Copyright law, case III CSK 30/11

March 14th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Helena Miazek is a well known Polish folk artist and creator of paper cuts that are based on the long tradition of Łowicz region. Wawel S.A. is a Polish manufacturer of sweets. The company used different graphics with folk elements on its products. Helena Miazek and Stowarzyszenie Twórców Ludowych in Lublin (The Folk Artists Association – a collecting society) sued Wawel for copyright infringement. The suit included a claim in which the Association demanded Wawel to provide information concerning the use of paper cuts on packaging products. Wawel argued that it has commissioned other artists to create these graphics. The District and the Appeallate Court dismissed the suit as unfounded. Both courts deemed the society as the entrepreneur which was obliged to prove that a particular copyrighted work was used without permission of the owner. The Association and Helena Miazek filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 17 October 2011 case file III CSK 30/11 repealed the contested decision and returned it to the Appellate Court for further reconsideration. The Court had to decide on the nature of information claim afforded in Article 105(2) 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.

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 collection societys 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.

Earlier Supreme Court case law is not too rich when it comes to this issue. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 8 December 2000 case file I CKN 971/98 published in OSNC 2001/6/97, pointed out that the provision included in Article 105(2) of the ARNR is a legal norm of substantive law, and the right of collecting societies to protect authors rights and neighbouring rights, exempts it from the obligation to provide the authority to represent, both in the trial for payment, or in any trial for disclosure of information and documents. The Supreme Court in its order of 17 September 2009 case file III CZP 57/09 held that the proceedings for disclosure of information and documentation is a new legal tool. The Court ruled that in the doctrine of civil law, it is reasonably assumed that if the right is strictly defined and concretized in terms of its content and subject, and when this right is merged with the obligation of another entity, then such a legal norm is substantive in its nature and in case of evasion by the bounded entity from the performance of an obligation imposed on it, the right takes the form of a claim which may be enforced through the courts. For instance, the claim to disclosure of information has the auxiliary nature under the contractual relationship between the collecting society and 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 who are obliged to pay remuneration fees, for the benefit of the creators and performers of the said works and of the producers of phonograms and videograms. These creators and performers are represented in such cases only by the collection society. Such informational claim, which addressed to the same bounded entities, was created to ensure the proper execution of the basic right to equitable remuneration. Information and documents obtained during the trail are the basis for determining the amount of the fees enjoyed by collecting society, regardless of whether the society intends to pursue these fees in court. The Supreme Court in the case of Helena Miazek and and Stowarzyszenie Twórców Ludowych in Lublin decided that the informational claim also applies to information concerning the use of certain works by a third party.

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