Copyright law, plagiarist pays

December 11th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

According to the recent article published by Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, entitled “Kurpisz ma wyrok za plagiat. I to z błędem!“, Kurpisz – Polish Publishing House from Poznan has been found guilty of plagiarism and has to pay PLN 148,000 as well as apologize to the journalist whose copyrights it infringed.

Kurpisz was accused of plagiarising by Andrzej Gowarzewski, a sports journalist from Katowice, the author of the Encyclopedia of World’s Soccer Championships (in Polish: “Encyklopedii piłkarskich mistrzostw świata”). Gowarzewski spent over a decade travelling around, in particular, South America collecting detailed data (such as the original spelling of the players names, exact time of the goals scored during the games, team composition) for his encyclopedia. His efforst were rewarded when british „World Soccer“ magazine – an undoubted authority in the field – has pronounced the book one of the 7 best books on soccer in the world.

Gowarzewski has been working and successively expanding his encyclopedia since 1991. In 2001 he came across a similar book, published by Kurpisz Publishing House. To his great astonishment the book contained information about 500 games, literally “carbon copied” from his work. The publisher repelled the accusations, claiming that it had used information commonly available and thus not protected by copyright, very much like the data in the yellow pages. Kurpisz arguments would have most likely prevailed, had it not been for the flair of the journalist, who set a smart trap for the publisher: Gowarzewski deliberatley made several material mistakes in his encyclopedia, just to subsequently find that they were repeated in the Kurpisz version of the book.

The District Court from Poznań had no reluctances finding the publisher guilty of plagiarism. It held that in copying such substantial data, thouroughly and personally collected over the years by the journalist, the Kurpisz has free ridden on the creative efforts of Gowarzewski and should pay him PLN 148,000 in damages (that is 15% of the proceeds from the sale of Kurpisz’s books, multiplied by 3, the so-called treble damages) based on article 79 the Polish Act on Authors Rights and Neighbouring Rights – ARNR – (in Polish: ustawa o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych) of 4 February 1994, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 24, item 83, consolidated text of 16 May 2006, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 90, item 631, with subsequent amendments.

Article 79
1. The rightholder may request from the person who infringed his/ her author’s economic rights to:
1) cease the infringement;
2) eliminate the consequences of the infringement;
3) repair the inflicted damage:
a) on the general terms or
b) by payment of double or, where the infringement is culpable, triple the amount of respective remuneration that would have been due as of the time of claiming it in exchange for the rightholder’s consent for the use of the work;
4) render the acquired benefits.

2. Regardless of the claims referred to in paragraph 1, the entitled person may request:
1) single or multiple announcement made in the press with the statement of appropriate content and form or to announce to the public a part or all of the court’s judgment in the considered case, in the manner and within the scope specified by the court,
2) to pay by the person who infringed author’s economic rights, the appropriate sum of money, not less than twice of the amount of firm benefit achived by the perpetrator of the infringement, to the Fund referred to in article 111, if the infringement is culpable and was made during the economic activities carried out in someone else or in his own name, even on someone else’s account.

The plagiarist must also publicly apologize to the author on the pages of a nation wide newspaper – Rzeczpospolita.

It has not been the first time that the Kurpisz Publishing House infringes copyrights of another and has to bear the consequences. In 2004 the court in a similar case imposed on the publisher a fine of over PLN 500,000, which constituted 60% of the proceeds from the sale of copied “Dictionary of contemporary Polish”. The high amount of penalty was justified by the fact that the publisher had copied as much as 60% of the dictionary of Polskie Wydawnictwo Naukowe (PWN).

See also “Polish regulations on copyright” and “Polish case law on copyright“.