As part of the author’s moral right, authors have the non-assignable right to the recognition of their authorship (Art. 9 para. 1 CopA). This includes the right to choose the designation under which the work should be published (author’s designation).
Authors are free to choose whether they want to use their real name, a pseudonym, their initials only, or remain entirely anonymous. They can change their mind at any time and choose a new designation.
The right to choose the author’s designation must also be considered even if only parts or excerpts from the named work are used. In practice, the most important areas of application are quotations (Art. 25 para. 2 CopA) and the reporting of current affairs and short excerpts from press articles or from radio and television reports (Art. 28 para. 2 CopA). In both cases, the Copyright Act requires that the name of the author must also be cited in the source reference.
Authors may also choose not to include their name in the designation of a work. In certain sectors in particular, it is unusual to add the author’s name to a work; for example, works of applied art (Art. 2 para. 2 (f) CopA) or graphic works (Art. 2 para. 2 (c) CopA). In this case, authors can agree tacitly or by way of an agreement (e.g. employment contract) that their name is not to be used in the work’s designation.
Authors have the right to defend themselves against third parties who contest their authorship or even try to claim authorship for themselves. The latter is known as plagiarism. Plagiarism in the classic sense occurs when plagiarists violate the obligation to cite the author’s designation when quoting from a work (Art. 25 para. 2 CopA), thus claiming the status of the original author for themselves. The original author can take action against the plagiarist by invoking the right to recognition of authorship.
GOOD TO KNOW
Ghostwriters are writers (and thus authors) of a work (e.g. an autobiography or a speech). They do not identify themselves as the author, but write the work on behalf of someone else (e.g. a politician), in whose name the work is published. This is legally permitted if the original author agrees with the customer to publish the work created by the author under a different name (known as a ghostwriter’s agreement). The original author thus agrees that their name will not appear on the work. However, this does not mean that the author renounces their authorship. The right to recognition of authorship is not affected, because it is a personal and non-assignable right (Art. 9 para. 1 CopA). Authors who nevertheless wish their names to be cited in the work are entitled to insist on this under copyright law, but this would constitute a breach of the ghostwriter agreement, which states that the author waives the right to be designated as such. The author could then be liable for damages due to breach of contract.