Swiss DMCA coming down -- 50,000 signatures needed to unmake it

Dave sez,
Who cares about about Swiss copyright laws? Nobody it seems, not even Swiss citizens.

On the 5th of October 2007, the Swiss law makers adopted a new law to comply with the WIPO treaties. Thanks to the entertainment lobbies, apart from criminalizing DRM circumvention devices, you can now win a one year visit in jail if you share a copyrighted file on a P2P network.

Did anybody hear about this new law ? No. Not even Swiss citizens. The media is quiet about this.

The thing is, Switzerland uses a direct democracy system, and this new law could be the subject to a federal vote if 50,000 people sign a request for it. That's called a Referendum request, and the deadline for its deposit is the 24th of January 2008. If there's no Referendum request by then, the law will become effective.

There's little doubt that if federal votes were to made today, the law would pass anyway. But at least a public debate could be created around the issue and people could react.

I'm sending you this news item because I just read your news post about Canada. It seems that in Canada some people are fighting because they're aware of the situation. Please somebody stand up and start a debate in Switzerland. Please.

Link (Thanks, Dave!)

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  1. I live in Switzerland around 5 months of the year. I think it’s pretty sick that this is happening now, but understandable as Switzerland a country once standing for independence and freedom is turning towards notions of the larger political entities, like EU, UN etc.

    I would like to know where it is possible to sign this petition for referendum.

    Also, it might be interesting to note that Switzerland is home to one of the largest file hosting websites – rapidshare.com – also used in trading and sharing of warez.

  2. I also live in Switzerland, all year round that is :-)

    I too read about the laws that are to be changed and I also read the detailed “laws” themselves, but I have to admit, that I don’t understand “legalese” that well :-)

    I did a little searching on the net for any details of a possible referendum against the laws, alas with no success. But I did find articles on various swiss news sites that reported the parliaments decision.
    For example:

    http://www.news.ch/Urheberrecht+wird+ans+Internetzeitalter+angepasst/288315/detail.htm?ref=rss

    or

    http://www.20min.ch/tools/suchen/story/23698299

    or a bit more serious source

    http://www.nzz.ch/nachrichten/schweiz/aktuell/urheberrecht_fuer_das_internetzeitalter_1.561418.html

    According to the news outlets the main points of the changes are:

    – it will be prohibited to circumvent any copy protection mechanisms on any media (CD, DVD etc)
    – but downloading will remain permitted

    Interestingly though, as of september 1st of this year, consumers pay up to 80 CHF more for digital media players (for example MP3 players and harddisc recorders). This money goes to the Suisa, the “The Swiss Society for the Rights of Authors of Musical Works” (http://www.suisa.ch/home_e.htm), which then distributes this money (minus their administration fees and so on) to registered swiss artists.

    This means that if you bought for example an iPod in Switzerland in the last month, you paid up to 80 CHF more, because you potentially might be copying or downloading music (we’ve been paying such fees on recordable CDs for years).

    Go figure!

  3. Christopath:

    Interesting links! But still there are some major lack of information here:

    The first problem is that those articles were made before the law passed, it was made after the state council agreed on the current version of the project. it was more a “work in progress” status, no referrendum was possible then.

    The other problem is that in the french speaking part of Switzerland, nobody even spoke about that. I just made an extensive search, and I could find nothing as of today in the french speaking media (for example, there’s no article in 20 minutes referring to WIPO/OMPI in the last 3 months or so).

    Were you aware of those issue somehow or did you become aware of it thanks to this boingboing story as well?

    Regarding the tax to the Suisa, this is very wrong, specially if this new law becomes effective. Give us a bit of money to charge for copies, but if we caught you, we put you in jail! WTF? That’s of course not the only thing that’s wrong.

    I also want to know if there’s a place were I can sign, but I think nobody started a signature collection for now.

  4. Regarding your media stories that say that “downloading will be permitted”, maybe it was referring to a draft of the law.

    The new law (effective in January 2008 if no referendum is made by then) sanctions file sharing with a maximum of one year in prison, that’s pretty clear if you read the law changes PDF.

    I know that downloading is not sharing, but that’s the rule of most P2P networks to date.

  5. The Suisa stuff really is quite a paradox,… but that’s Swiss Law at it’s finest.

    Apparently the law differentiates between downloading and uploading. Down is OK, up isn’t. Of course, when you share, you do both.

    I remember reading about the new law when it was passed, though I can’t remember where exactly. And I have no clue about the media coverage in the french or italian parts of Switzerland as I don’t speak either language.

    A search for “referendum” and “urheberrecht” (german for “copyright) on the Swiss governments website http://www.admin.ch doesn’t find anything, and as far as I know, all referendums have to be published there, so I guess still no referendum…

  6. I have some friends in politics and I’m organizing a referendum. We must also have a web site. Which domain name do you purpose? (not ending with .ch because it costs a lot..). I’ll keep you up to date on that website.

  7. The initial quote from Dave has some major mistake. We just had a revision of the copyright law in Switzerland with the aim to ratify the WIPO copyright treaties. But the situation is different to the EU or US and the copyright law is very liberal. As mentioned in other replies, downloading remains legal for private use. The paragraph on technical protection measures contains a right to break copy protection technology, as long as you use the file for legal purposes (private copy, education, libraries etc).

    There has been a real public debate about it and different civil liberty groups, free software groups and artists in Switzerland tried to influence the law. Many of us are not totally happy with the final law, but still many of us see it as a compromise. In the final month the main strategy was to keep the right to circumvent technical protection in the law and to keep downloading from any source legal.

    As far as I know no big interested group planned to do a referendum.

    Detailled offical information about the law is on the website of the parlament:

    http://www.parlament.ch/D/Suche/Seiten/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20060031
    (only German, French or Italien)

    The levies on MP3 Player were not part of the new law. The levies are based on a decision of a court and the already existing law from 1992. The court had to decide about a complaint from consumer organisations against the collecting societies. The consumer organisation lost.

    Below a list of groups interested in copyright law in Switzerland:
    http://www.kunstfreiheit.ch
    http://www.siug.ch
    http://www.allmend.ch

  8. Boosda: The law is worst than how you present it regarding DRM.

    Yes, the law lets you circumvent DRM for a lawful purpose. You generally need a program to do that. The problem is that the law makes it illegal to distribute, create, talk about (make publicity for) or give such a program, regardless of its final use!

    So, while the theoritical right to circumvent DRM exist, there will be no way for people to use this right, as they won’t have access to the tools! Let’s say the author of FairPlay was selling his program in Switzerland, he’d risk one year in jail. (I know FairPlay it’s free, but imagine a similar commercial product)

  9. Boosda: The law is worst than how you present it regarding DRM.

    Yes, the law lets you circumvent DRM for a lawful purpose. You generally need a program to do that. The problem is that the law makes it illegal to distribute, create, talk about (make publicity for) or give such a program, regardless of its final use!

    So, while the theoritical right to circumvent DRM exist, there will be no way for people to use this right, as they won’t have access to the tools! Let’s say the author of FairPlay was selling his program in Switzerland, he’d risk one year in jail. (I know FairPlay it’s free, but imagine a similar commercial product)

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