5a.10.1 Swiss Collecting Societies

There are five collecting societies in Switzerland

ProLitteris deals with literature and the plastic arts.
The Société Suisse des Auteurs or SSA (“Swiss Society of Authors”), for theatrical, theatrical-musical, choreographed and some audiovisual and multimedia works.
SUISA for non-theatrical musical works.
Suissimage for audiovisual works.

Swissperform for related rights.

ProLitteris, the SSA, SUISA and Suissimage are cooperatives (Art. 828 et seq. SCO) whereas Swissperform is legally classed as an association (Art. 60 et seq. CC).


The first society of authors was SACD (Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques) (“Society of Authors and Dramatic Composers”). It was founded in 1777 in Paris by authors organised by playwright Pierre Beaumarchais (A. MEYER/E. ROTH, 75 ans au service de la musique, SUISA 1923-1998, Zurich/Lausanne 1998, p. 11) and functioned as a union which supported its members in negotiations with theatres (ibid.). SACEM, a French society of authors, was established in 1850 to support musicians’ rights and is now one of the largest societies of its kind in the world. These collectives also operated in Switzerland, with SACD coming to the country in 1871 and SACEM in 1876. The first collecting society in Switzerland, the Mechanlizenz, was only founded in 1923. At the time, it was responsible for managing rights to produce copies on phonograms and music boxes. The following year, 1924, GEFA was founded and, in 1941, gained a legal monopoly on managing the right to perform non-theatrical musical works in public. That very same year, GEFA became SUISA and, in 1980, merged with Mechanlizenz. The two collecting societies ProLitteris and Teledrama were formed in 1974. Suissimage and the SSA came about some years later following a judgment issued by the Federal Supreme Court in 1981, which established the collective management of broadcasting rights. Last to follow was Swissperform, which was founded in 1993 when related rights were introduced with the latest Swiss copyright law.

Current Collecting Societies

Collecting societies are organisations acting in a fiduciary capacity, i.e. they are legal entities which do not aim to make a profit (Art. 45 para. 3 CopA) and which authors and other rights holders trust to assert their rights. These societies comprise composers, songwriters, writers, directors, etc. and owners of derived rights such as producers and editors. Swissperform also represents related rights beneficiaries such as performers, recording producers and broadcasting organisations (radio and television). Often, the mandate that the rights holders issue to the collecting society is combined with a transfer of certain copyrights or related rights (BGE 117 II 463; Journal des Tribunaux 1992 I 393), making the society the owner of the rights so that it can assert those rights in its own name. Its role will be to grant legal authorisation to the users of the works, collect royalties and transfer them to the authors, editors and producers whose works are being used. The collecting society will also be responsible for collecting statutory rights to remuneration for the people it protects. More often than not, both collecting societies and individuals manage these rights. Certain rights for a single work are exercised by the rights holders directly and others are entrusted to collecting societies.

Facts and figures for Swiss collecting societies in 2016 :

Society Revenue in CHF million No. of members (right holders) No. of employees (full-time equivalent)
SUISA 147.1 36‘663 176.4
SUISSIMAGE 72 3‘434 26.7
ProLitteris 33 11’987 18
SSA 22.9 2‘999 17.8
SWISSPERFORM 54.8 15’509 18.8

(source : http://www.swisscopyright.ch/en/income-and-distribution/money-flows/administrative-costs.html)