Swiss Government Declares Downloading for Personal Use Legal

Government research says piracy not as harmful as industry claims.

The government of Switzerland has issued a statement declaring that it will not take action to alter current copyright laws allowing the downloading of music and movies for personal use. The statement is the result of a lengthy study conducted by the Swiss government into the impact of so-called “piracy” on the entertainment industry.

The entertainment industry has been complaining in Switzerland – as in the US and elsewhere – that the unauthorized downloading of music and movies has harmed their business. The situation in Switzerland is somewhat unique, in that current copyright law considers the downloading of content for personal use as acceptable and legal. The entertainment industry has been lobbying the Swiss government to change the law. This study is the government’s response.

Despite the industry’s claims that downloading undermines their business, this study shows that the effect of unauthorized downloading on the industry’s bottom line is negligible. One key finding of the study is that downloaders spend as much if not more to acquire content legally as those who do not download. Researchers found no change in amount of disposable income spent on music and movies, despite the fact that roughly one third of Swiss people engage in some form of downloading. The government concluded, then, that no change to the current legal structure was necessary, and urged the entertainment industry to grow and adapt with the changes in technology and in consumer habits, rather than trying to suppress progress.

Switzerland’s findings are just the latest in a series of reports showing that the downloading of music and movies is far less harmful than the entertainment industry would have us believe. In July Douglas C. Merrill, formerly of Google and then EMI, one of the three main record labels, said in a keynote address that his research while at EMI showed that users of torrenting service LimeWire were among the best customers in the iTunes music store. Around the same time, Telepolis published a report (Google Translation) stating that users of the recently raided website tended to pay more at the box office than the average moviegoer. Meanwhile, another study conducted by Northwestern University (PDF) showed that users of peer-to-peer client software – i.e., BitTorrent users – bring in a substantial amount of money for the large ISPs.

A Google Translation of the Swiss press release may be found here. A PDF of the government study, which is in German, may be found here.

What do you think? Does downloading really harm the music and movie industries? Let us know in the comments.

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Shaylin Clark is a staff writer for WebProNews. Twitter: @stclark81, Google Plus: +Shaylin Clark

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40 Responses to Swiss Government Declares Downloading for Personal Use Legal

  1. Nathan B says:

    I’m all for this outcome! But something about the study doesn’t seem right.

    “Downloaders spend as much if not more to acquire content legally as those who do not download”

    “users of torrenting service LimeWire were among the best customers in the iTunes music store”

    Doesn’t this just mean that people who are tech-savvy enough to download, are also tech-savvy enough to buy content online?

    My Grandma doesn’t download anything, but she also doesn’t buy anything online. She doesn’t know how to do either of these things…

    • John D says:

      It has nothing to do at all with how tech savvy they are, the implication is that the people that download are exposed to more forms of media, and end up paying more money then the average non-downloading joe, for content that they deem worth paying for. They spend more money because they know much better what is worth their money, and understand that buying something legally is supporting what they like.

      • Tsm says:

        Hit the nail square on the head. Bought a movie I checked out first today because I was able to see if I liked it via means.

        • Denver says:

          I think another implication is that, even if you could prevent downloaders/pirates from downloading music, videos, games, software. They still would not -buy- it because they could not afford to in the first place.

          • Mitch says:

            People who download because they cant afford would be the same as people who have no money and cant go to the movies to watch it, that first outcome would be better because at least they get to see the movie and recommend it to everyone else who at least may be able to afford to buy or watch it… ;) …… secondly i only buy what i think is worth it, there is too much rubbish software, movies, music to warranty to waste my money but i do spend money on what i use a lot or find useful or think it worth it no matter if its a app, song, movie. The solution to this problem is to make everything cheaper, more accessible for everyone not just people who have money, why do you think was the success of itunes, the fact you can buy a song or album for $5 instead of paying $30 in the shops. my 2cents

  2. Pascal says:

    The picture above is the Lausanne Beau-Rivage Palace. Not related to the government.

    • Aten says:

      It looks official enough. Americans will buy into anything these days.

      • Tim says:

        I saw the building and assumed it was a government one, because, you know, it was with an article about the Swiss government. Unless I’m supposed to know what the government offices of every other country look like, how does that make me gullible at all?

  3. Conrad says:

    We need to take a stand NOW on this so-called “Piracy” issue because there is a gold rush happening right now and the Human Genome itself – our very humanity – is being bought,right out from under us…

    If we LET greedy corporations get away with “owning” even the products we have bought and paid for – and prosecuting us for sharing – soon we will find our selves being “owned” by those same corporations!

