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US puts Switzerland on copyright watch list

Websites hosted in Switzerland are said to be part of the problem Keystone

The United States has put Switzerland on a watch list of countries that it says aren’t doing enough to protect intellectual property rights (IPR).

The annual Special 301 ReportExternal link compiled by the US government looks at issues such as digital piracy, how copyright can be enforced, and domain name disputes.

The countries the US sees as the main offenders are listed on the “priority watch list”, which includes 11 nations such as China and India. For the first time, Switzerland is on the lower level watch list among 22 other countries including Canada, Mexico and Pakistan.

“The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIAPA) has demanded for years that Switzerland be put on this watchlist, and now it’s happened and become a formal sign,” Emanuel Meyer of the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property told

“The US is an important trade partner, and it’s clear that if they give criticism we have to take it seriously.”

Meyer said he is aware of telephone conversations having taken place between American and Swiss diplomatic officials regarding the intellectual property report but didn’t disclose what was specifically discussed.

The American report stated that Switzerland “broadly” gives high importance to protecting IPR, but it highlighted a decision six years ago by the Federal Court, which it says “has been implemented to essentially deprive copyright holders in Switzerland of the means to enforce their rights” in an online context. It claims that Switzerland has become a popular place to host websites that infringe on copyright.

Since this time, Switzerland has been working on draft copyright laws to combat copyright infringement, but the US is critical that not enough concrete action has been taken, whether it be through legislation, awareness raising or voluntary measures.

Meyer pointed to Switzerland’s draft copyright laws as an indication that the country is working on the issue, pointing out the challenges the rest of the world also faces in prosecuting copyright infrigement.

“We have the same problems as most countries – how do you deal with mass use, and with mass copyright violations? It used to be the case that you could hold individual users responsible for making sure copyright is not violated, but that isn’t practical anymore. It’s inefficient to prosecute people individually.”

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR