2.5 Collections

Collections (legally known as collective works) can be protected by copyright when they are intellectual creations with individual character with regard to their selection and arrangement Art. 4 para. 1 CopA. In other words, there is no copyright protection for what is “collected” in the collected work but only for the way in which it is collected, selected and arranged. When these arrangements and/or selection criteria are unique or original, then the required individual character exists. However, this is usually lacking in standard arrangements (e.g. sorting alphabetically or numerically). It is also lacking in works in which the selection criteria or the arrangements are in any way standard or prescribed, or it comes down to the completeness of a work. Therefore, to cite an example, a legally required complete compilation of information on medications is not a protected work because it is not at all possible to individually select the content. (cf. the Civil Court Steering Committee of the Canton of Basel-Stadt dated 20 January 2004, in sic! 2004, 490 et seq.) Copyright also does not protect official or legally required collections (Art. 5 para. 2 CopA). On the other hand, newspapers and magazines are in turn protected because the selection and the arrangement of the individual articles are individual decisions of the editor.

Other examples of possible protected collected works are: anthologies, handbooks, illustrated books, etc.

As it does not come down to the content but rather to the individuality and originality of the compilation, it is not mandatory that the collected content itself is protected by copyright (e.g. recipes are normally not protected; however, a cookery book can be protected). If another person than the author uses the content (e.g. puts a recipe from the afore-mentioned cookery book online), there is no infringement of copyright, because the individual character of the collection (the selection and arrangement) is not affected in this case, only the content. The protection of a collected work is thus not focused on the content of the collection but rather on how it is selected and arranged.


Required consent

Pursuant to Art. 4 para. 2 CopA, works included in a collected work may be protected individually. Thus, if individual works from the collection fall under the protection of the Copyright Act, they do not lose this when they are compiled into a collection.

People who would like to create a collected work from the individual works of other authors must be aware that these individual works can be protected by copyright (e.g. in the case of an article for a specialist magazine). When this is the case, they require the consent of the respective author of the individual work.People who in turn would like to use such a collected work (e.g. make it available online) must consider two things: if they only want to use the content, they must check whether it is protected by copyright and if necessary obtain the consent of the respective authors of the individual works. If they also want (or perhaps only) to use the arrangement or the selection of the collection, then they require the consent of the author of the collection.



Data or other information is collected in databases, then methodically or systematically organised and made available through electronic devices. In Swiss copyright law, databases fall under the category of collected works. As specified in Art. 4 para. 1 CopA, they are protected when the selection or arrangement is an intellectual creation with an individual character; the selection and compilation of data must therefore be creative and unique or original (e.g.: the existing database on the copyright-related content or a digital library catalogue selected by academic librarians in accordance with particular criteria and enriched with keywords, which requires intellectual effort and a particular level of individuality).On the other hand, if data in a database is only fed in based on logic, (sector) commonalities or prescribed plans, then it lacks individual character and consequently is not protected by copyright (e.g.: a database with legally prescribed medical information, cf. in this regard the Civil Court Steering Committee of the Canton of Basel-Stadt dated 20 January 2004, in sic! 2004, 490 et seq.).


2.5-1 Are individual editions of newspapers or magazines considered to be collected works within the meaning of Art. 4 CopA?

Basically yes, because the selection of individual articles – independent of their copyright protection – enjoys such work quality. In the case of daily newspapers, however, it should be kept in mind that the structure of the newspaper is not protected (all daily newspapers are structured similarly in particular columns). However, the arrangement of articles and reports in particular columns is protected because here every daily newspaper has its own characteristics and originality.

2.5-5 An e-learning platform is constructed according to the ideas and structures invented by its developers. A lecturer would now like to use this structure for his teaching. May the lecturer do so without the consent of the platform developers?

Yes and no. The e-learning platform is a database and therefore a collected work pursuant to Art. 4 CopA. It is protected with regard to the selection and arrangement of the content (data) when this can be viewed as an intellectual creation with individual content. The self-conceived scheme according to which the platform is structured fulfils these conditions. The platform is therefore protected by copyright, so the author’s consent is needed.However, here the limiting provision pursuant to Art. 19 para. 1 (b) CopA must be considered, which specifies that no consent is required under particular conditions when the work is used for teaching purposes (private use for educational purposes).