    That is called Slavery.

  4. RandomUser says:

    The link to the press release is broken.

  5. A patriotic american says:

    The US gov could stand to learn alot from the Swiss, the real problem is the depth of corruption within the US government. Every legislature can be bought, and rather then looking out for its constituents 9 out 10 times they are heavily influenced by the lobbyists, this is the reason we have SOPA/PIP, budget bills that allow the military to indefinitely detain its people without trial, and amendments stating that IT workers that make over 27.36 an hour cannot be paid overtime. I think this a big win for the Swiss people, and it speaks volumes about the quality of leadership within that country.

  6. vonbraun says:

    “users of torrenting service LimeWire”

    LimeWire is not a torrenting service.

    “users of peer-to-peer client software – i.e., BitTorrent users”

    P2P is not limited to BT.

  7. Slatts says:

    That “copiers” have spent more on content than “non-copiers” has always been true. It’s because they are more interested in music or whatever than those who don’t.

    Way back when tape was king and I’m talking reel to reel here, even before the advent of cassettes I did a survey of my friends and acquaintances asking them if they recorded off the radio music and how many records they had. The answer was inevitably that those who recorded music bought at least ten times the number of records as those who didn’t.

    When cassettes came out and the big debate started about putting an extra tax on recording tapes I did the same survey and got the same result.

    Since then I heard a story that I can’t confirm but it makes sense, that when the record was first invented sheet music publishers tried to stop them for all the same reasons still used by content providers to this day!

    As is say in the article the content providers need to learn how to live with new tech.

    If you want my advice (!) they should give a low quality version away for free – like it was on the radio. This gets the track played and makes fans. Fans go to concerts. Concerts are where you can really make some money. They should then make a good quality CD to sell to their new fans. Add to that a ‘Premium’ version that has posters, key rings, T shirt(?) and that sort of stuff for the real heavy duty fans. How about a “Gold edition” with free tickets to their concerts?

    Content providers stop trying to ban the fans from getting their music – learn to take advantage of tech because you will never win! As the old saying goes “You can’t un-invent the railroad”!

    • JG says:

      The Melvins actually release special box art and crazy intricate cd cases as well as vinyl records in order to get people to buy the album instead of just downloading it. A lot of bands are doing this now since the artists are the ones being hit the hardest by piracy .

    • Renee says:

      +1! Was just about to post nearly the same idea.

      Back in the day (decades ago), everyone swapped custom music tapes with friends & were able to listen to music we normally didn’t…and wound up buying vinyl > replacing with CDs > then mp3s.

      So when EMI & Telepolis know sharing leads to more purchases, aren’t they shooting themselves in the foot by supporting current laws? For those of us long in the tooth, remember that Syms clothing ad line: “An Educated Consumer is our Best Customer.” Still true.

  8. Andre says:

    Why do you use a picture of a hotel in geneva for your article when talking about the government? What about a real government building like the “bundeshaus” in berne (the swiss white house)?

  9. Chuck NorrisNZL says:

    Mum pack my bags and make me a travel sandwich! We are moving to Switzerland!

  10. Adam says:

    I cannot like this enough. This is a victory of common sense and should be an example to many governments and organisations around the world.

    Intellectual property has been peverted to mean something that is owned by the distributors, this needs to stop. Artists, producers, writers and their listeners, readers or viewers need to regain control before this industry chokes itself.

    The entertainment industry needs to grow up and stop being so childish, they must change to meet the needs of consumers rather than cramming archaic pricing models and constrictive DRM down our throats.

  11. Jay C says:

    This whole worldwide thing is most certainly just a grab at power and money for the entertainment slime balls. The simple fact that they are going so far when they are already rolling in billions per year is laughable.

    Consider this: Be very honest here, how many people do you know that even know what a torrent is? In a court of law I would present this to the jury and the case would die in that moment. Sure, lots of people who use the internet also are aware of torrents.

    How many people actually use torrents regularly? As the swiss said, the numbers are negligible. You do not even need to perform a study. The VAST majority of people who pay for (by the way) the internet barely know how to use the most simplistic social media sites much less navigate and filter torrent data based on quality, size, uploader, seeds, leechers, etc.

    Also consider the reasons people torrent: Lack of money. << #1 reason. As such there is no money to be had anyways regardless of law, you would simply be denying the poor their entertainment. Bad idea right now. (see Occupy movement) Lack of entertainment quality. << probably tied for #1 reason. The entertainment industry has gotten so complacent with their cash rewards every time they release a new piece of media that they have started doing just that.

