In your opinion, you have watched a film or downloaded an e-book on the internet perfectly legally – and now you've been sent a massive fine?
In your opinion, you have watched a film or downloaded an e-book on the Internet perfectly legally – and now you've been sent a massive fine?
Even people who have consumed or downloaded content totally legally on the Internet can be confronted with warnings. Fraudulent companies can often (illegally) find out the IP addresses from which certain pages have been selected and subsequently identify the associated email or postal addresses. That's how users often receive threatening letters informing them that criminal proceedings will follow because they have violated copyright law.
These warnings are typically linked to a demand that "compensation" amounting to several hundred francs or euros must be paid in order to prevent a criminal charge, a house search, or court prosecution. If you receive an unjustified warning, you should first keep your cool and under no circumstances sign any assurances. Most of the time, this sort of correspondence can be ignored.
What is allowed?
It’s important to note: We describe the situation here in Switzerland. Be careful, because in most other countries much stricter laws apply. For example, if you travel to Germany, and your download isn’t finished and continues there, you can be punished in accordance with German law.
The downloading and streaming of text, film, or music files for personal (private) use is allowed in Switzerland. This also applies for copyright-protected content.
What is not permitted?
It is not allowed to spread or upload protected content to an open group of users. This also applies if you upload the protected content without any commercial interests to platforms like Facebook, YouTube, etc.
Close friends or relatives are not considered to be an open group of users and an exchange is allowed. However, the exchange of content must always be free of charge and the connection/friendship cannot be based on the purpose of exchanging this content.
Caution is also advised for so-called “peer-to-peer” networks, where you download files or parts of files from various providers and also offer participants material to download in return.
Copying and downloading software (incl. computer games) is not allowed. An exception is made for software that is explicitly labeled as freeware or shareware.
Do I have to take the warning letter seriously?
The warning letters are often sent from relevant foreign companies or even law firms. These sound very threatening, are often professionally drawn up, and often give uninformed recipients the feeling that they are legitimate. However, if according to the description above you have not downloaded or streamed anything illegally, then you have nothing to worry. If you want to respond, you can use our sample letter below. Make sure you were not maybe logged into a foreign network with your computer and streamed or downloaded other content.
What should I do?
Definitely do not act hastily and under no circumstances should you sign or admit to anything.
However, if you have done something that is not allowed (e.g. upload to an open group of users, published someone else’s image on your own website), you should immediately stop doing this. The associated warnings are often coupled with exorbitant claims for damages that you don't have to simply accept.
If you are nevertheless prosecuted, you can file a so-called legal objection within 10 days after receiving the order to pay.