Copyright law, case I ACa 206/10

June 26th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

Passa Company sued its competitor – Informator Handlowy Publishing House for the copyright infringement of personal and economic rights to a few ads that were published by Passa. Passa argued that Informator Handlowy copied, altered and distributed these advertising in its magazine, including photographs that were used by Passa.

Informator Handlowy argued that it has received all the published materials from its advertisers and they should be the defendants in this case. IH also argued that the advertisements at issue are not protected by copyright law, since they do not have the characteristics of the copyrightable work. They rely solely on the computer alteration, without the creative factor, and photographs (walls, roofs and chimneys) do not have the nature of the copyrightable work because they do not contain any creative element.

The District Court in Lublin ruled that photographs that were used in ads cannot be protected by provisions of the Polish Act of 4 February 1994 on Authors Rights and Neighbouring Rights – ARNR – (in Polish: ustawa o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych), 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. However, the Court also held that these advertisements are subject to copyright protections as provided in article 1 of the ARNR because they meet the criterion of individuality (creativity of the plaintiff) and originality (they presented a visible margin of creative freedom, own personal choice of treatment of the subject). The Court held that the publication of advertisements without consent of Passa infringed its copyright. The Court also ruled that there were no conditions for the adoption of the liability of the defendant under the provisions of article 17 and 79 of the ARNR.

The Appellate Court in Lublin in its judgment case file I ACa 206/10 confirmed the findings of the court of first instance as to the copyright infringement of advertisings, but also pointed out that the District Court misinterpreted the law. The Court held that in a situation where the use of the work is illegal (there is no agreement to use copyrighted work or the provisions of fair use/allowed use cannot be applied), i.e. such use is made without the consent of the creator, his claims are set out in article 79 of the ARNR, including the right to equitable remuneration. A defendant in such case can be anyone who infringes on creator’s right. The Court emphasized that copyright protection vest in the owner against anyone who violates those rights. It did not matter that the advertisements were published on behalf of Informator Handlowy’s clients and that the infringer was in good faith or it has exercised due care. See also “Copyright law, case I ACa 2/96“. The Appellate Court found that the Court of First instance was wrong to rely on Article 42(2) of the Polish Act of 26 January 1984 on Press law – APL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo prasowe), published Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 5, item 24, with subsequent amendmets.

The publisher and the editor is not responsible for the content of announcements and advertisings published in accordance with article 36.

That provision concerns the responsibility for the content and form of advertising, or infringement of the rights associated with breaking the rules of social coexistence, or any legal prohibition of advertising, such as alcohol, cigarettes, or the Act on Combating Unfair Competition. This provision does not cover the issue of infringement of copyright. See also “Press law, case V CK 675/03“. The Appellate Court referred the case back for retrial because of the scope of procedural and material errors, including rejection of a motion for admission of an expert as to the estimate of the amount of compensation, the lack of assessment of all material.

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