Copyright law, case P 18/09

October 14th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland in its judgment of 11 October 2011 case file P 18/09 held that Collecting Societies acting on behalf of authors, performers, producers of phonograms and videograms and publishers, may demand from manufacturers of copiers and recorders all information and documents necessary for calculation of the amount of fees levied on them. The producers and importers of tape recorders, video recorders and other similar apparatus are obliged to pay these fees according to Article 20(1) 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, with subsequent amendments.

1. The producers and importers of tape recorders, video recorders and other similar apparatus, or blank material for the recording of works with the aid of such apparatus for personal and private use, and also of reprographic apparatus shall be obliged to pay, for the benefit of the creators and performers of the said works and of the producers of phonograms and videograms, fees in an amount not exceeding 3% of the selling price of the said apparatus and material.
ii. The amount of the fees referred to in paragraph 1 shall accrue:
(1) to the creators for 50%,
(2) to the performers for 25%,

The Association of Copyright Collective Administration for Authors of Scientific and Technical Works requested one of the Polish companies to provide information about copiers imported and sold in Poland. Every Collecting Society has the right to request such information based on the provisions of Article 105 of the ARNR.

Art. 105.
1. The collecting society shall be presumed qualified to carry out the administration and protection of rights in the areas of exploitation in which its administration is conducted, and to engage in judicial proceedings associated therewith. This presumption may not be invoked where two or more collective administration organizations claim competence in respect of one and the same work or performance.
2. In the course of its activity the collecting society may demand that information be communicated to it and that documents that are essential for the calculation of the amount of remuneration and fees that it claims be delivered to it.

This request created legal uncertainty and the case ended before the courts. The Appellate Court in Wrocław had doubts whether such request violates trade secrets of a company, and there are any guarantees to protect against fraud. The Court noted that the protection of trade secrets is guaranteed by the freedom of economic activity. That freedom may be restricted only for reasons of important public interest. Meanwhile, the interest of collecting societies is not the public interest, but the sum of the partial interests of private authors, creators and publishers.

The Constitutional Tribunal ruled that fees charged by Collecting Societies are collected in order to protect the rights of creators, performers, producers of phonograms and videograms and publishers. This means that the restriction of freedom of economic activity was in accordance to the condition expressed in Article 31(3) of the Polish Constitution.

Article 31
Freedom of the person shall receive legal protection.

Everyone shall respect the freedoms and rights of others. No one shall be compelled to do that which is not required by law.

Any limitation upon the exercise of constitutional freedoms and rights may be imposed only by statute, and only when necessary in a democratic state for the protection of its security or public order, or to protect the natural environment, health or public morals, or the freedoms and rights of other persons. Such limitations shall not violate the essence of freedoms and rights.

The Constitutional Tribunal held that in order to protect the rights of others, the legislature intervenes in the economic relations, that are based on the model of market economy in a democratic state, whose pillars are freedom of economic activity and private property. The Constitutional Tribunal held that Article 105(2) of the ARNR limits the freedom of economic activity, but it does not affect the principle of proportionality. The limitation of the freedom of economic activity serves to protect the interests and constitutional values ​​such as the rights of creators, social conditions and economic foundations of a market economy. The limitations of economic activity are necessary to protect these values, and to avoid state interference in the sphere of access to modern reprographic equipment.

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