Criminal law, case II Ka 269/11

November 14th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Maria S. was charged by the Prosecutor based on the provisions of Article 278 § 2 of the Polish Criminal Code – CRC – (in Polish: Kodeks Karny) of 6 June 1997, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 88, item 553, with subsequent amendments.

Article 278. § 1. Whoever, with the purpose of appropriating, wilfully takes someone else’s movable property shall be subject to the penalty of deprivation of liberty for a term of between 3 months and 5 years.

§ 2. The same punishment shall be imposed on anyone, who without the permission of the authorised person, acquires someone else’s computer software, with the purpose of gaining material benefit.

Such situation happened because, during the investigation, the Police found on her laptop two shareware programs Win ZIP 8.1 and Win Rar 3.0. This software was valued 113,89 PLN each, and the period of time to buy a license already expired. Maria S. explained that she wasn’t aware that she had illegal software installed. She argued that both programs were installed by computer service technicians during the repair of her laptop. This statement was confirmed by a witness expert testimony. The expert said that both programs were installed at the same time, when the operating system was also configured. The expert noted that this is typical practice of computer services personnel who install software needed to install other programs, and do not remove it after the completion of repairing. At the time of installation of both programs, they were legal.

The Regional Court in Biłgoraj acquitted Maria S. of all charges. The Court found that she did not act in order to gain material benefits and she had no full awareness that her behavior lead to the obtainment of computer programs without the consent of the person entitled. The Prosecutor appealed. He argued that Maria S. was guilty because she wasn’t careful enough, and she did not buy both licenses immediately.

The District Court in Zamość in its judgment case file II Ka 269/11 upheld the verdict. The Court ruled that issues of normal or increased diligence or care that should appear in case of expired trial or shareware software, do not belong to the category of the constituent elements of the alleged offense.