Access to public information, case I OSK 667/11

October 23rd, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The mayor of the Polish town Rabka-Zdrój refused to disclose land-use planning maps. The request was filed according to the provisions of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments. The mayor decided that copyright law does not allow for the disclosure, because these maps were created by the Studio of Architecture and Urban Design from Kraków. The applicant filed a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Kraków in its judgment of 22 November 2010 case file II SAB/Kr 114/10 ordered to provide the requested information. The Mayor filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 July 2011 case file I OSK 667/11 dismissed it, and held that as public information are deemed not only documents that were directly created/edited and produced by a public authority, but such a character have also documents that the authority uses to carry out the tasks entrusted to the law, even if the copyrights belong to another entity. The most important is the fact, that these documents are used to carry out public tasks by certain authorities and have been produced on behalf of those bodies. Therefore, it is not about exercising copyrights, but about the access to the content of the document that was created on behalf of public administration in order to carry out public tasks. The SAC noted that this opinion is already established in the case law of administrative courts for many years. For instance, the judgment of the Supreme Administrative court of 9 February 2007 case file I OSK 517/06, the judgment of the SAC of 7 December 2010 case file I OSK 1774/10, or the judgment of the SAC of 18 September 2008 case file I OSK 315/08.

In this case, the Court had no doubt that the maps were made in order to perform a specific public task, and were commissioned by public administration body. Its disclosure is not deemed as exercise of the copyright, but as the implementation of the right to access public information. If, there were statutory barriers to disclose such information in a certain way or in a particular form, or there were statutory grounds for refusal of access to public information, the Mayor was obliged to deal with the request in the form of process. However, the lack of disclosure, and lack of procedural decisions in this matter meant, that it was administrative inaction.