    Releasing a bunch of media. Barely worked on, thrown together over a month or 2 with just enough good material to make a preview. These guys have gotten way too greedy and honestly if they take some hits because the quality of their services has deteriorated then that is their own fault. f**k them.

    To be honest: Aww the poor billionaires want more money. Blow it out your asses.

  12. elevator says:

    Kudos to the Swiss government. To the point as usual, and steadfastly insensitive to the notorious whining lobby. It makes perfect sense that a heavy downloader is also an important paying customer. This Swiss study now appears to confirm it.
    So, it’s up to the usual greedy and phlegmatic lot to adjust their business model. (Or better just go away: Nobody really needs you anyway :)

  13. Renee Marie Jones says:

    It is so nice to see that there are some people in this world who are not fooled by the lies of the entertainment industry or swayed by their bribes.

    Thank you Switzerland!

  14. Steve says:

    Hey Dudes

    Your headline is misleading. If you look at the original text, it is clearly an analysis/report/reccomendation and not at law at all. Thats why almost nobody here in Switzerland noticed it. Sort of like the cannibis laws they exist but nobody really cares much about them.


  15. Grey Olltwit says:

    Wow, way to go Switzerland! The entertainment industry has had plenty of time to make downloading music and films, easy and cheap but they are too greedy

  16. Chris says:

    Movies and music are for personal use. Going to a movie or buying a CD is in 95% of cases not for business. There is something wrong with expecting to get someone else’s work for free.

  17. I’ve fixed the photo. I trust this one really is a Swiss government building?

  18. Adrian says:

    Sounds like excellent news, but …

    “not take action to alter current copyright laws” …

    erm, ok but what exactly are their current copyright laws that they are not altering?

    As has been said, this is an announcement of an intention not legal but would be intersting to see tested in court :P

    • Check out the rest of the sentence you quoted: “will not take action to alter current copyright laws allowing the downloading of music and movies for personal use.” Current copyright law allows people to download music and movies for their own use. The entertainment industry wanted the law changed, and the Swiss government refused.

      • Alex says:

        I don’t know if the term “legal” is really the right one but basically it seems they can’t take any legal action against you if you simply download copyrighted content for your personal use.

        If you’re using a program which also upload content to other user I am not sure what implication would be but this could be seen as sharing to other people. Uploading copyrighted content is illegal. I don’t think there is any cases dealing with bittorent and if it is considered as uploading. So really everything is up to interpretation…

  19. Casey says:

    While I don’t agree with suing caught pirates for millions of dollars for downloading a few songs, how is this right?

    “One key finding of the study is that downloaders spend as much if not more to acquire content legally as those who do not download”

    I’m sorry what? So let’s say I’m a singer, and my music gets 100% pirated by someone in sweden, it’s okay? Just because they might spend the same amount on a monthly basis as a non-downloader on music? Even when they’re not buying my music?

    Stealing is stealing. Sugar-coating it is absolutely stupid. I walk into a store, I steal three apples. But it’s okay. Because I spend just as much there a month as non-shoplifters.

    Oh whats that? You’re too poor to buy music? Uhhhh did you try not buying it?

    Oh the music quality sucks nowadays?
    Then don’t buy it.

    But don’t pirate music and movies and claim it’s okay because of those three reasons. It’s not. If I have no money, I don’t steal stuff from department stores.

  20. Em says:

    I have so much respect for the Swiss right now O.O

  21. Casey says:

    What? Not one of you can come up with any decent counter-argument? I expected at least a brain dead response like “OMG IT HERTZ NO ONE!!11″.

    This is whats wrong with the world today, people are too busy being coddled by their government to understand whats right and whats wrong. They’re sheep, just waiting to be led off of a f**king cliff.

    I mean seriously? Who the f**k came up with this? You know who didn’t?

    The artists that are having their work stolen.

    The people who put time and effort into distributing and publicizing the artists work.

    But yeah. It’s totally okay. The government says so. Like look at the moron who posts above me:

    “I have so much respect for the swiss right now”

    Because they’re thieves? That’s what you respect? God if my mother ever caught me stealing ANYTHING, she would smack the living hell out of me. Clearly, you didn’t have a decent upbringing.

    And anyone who supports this, is f**king brain dead.

  22. 网上赌场 says:

    This is a big step for Swiss but I think this way is the normal way of using products for personal purpose only

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