With P2P law, Switzerland reaffirms its commitment to privacy

Posted on September 23rd, 2019 by in Privacy deep dives.

Individuals can download their favorite movies and music in Switzerland.


Switzerland has taken a liberal approach to copyright law, generally allowing citizens to use copyrighted material for personal use (some exceptions may apply).

This has made peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing sites popular in Switzerland. It has also attracted intense opposition from the film and music industries, as well as the US trade representative to Switzerland. They have encouraged Swiss authorities to ban the downloading of copyrighted materials and to place onerous fines on anyone caught doing so. However, Switzerland resisted their pressures on the grounds that enforcing these measures would require intolerable invasions of privacy.

On Sept. 16, the Swiss National Council voted to amend the copyright law (in French), but it did not criminalize downloading copyrighted material from illegal sources. In Switzerland, individuals are still free to download whatever files they like for their own private use (except for software and video games). This is great news for Swiss users who use who uses Proton VPN’s Swiss P2P servers to download the latest movies and music.

Additionally, wording that would have compelled Swiss Internet service providers to block access to file-sharing sites was not included in the final legislation. Anyone using a Swiss IP address will be able to access these sites.

Note that uploading or seeding a copyrighted work, which was a misdemeanor under the previous law, remains illegal. If you only download files, you are, in principle, not infringing on Swiss copyright laws.

Europe’s haven for privacy rights

Switzerland can implement such file-sharing-friendly laws because of its unique status. The fact that it is not a member of the European Union means it is not obligated to follow the EU laws that restrict file sharing in neighboring countries.

The EU has, over the past several years, eroded people’s rights to download files, even for their own personal use. In 2013, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that individuals are not breaking copyright law by streaming copyrighted material online. However, that same ruling prohibits “downloading, printing or otherwise setting out to make a copy” of the file.

In 2017, the CJEU ruled that The Pirate Bay was directly violating copyright law. The Pirate Bay, the famous file-sharing site, has been dogged by lawsuits from around the world since it was founded in 2003. This verdict made it possible for Internet service providers in EU member nations to block The Pirate Bay and similar pirate sites.

Meanwhile, the Swiss have taken a very different approach to deal with file sharing. In 2010, a Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruling (in German) prohibited collecting user data from file-sharing sites to identify who downloaded copyrighted material, saying it is a violation of the Swiss Federal Data Protection Act. In essence, the Swiss courts chose to prioritize an individual’s right to privacy.

P2P sites under increased scrutiny 

While the latest legislation was great news for individuals, it was not as good for file-sharing sites. If a Swiss-based file-sharing site is notified that content on their website is violating a copyright, they are obliged to remove it. Any site that does not remove flagged content could face prosecution. However, it does not need to proactively screen content to see if its users’ uploads violate any copyrights. The end result will likely mean any content that is uploaded will remain there until it is discovered by the holder of the copyright and reported. 

How this amendment affects Proton VPN

Switzerland’s independence and its dedication to protecting individual rights are two of the many reasons we chose to have our headquarters in Switzerland. We welcome the government’s stance on privacy. As a company based in Switzerland, this amendment allows us to continue providing P2P servers to our users. 

You will need a Basic plan to access our Swiss P2P servers and start downloading your favorite music, TV shows, and movies. If you are new to Proton VPN, click the signup button below. Or, if you already have a Free account, click upgrade.

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We do not condone the use of our VPN servers for any illegal activity, and we urge our users to always follow copyright law.

We are dedicated to helping our users lawfully access content and evade blocks and censorship in whatever form they take. Happy downloading!

Best Regards,
The Proton VPN Team

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Prior to joining Proton, Richie spent several years working on tech solutions in the developing world. He joined the Proton team to advance the rights of online privacy and freedom.

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