Collecting societies are associations of owners of original and derivative copyrights (authors, publishers and claimants of related rights, etc.) which protect the individual rights to exploit for the affiliated authors and owners of rights. Therefore, collecting societies conclude rights administration agreements (example contract) with which authors or owners of rights transfer certain rights to assert claims vis-à-vis a third party to the collecting societies. Furthermore, collecting societies conclude licence agreements with the users of works which regulate the type of use and the corresponding remuneration.
In cases where the owner of rights cannot undertake an individual exploitation due to the large amount of uses and where the author is not actually permitted to undertake an individual exploitation pursuant to statutory licences, collective exploitation will be provided by the collecting societies. In this case, authors and owners of rights do not conclude any rights administration agreements with the collecting societies. The protection of their rights already results from the law. Therefore, the collecting societies do not need to negotiate individual licence agreements with individual users to this end, but will negotiate collective regulations, i.e. tariffs, (Art. 46 CopA) with user associations. The tariffs must be set in accordance with defined regulations and with the principle of equal treatment (Art. 45 para. 2 CopA). The tariffs regulate, similar to the licence agreements, the level of the remuneration and the extent of the permitted use. If several collecting societies are affected by particular uses, they must draw up ‘joint tariffs’ for the use of the same works, and designate a joint office for payment (Art. 47 CopA). The collecting societies must distribute the collected money to their members pursuant to a distribution regulation, and, in the process, take the income for the individual works and presentations into consideration (Art. 49 CopA).
There are five collecting societies in Switzerland: ProLitteris – for the exploitation of text and image works, SUISA – for the exploitation of musical works (excluding theatrical works), SUISSIMAGE – for film works, Société Suisse des Auteurs (SSA) – for the exploitation of stage and audiovisual works, and SWISSPERFORM – for the exploitation of neighbouring rights. These collecting societies exploit, among others, rights which are subject to federal supervision (Art. 40 CopA) and requires authorisation from the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (Art. 41 et seq. CopA).