Copyright law, case I A Cz 114/13

June 21st, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The District Court in Białystok in its order of 27 December 2012 case file VII GCo 71/12 dismissed the request of a copyright owner to secure evidence and to order a Polish ISP to disclose information on the personal data (name and address) that was associated with IP addresses of computers that were identified by a requesting party, and from which, via online peer-to-peer applications, unknown persons have made available different audiovisual works.

The Appeallate Court in Białystok in its order of 7 February 2013 case file I A Cz 114/13 dismissed an appeal in this case. The Court noted that under Polish law there is no uniform procedure governing disclosure of personal data for the purposes of civil proceedings. The processing of personal data are governed primarily by the Polish Act of 29 August 1997 on the Protection of Personal Data – PPD – (in Polish: Ustawa o ochronie danych osobowych), unified text published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 6 July 2002, No. 101, item 926, with subsequent amendments, the Polish Act of 16 July 2000 on Telecommunications Law – TLA – (in Polish: Prawo telekomunikacyjne), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 171, item 1800 with subsequent amendments and the Polish Act of 18 July 2002 on Providing Services by Electronic Means – PSEM – (in Polish: ustwa o świadczeniu usług droga elektroniczną), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 144, item. 1204 with subsequent amendments. These regulations guarantee the protection of personal data where their processing (including their disclosure) is always an exception to the rules for their protection. The provisions of Article 80 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 that were introduced to the system of protection of intellectual property rights as a result of the implementation of Directive 2004/48/EC, are solutions distinct and relatively independent of regulation included in the PPD, TLA and PSEM.

The Court ruled that pursuant to Article 80 of the ARNR, an entity with a legitimate interest may request the competent court, among others, to secure evidence (Article 80(1) of the ARNR) and to oblige other person than the one that is infringing copyrights, to provide information that is relevant to future claims, if such a third party provides services used in infringing activities and such actions lead directly or indirectly to profit or other economic benefits (Article 80(1)(iii)(c) of the ARNR).

Article 80. 1.
The court competent to hear the cases of infringement of the author’s economic rights in the locality where the offender conducts its activity or where his economic is located, also prior to filing suit, shall consider, within no more than 3 days of filing, an application of a party with legal interest therein:
1) for securing evidence and securing claims related thereto;
2) for obliging the person who infringed the author’s economic rights to provide information and any documentation specified by the court and being material to the claims referred to in Article 79(1);
3) for obliging a person other than the infringing party to provide information material to the claim defined in Article 79(1) on the origin, distribution networks, volume and price of goods or services which infringe the author’s economic rights, provided that:
a) such person has been confirmed to have goods which breach the author’s economic rights; or
b) such person has been confirmed to benefit from services which breach the author’s economic
rights; or
c) such person has been confirmed to render services used in any acts which the breach author’s
economic rights; or
d) the person specified in letters (a), (b) or (c) indicated a person who participated in production, manufacturing or distribution of goods or rendering of services in breach of the author’s economic rights and the purpose of any of the above actions is to generate, directly or indirectly, profit or any other economic benefit, although it does not include any actions by consumers acting in good faith.
2. If it admits any evidence or considers any applications referred to in paragraph 1, the court ensures that the operator’s business secrets as well as all other secrets protected by law are kept confidential.

In this case, the request of the copyright owner included both legal instruments. In terms of the preservation of evidence, however, was it was worded incorrectly, because as noted previously, the applicant exclusively requested personal data that would allow him for identifying potential defendants in cases of copyright infringement. The Court ruled that these data do not constitute evidence for the purposes of the process. As a result, the Court decided on the obligation to provide relevant information as provided in the Article 80(1)(iii)(c) of the ARNR. The Court agreed with the opinion that the condition for the application of this provisions, as in the each case of temporary measures, is to authenticate the claim i.e. provide prima facie evidence that there is/was copyright infringement, and to describe its legal interest in obtaining the information. First, it is necessary to demonstrate a prima facie evidence of the claim that the applicant holds the copyright to the work. In this regard, “in favor” of the entity seeking legal protection speaks presumption provided in Article 15 of the ARNR according to which it shall be presumed that the producer or publisher is the person whose surname or the name is provided in the goods on which the work is embodied, or made public in any way in connection with the dissemination of the work. This provision implements the rule of presumption of authorship or ownership, as set out in Article 5 of the Directive 2004/48/EC. The applicant, who is a film producer, presented a printout from its website containing information about audiovisual works concerned. The Court assumed that the annotation “rights reserved”, justify the inclusion of the applicant presumption.

