Copyright law, case I ACa 1663/13

August 19th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

During a political campaign in 2011, Dariusz Dolczewski posted a movie clip on his profile on Facebook in which he used images of young politicians from other party. This clip had a background music taken from a rap song “Suczki” (Bitches) that was recorded by Dominik Grabowski, known as Doniu. Grabowski sued.

The District Court for Warszawa-Praga in its judgment of 12 July 2013 case file I C 504/12 held that there was copyright infringement and ordered Dolczewski to pay 17.500 PLN compensation. More importantly, the Court ruled that posting a link on Facebook can be also deemed as infringement of copyrighted works. Both parties appealed.

The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 7 May 2014 case file I ACa 1663/13 repealed the contested judgment and held that the politician is not liable for copyright infringement, because since the defendant was not the author of this audiovisual work (the clip), therefore he could not be found guilty for posting a link to such work. The Court also presented a very original conclusions apropos tangible and digital copy of the work. This issue arose in the discussion regarding the provision of the Polish Act on Authors Rights and Neighbouring Rights – ARNR – (in Polish: ustawa o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych) of 4 February 1994, 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.

The Court ruled that recording of a work is undoubtedly the moment when one may accept the existence of a song. Traditionally, recording always, according to the provisions of ARNR, was related to the existence of material copy of the work. In the opinion of the Court of Appeal, the so-called “tangible copy theory” must be applied to digital world. First of all, one must realize the essence of digital recording, which forms the basis of operation and content availability on the Internet. The Court noted that the difference between conventional tangible copy and a digital copy is the fact that the data stored digitally may be removed, but such data/information also have physical location on the media, can also be duplicated, but always and at any time on a material substrate in the form of a computer memory, or a recording unit, regardless of how information is stored. Only such solution allows for the use of information. Therefore, the possibility to play a song, whether on a computer or on another device determines the existence of a copy of the work in a tangible form.

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