Your photos. Your copyright. Tips on the new copyright protection for photographs

It’s no April Fools – since 1 April, there are new rules for photographs in Switzerland. All photographs are protected by copyright, even your own casual snaps. Anyone who wants to use a photo has to ask the owner for permission. What else do you need to know? Our tips will put you in the picture.

From 1 April 2020, in Switzerland, all photos are protected by copyright. Photo: Unsplash
From 1 April 2020, in Switzerland, all photos are protected by copyright. Photo: Unsplash

Taken a photo today? Every year, more than one billion photos are taken, with 85% taken with smartphones. Nowadays, top-of-the-range phones can compete with compact cameras. But taking pictures is just the beginning – many photos end up online and make the rounds on social media.



This raises legal questions about the use of photos. These are answered by the revised Copyright Act, which came into force on 1 April. The biggest change: No matter what you take a picture of, the photo is protected by copyright and belongs to the photographer. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a blurry picture of a doormat or an ambient night shot with a chance of winning a photography prize. The following tips and examples explain what is allowed and what you can do within the limits of the law.



Tips for using photos

  • If you want to use someone else’s photos, you need to get written permission from them.
  • Arrange with the photographer how and when you may use their photos. Some photographers charge a fee for this use. 
  • Indicate who took the photo every time you use it.
  • If you use photos from online image databases, check the licences carefully. Licences regulate the usage rights. 
  • If you use photos that are not yours, remember that someone owns the rights to them. This is why it is best to use your own photos whenever possible.
  • Be aware of moral rights – every person depicted in a photo must give consent for it to be made public.

The new Swiss Copyright Act

The revised Copyright Act strengthens the rights of creative artists and cultural industries. Hosting providers that create a particular risk of copyright infringement now have to ensure that copyright-infringing content that has been removed once already remains removed. However, as before, consumers of copyright-infringing content will not be prosecuted. Together with these anti-piracy measures, the revised Copyright Act also introduces various reforms that support creative artists and cultural industries. The revision introduces copyright protection for all photographs, even if they are not works of art.


Further details in this media release (available in German, French and Italian)

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