The dispute in this case focused on the probable circumstances of unauthorized use (dissemination) of copyrighted works, and about the legal consequences, escalating in electronic communication, the phenomenon of exchange and distribution of files (mostly music or video), using peer 2 peer software. As a rule, it is assumed in the legal doctrine and the Appellate Court agreed with this opinion that, due to the fact that when the file is downloaded from the Internet by a user of a peer-to-peer program it is also simultaneously made available for downloading for others, such action is not part of an allowed personal use referred to in Article 23 of the ARNR.

However, the Court noted that the very presence of files (copyrighted works) in resources of a user of a peer to peer file sharing network cannot automatically lead to a conclusion as to its distribution (making available) for the purposes of copyright law. The Court was aware that there is a technical possibility to block other users’ access to resources on a hard disk, which results in the fact that at the time the file is downloaded via peer-to-peer, it only provides packages – pieces of work, to download for others, which does not allow for its replication. Secondly, in order to provide its resources in peer to peer networks, a user is required the run a proper computer program.

In this case, the Court agreed that all copyright works were made available beyond the allowed personal use (the concept similar to fair use). It has been proven that subscribers of the ISP have acquired copyrighted works (movies) via peer-to-peer networks (using programs such as µTorrent and BitComet), which were produced by the applicant. These movies were actually made available to other users, as it was testified by a witness. As a result, the Court has found the argument of a probable copyright infringement of audiovisual works owned by the applicant, as justified. There was no doubt also for the Court that the ISP is an entity referred to in the provisions of Article 80(1)(iii)(c) of the ARNR. The company provides commercial services that are used for public sharing of unauthorized copyrighted works – the ISP provides access to Internet for a fee, which is a forum of exchange and distribution of audiovisual files within the peer to peer networks. The Court agreed that the applicant had legitimate interest (locus standi) in obtaining relevant information. Such information would allow for identification/personalization of Internet users infringing copyrights, in order to properly initiate civil proceedings against them, and the proper preparation of a lawsuit. The Court noted that the information on the distribution networks, referred to in Article 80(1)(iii) of the ARNR, include, in principle, the data on entities (names and addresses) who unauthorized distribute works protected by copyright law and therefore infringe the copyrights of their owners. Consequently, pursuant to provisions of Article 80(1)(iii) of the ARNR the copyright owner of audiovisual works may require the ISP, to disclose personal data (name and address of residence) of entities who share and distribute audiovisual works protected by copyright in peer to peer networks.

On the basis of Article 8 of Directive 2004/48/EC, providing information that would be used for the protection of intellectual property rights is conditional, and it’s based on the proportionality of the request. The principle of proportionality expresses the idea of making only those activities that are essential and necessary to achieve a particular purpose and those that are appropriate in the circumstances of a case, i.e. they restrict the rights of others as little as it is possible. In this situation, it was necessary for the Court to consider whether in the circumstances of this case, the objective of protecting intellectual property rights justified the abandonment of the protection of personal data of entities who allegedly infringed copyrights. The guidance on the interpretation of these rules are provided in the Directive itself, and more specifically in the provisions its preamble. Namely, in section 14, the Community lawmakers have clearly indicated that the measures include in Article 8 section 1 of Directive need to be applied only in respect of acts carried out on a commercial scale.. The reason for this is certainly the fact that commercial activities are carried out for direct or indirect economic benefit on a large scale and thus significantly affect the property rights of the creators of works. The principle of proportionality provided in Article 8 of Directive 2004/48/EC is also incorporated in Article 80(1)(iii) of the ARNR, which means that the disclosure of information, and the subject of the data, in particular personal data, the Court should decide, taking into account the weight and the scale of the infringement of copyrights, especially from the perspective of the actions of persons violating the law, for profit.

According to the Appeallate Court, the applicant has failed to demonstrate that the request for access to personal data of individuals is in line with the principle discussed. First of all, on the basis of the evidence materials, it could not be assumed that different users have made available audiovisual works for commercial purposes. Secondly, the attached evidence showed that the case was dealing with eight different users who with the help of peer-to-peer networks have shared with only one movie, so the scope of the alleged infringements of copyright applicant, was not significant.

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