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The French private television station M6 is allowed to broadcast its programme in French-speaking Switzerland with a Swiss advertising window. The SRG is defeated by the Federal Supreme Court. According to the court, M6 does not violate copyright law or engage in unfair competition.

(sda) M6 has been broadcasting its programme in parts of western Switzerland with two signals since 2002. The second signal contains a Swiss advertising window. The Swiss radio and television company SRG therefore filed a lawsuit against M6 and demanded damages of at least CHF 10 million.

SRG was of the opinion that M6 violated copyright law with these advertising blocks aimed at the Swiss market and also engaged in unfair competition. In particular, M6 thus excludes the exclusive broadcasting rights acquired by SRG for Switzerland for various films and series.

In addition, M6 is gaining a competitive advantage. The cantonal court in Fribourg ruled in favour of SRG a year ago. The corresponding signal was subsequently overturned by several cable network operators. On Tuesday, the Federal Court approved M6’s complaint and dismissed SRG’s complaint.

No authorisation in the recipient country

The judges of the I. Civil Division come to the conclusion that under Swiss copyright law the so-called broadcasting theory is applicable to satellite transmissions. This means that the author gives his consent to the broadcasting of his work in accordance with the law of the country from which the transmission originates.

If the rightholder had given his consent accordingly, a further authorisation would no longer be necessary in the recipient countries. It was therefore irrelevant whether the satellite signal contained Swiss or French advertisements.

SRG fears loss of advertising revenue

Nor does M6’s conduct constitute an unlawful act within the meaning of the Unfair Competition Act. Bernard Cron, lawyer of the French private broadcaster, expressed his satisfaction with the decision. M6 would try to get the cable operators to resume the programme.

According to SRG press spokeswoman Barbara Stutz, Swiss television is very disappointed with the decision. The verdict of the Federal Court could have consequences for the Swiss advertising market. Other French broadcasters could also show interest in advertising windows for French-speaking Switzerland.