Copyright and employers’ authority to give directives

Good to know

Employees are not always the authors if they create a work on the instructions of the employer. If an employer exercises its authority to give directives (Art. 321 d para. 1 SCO) by giving employees specific instructions to create a work, the employees normally do not become the authors of the work. A work is only a creation if an individual gives a creative input . This is not the case if an employee simply executes instructions. The employees are only executing persons. (For example, a pastry chef gives their employee a design for a wedding cake, which the employee should then bake).

However, if the employees produce their own creative works, the employer cannot immediately request the alteration of the work on the basis of its contractual authority to give directives. The right to decide whether, when and how the work may be altered (Art. 11 para. 1 (a) CopA) is the moral right of the original author. However, if the employer requests only reasonable and marginal alterations (which must be determined ad hoc for each individual case), the employee must agree, unless the request for alterations infringes the employee’s personality right (Barrelet/Egloff, Urheberrecht, 3rd edition, 2008, Art. 11 N. 7 with reference to the employer’s obligation to protect its employees’ personality rights, Art. 328 SCO).