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Publishing Agreements


In Switzerland, any work, i.e. "literary and artistic intellectual creations with individual character,", is protected by the Copyright Act (CopA). Scientific publications are therefore automatically protected by copyright from the moment of their creation.

This gives the author or co-authors two types of rights:

  • Patrimonial rights, which allow the author to decide if, when and how the work will be used. The Copyright Act (Art. 10) provides an exemplary and non-exhaustive list of certain patrimonial rights, such as the right of reproductionof distribution, to make available, to perform, to broadcast or to retransmit.

The duration of copyright protection is 70 years after the death of the author (or the last of the co-authors).

However, patrimonial rights can be transferred to third parties, for example publishing companies.

Publishing Agreements

When an author decides to publish their scientific work with a publisher, a publication contract is usually signed to regulate the rights and obligations of both parties and to allow the publisher to publish the copyrighted content. In the absence of such a contract, the provisions of the Swiss Code of Obligations apply (Articles 380 and 382 CO).

The publishing agreement can take various forms: PDF sent by email, online in the journal submission interface or on the publisher's website, or a checkbox in the journal submission interface referring to generic online texts. It is possible that only the corresponding author will see this contract and sign it, or that all co-authors will receive it.

There are two kinds of publication agreements:

  • A copyright transfer agreement (CTA) where the author cedes their patrimonial rights to the publisher. The latter will thus be the only one entitled to disseminate the scientific publication and to benefit from the patrimonial rights of the author, for the entire duration of the protection
  • A licence agreement, which may be exclusive or non-exclusive. The author retains their economic rights and authorises the publisher to use the work (via a licence) so that it can be published. If the licence is exclusive, only the publisher can distribute the work. If it is non-exclusive, third parties may also do so.

The agreement may also include all sorts of provisions concerning the author's rights to self-archive the publication in an institutional archive or to disseminate it on various websites.

You will find some examples of such publication agreements on the University of Melbourne's website. EPFL also offers a Fast Guide #4 "Publishing Agreement" which summarises the typical contents.

If the provisions of the agreement are not satisfactory for the author and contradict, for example, the Open Access policy of the institution or the funder, it is necessary to consider a modification of the agreement, either before signing it or afterwards, by adding an addendum (see our page "Addenda to Agreement").