Copyright law, case VI ACa 461/11

November 3rd, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Maryla Rodowicz is a well-known singer in Poland. She composed and recorded a song entitled “Marusia” about a Russian soldier-girl that was one of heroines from the book “Czterej pancerni i pies” written by Janusz Przymanowski. Mrs Rodowicz also created a video clip for this song. You can easily search and find it on YouTube. She used 3 minutes of the TV series entitled “Czterej pancerni i pies” where Marusia is portrayed by Polish actress Pola Raksa. Mrs Rodowicz paid 9.000 PLN of licensee fee to the producer Telewizja Polska S.A. A widow of the writer filed a copyright infringement suit claiming that this ridiculous video violated his personal and economic copyrights.

The Appellate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 27 October 2011 case file VI ACa 461/11 had to answer the most important question, i.e. what was the nature of the video clip. Expert witnesses that were appointed by the agreement of both parties stated that the video is not an inspired work, because it directly incorporated some parts of the TV series. It wasn’t also a derivative work since it did not creatively transform the original work. Experts said that this was a work with borrowings, that copied fragments of someone else’s work where the right of quotation was exceeded. However, such use requires the consent of the copyright holder. The problem was that the producer was not able to provide the agreements from the time when the series was produced. The Court held, that in this case copyrights to the script are in the hands of creators, including Mr Przymanowski and his heirs. The Court ordered Maryla Rodowicz to pay 37.000 PLN of compensation.

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