Public reception

What is Common Tariff 3a for?

Restaurant, hotel and shop owners who offer radio and television reception to their customers or who play background music on their premises can acquire all the necessary rights easily and practically from a single source in Switzerland. SUISA licences the relevant rights on behalf of the five Swiss rights' administration societies, ProLitteris (literature), SUISSIMAGE (film), SSA (theatre, musicals) and SWISSPERFORM (performing artists, producers), for their repertoires and its own (music, literature, film, visual arts) in accordance with Common Tariff 3a (CT 3a). Without this tariff, those businesses would have to obtain the rights for each individual broadcast and each individual song separately from the right-holders; since this is hardly possible, restaurants, hotels and shops would not otherwise be able to play music and offer broadcast reception on their premises. Businesses that do without broadcast reception and background music obviously do not have to pay royalties.

How does the tariff function and how are the fees calculated?

CT 3a provides for a separate monthly lump-sum fee for radio (CHF 16.–) and television (CHF 17.30); these fees are collected by Billag on behalf of SUISA. In addition to broadcasting reception rights, the lump-sum fee covers the right to play background music from a recording or the internet on one's premises. The lump-sum fee is based on the surface area where the music is played or the broadcast received. If the surface area is larger than 1000 m2, there is a surcharge of CHF 52.50.

Who collects the licence fees?

The remuneration for this usage is collected by Billag on SUISA's behalf. Since Billag already collects the SRG concession fees for business uses, this solution is more cost-effective than organising an own collection system for the CT 3a fees.

SUISA and ProLitteris are creating ill-feeling with their hunt on small businesses. Now even truck drivers have to pay to listen to the radio in their truck cabins. Why are the collecting societies targeting small businesses?

The collecting societies have a legal obligation: they have to manage authors' rights in the whole of Switzerland and negotiate, collect and distribute the relevant remuneration. The principle of equal treatment is enshrined in the Law (Article 45(2)). This means that users have to be treated on an equal footing as regards fees. Why should a dentist have to pay licence fees for radio transmissions in his surgery but not a haulier in his cab? Businesses that do not wish to pay authors' rights are free to do without a radio or an audio system.

The collecting societies are insatiable, collecting fees several times for the same content: from the SRG, cable networks and other transmitters and from businesses. That's not right, is it?

Copyright law consists of a bundle of individual rights: broadcasting rights, retransmission rights, the right to make music perceptible, etc. An authorisation is required for the use of each right; in exchange remuneration is due. Some actions involve several uses at a time - a whole chain of uses, as it were. There is no double pay-ment: if two rights are used, two fees are levied.

Let's consider the example of television usage in a bar: the SRG broadcasts a television programme. It has to pay broadcasting rights (...). Then Cablecom brings the programme to the bar. This involves a separate right, the retransmission right. In its turn, the bar needs another right, the reception right, so that its patrons can view the broadcast. Thus various companies pay a fee for different rights, but no right is paid for twice.

This is consistent with the principle whereby an author is entitled to a share of the "economic fruit" generated by the use of his works.  Everyone in the chain benefits from the author's work, so should he.

The collecting societies want more money to cover their high administrative costs. Where do the tariff proceeds go?

The collecting societies act as a link between users and right-holders: on the one hand, they centralise licens-ing, enabling the owner of a bar, for example, to receive broadcast transmissions on his premises, and collect-ing the corresponding fees; on the other hand, they distribute the amounts collected to the right-holders whose works are shown on television and are watched by the patrons of the bar. The right-holders are entitled to fair remuneration for the use of their works and performances. This is only natural in our economic system of prop-erty ownership. This also makes creative work possible. Copyright law is the best form of cultural promotion and ensures cultural diversity.

What does point 2 of the Billag form mean by: "Total surface area of all premises affected by a "use" within the meaning of the Copyright Law; total m2 radio and/or television"

As mentioned under question 2, the tariff is based on the total surface area covered by broadcast reception or background music. This surface area is calculated by adding together the areas of all the rooms equipped with a radio or television, including the rooms where music is played.

Nicole Seiler

"I have been a member of the SSA since I started creating my own works. I appreciate its legal advice and competence in the copyright area."