2.2.1 Linguistic works

Pursuant to Art. 2 para. 2 (a) CopA, literary, scientific and other linguistic works can be protected by copyright when they are intellectual creations with an individual character and perceptible to the senses.

A linguistic work exists when a thought is expressed with language (Hilty, Urheberrecht, 11th edition, p. 77). This does not mandatorily have to be in the form of classic written works (books, magazines, brochures, letters, etc.), but can also be an oral speech, for example. In the case of literary works, the work character is usually given as the required individuality mostly exists.

This may be somewhat difficult to understand as it gives the impression that scientific works do not enjoy copyright protection and that you can “freely” use the contents. This is definitely not the case. Only findings which serve the purpose of scientific research are in the public domain so that free access to science can be guaranteed.

The following applies as a rule of thumb: the new original and individual form of expression which arises out of a scientific work is protected by copyright – i.e. what has never existed in this form in the past (creative quality) and what would not have been developed by other like-minded specialists in this form (individuality).

And we should not forget good scientific practice – hereinafter, guidelines or regulations, amongst others those from educational and research institutions, can specify that public results with sources must also be cited. Non-observance of these regulations can lead to scientific misconduct (more information).


2.2.1-3 Is a theory presented in a scientific work protected by copyright?

Yes and no: the theory is not protected by copyright in its semantic content. It is a scientific statement and must be freely available to science. If the theory is designed creatively and individually in linguistic terms, it is at least protected in this linguistic form. If the theory is used word-for-word by a third party, the exception of quotation must be observed pursuant to Art. 25 CopA; otherwise, the presumption of a work exists (plagiarism).

2.2.1-4 Is a teaching book or a textbook protected by copyright?

Basically yes, when the textbook or parts of it have creative and individual elements. The form of representation in particular can be protected, i.e. the structure of the textbook, the way the contents are put together, the form of linguistic communication (e.g. through images, tables, diagrams, etc.), the language itself (e.g. for laypeople without specialist vocabulary or humorous descriptions).However, the (teaching) methods or the knowledge about them which is transmitted by the book are not protected because parts of already known, tested and researched matter are summarised for the purpose of knowledge transfer.