What's the Real Deal with the Swiss Film Act?

On 1 January 2016 amendments to Switzerland’s Federal Act on Film Production and Film Culture (Film Act, FiA) took effect, extending certain restrictions on theatrical distribution to all forms distribution, excluding television broadcasts. IFTA has been following the developments with the Film Act closely and what the amendments mean for your films and buyers.

The amendments to the Film Act are aimed at promoting the exploitation of films in all language regions of Switzerland, although in practice they have caused much confusion in the marketplace and led to various interpretations as to their scope, particularly with respect to the negotiation of distribution agreements.

Under the new law, “A company may distribute a title for its first public showing in the cinema or for other uses of the work only if it holds the rights for the whole of Switzerland to all language versions that are available for exploitation in Switzerland [emphasis added].”[1]  Exploitation through broadcasts regulated by the country’s Federal Radio and Television Act are specifically exempted.[2]

The potential licensing implications of the amended Film Act stretch beyond the country’s border as films often reach consumers in Switzerland through regional distributors from neighboring countries, as German, French, Italian are the predominate languages in the country. Licensors must now pay particular attention to which language versions are actually made available in Switzerland by each of their distributors, who will need to comply with the amended law.   

The new law does not mandate that licensors exclusively contract with a single distributor for Switzerland, or that all language versions of a film must actually be exploited in the country, although each (sub) distributor that exploits a film in a particular form of distribution (e.g., home video, video on demand) in Switzerland must hold rights to all those language versions that are actually available for exploitation in the country in that particular method of distribution. The law does not specify whether such rights to each language version must be exclusive. 

The amended Film Act also establishes a yearly obligation on companies to report the sale of films on digital channels and physical video carriersin the country.[3] The new reporting requirements are detailed in the Film Ordinance (FiV)[4] and will apply to all sales from 1 January 2017.

The Swiss Government has acknowledged the rapid development in exploitation of films via digital media and has indicated that the implementation of the amended Film Act will be regularly assessed.[5]


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