protected to establish whether the work qualified as a derived copyrighted work.

Mid 2011, the “Programmdienst” (Programme Services) team was integrated into the Music Department. Ernst Meier and his six staff members made sure that protected works were correctly identified on performance programme lists. In their work, they were supported by Ernst Meier especially regarding concert programmes of contemporary and classical music. These details form the basis for exact invoicing to the event organisers and the correct distribution of copyright remuneration based on programmes.

SUISA has had a seat on the Board of the RISM Schweiz («Répertoire International des Sources Musicales») since RISM was founded as an association. Ernst Meier represented SUISA there in his role as a musicologist and therefore was able to maintain valuable contacts regarding his field of study. He also got involved in the Schweizerische Vereinigung der Musiksammlungen (IAML, Swiss Association of Music Collections).

After 33 years in the service of authors and publishers, Ernst Meier retired at the end of September 2018. With his love for music and his enormous knowledge and instinct, especially regarding all musical matters, he has left a mark on the Music Department at SUISA over a long period. Management thanks Ernst Meier for his valuable work for SUISA and wishes him all the best for his future.

SUISA Music Department from autumn 2018
Andres Pfister, 31 years old, has been working as Ernst Meier’s successor and musicologist for SUISA since 01 September 2018. He lives in Berne and has been studying musicology and social anthropology at the University of Berne. He successfully concluded his studies with a Masters Diploma in the summer of 2018. Andres Pfister already pursued many different work-related activities during his time as a student. He was active as a tutorial assistant at the Institute for Musicology at the University of Berne or worked at the Institute for Culture in the educational directorate of the Canton of Berne. He also moderated the classical music programme “Ostinato” as a radio DJ on RaBe (Radio Berne) and was responsible for the editorial management of the broadcast. He continues to sporadically work for the radio.
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At the end of September 2018, Ernst Meier, Head of the Music Department, retired after 33 years’ work for authors and publishers. His successor is Andres Pfister. Text by Irène Philipp Ziebold

Personnel changes in SUISA’s Music Department

Ernst Meier, in his office in the SUISA branch at the Bellariastrasse in Zurich in September 2018. The long-term head of the Music Department is now enjoying his retirement. (Photo: Sibylle Roth)

Ernst Meier applied back in 1985 as a musicologist for an assistant’s position in the then Swiss music archives of SUISA, today’s “Music Department”. His passion for music was ignited early on: At the young age of 14, he began to play the organ. By studying musicology at the University of Zurich, he turned his passion consequently into his profession.

As head of the Music Department, Ernst Meier answered many...read more

Plagiarism accusations – what does SUISA do?

Various media have been reporting on plagiarism accusations against a Swiss artist in the last few days. The topic is not new, but it seems to continue to be shrouded in ambiguity: Who is the accuser? What happens to an artist who lifts from another? How much does he have to pay? And what role does SUISA actually play?

(Foto: Giorgio Tebaldi/Manu Leuenberger)

First and foremost, the affected authors have to agree whether an artist has copied a song from another artist. In the best case scenario, the artists come to an internal arrangement and the case is closed. If the parties cannot find common ground, the author of the alleged original can sue the other artist.

Criminal or civil proceedings

Copyright infringements are only prosecuted upon a complaint being launched by the plaintiff. That means that somebody has to notify the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) of the plagiarism case. The PPS shall then initiate investigations. If the accusation deems to be justified, the PPS either issues an order of summary punishment or brings a charge against the respective party before the court. The plagiarising author is punished for the act of having claimed authorship. This does, however, only serve the original author to a certain degree. First, it has only been established who isn’t the author. The original author can, however, not deduce that he is the composer himself. Second, income has been raised with the plagiarism and it has been paid to the wrong author.

For both of these issues, the original author must launch civil proceedings. He must request the court to establish that he is the actual author and that his lost profit, plus damages, must be paid to him.

A judge does not have to be a musician or a composer. As a consequence, musicologists are instructed with an expert opinion in most cases. They analyse whether the work in dispute is really a plagiarism or an arrangement. The court then bases its decision on such an expert opinion.

Works are therefore not protected by SUISA

It is important to note that SUISA does not protect works per se. That is not necessary, either. According to the copyright law, a work is automatically protected from the moment of its creation. As a consequence, it is not necessary to register it for its protection. It may, however, be difficult in a dispute for authorship to prove when and by whom the work was created. In order to facilitate the evidence, there are two possible measures:

  • If you are a SUISA member you can register your works with SUISA. The date of the registration acts as evidence that the work existed at that time.
  • It does, however, also suffice you post a recording of the work or the music score to yourself by means of a registered letter. Of course the package or envelope must not be opened under any circumstances in such cases.

Payment stop in unclear cases

If there is a dispute, the author who claims to have written the original work can effect that SUISA stops the payment for the work. SUISA sets a deadline for the involved parties in the case of a dispute so that they can come to an arrangement or assert their rights before a court. The period generally covers six months but can be extended by a further six months. If no action is brought in and no settlement is made, SUISA distributes the remuneration based on the distribution status before the payment stop. In special circumstances, SUISA can also deposit the disputed shares with the court.

Expert opinion of the SUISA musicology department

SUISA also has a musicology department. It examines cases of suspected copyright infringements, among others. Against this background, the department can issue an expert opinion for the attention of the parties in dispute – if desired. The expert opinion does, however, not have a legal character but is merely intended as an assessment.

SUISA is therefore only involved in cases of plagiarism affecting the distribution of remuneration that has already been collected for works, or if the parties in dispute have asked for an assessment. SUISA does, however, not get involved in legal proceedings. These have to be settled between the authors themselves.

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Leave a Reply

All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

Your email address will not be published.

Various media have been reporting on plagiarism accusations against a Swiss artist in the last few days. The topic is not new, but it seems to continue to be shrouded in ambiguity: Who is the accuser? What happens to an artist who lifts from another? How much does he have to pay? And what role does SUISA actually play?

(Foto: Giorgio Tebaldi/Manu Leuenberger)

First and foremost, the affected authors have to agree whether an artist has copied a song from another artist. In the best case scenario, the artists come to an internal arrangement and the case is closed. If the parties cannot find common ground, the author of the alleged original can sue the other artist.

Criminal or civil proceedings

Copyright infringements are only prosecuted upon a complaint being launched by the plaintiff. That...read more