Archive for: e-law issues

E-access to public information, case I OSK 1203/12

October 19th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Association of Leaders of Local Civic Groups (SLLGO) requested the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to disclose documents and the correspondence, including e-mails, that concerned recent legislative works on the amendments to the Polish Act on Access to Public Information. The Prime Minister disclosed part of the requested materials, but without indicated e-mails. The representative of the Prime Minister argued that e-mails are used to send text messages, they are used as internal correspondence in the office, as well as with external entities. E-mails consists of various documents of varying importance, significance and category (from the private and business). However, it is not a system of receiving and processing of official documents and the exchange of official correspondence, including these on the legislative process. The system serves for communications between certain individuals, rather than for the presentation of the official positions of the administration. The SLLGO filed a complaint and argued that the Prime Minister failed to act in order to disclose the requested information.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 1 December 2012 case file II SAB/Wa 295/11 agreed with the SLLGO. The Court ruled that requested e-mails are not private, and they are used to exchange opinions, positions and evaluations between persons exercising public functions. There was no doubt that such electronic means were used for the evaluation and position with respect to the specific provisions of the Act amending the Act on Access to Public Information and other laws. The Court did not agree with the Prime Minister that such exchange of information was intended for internal use and it has working and preparatory nature. The Prime Minister filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 14 September 2012 case file I OSK 1203/12 annulled the contested judgment. The Court agreed with the PM and decided that e-mails are internal documents. This issue has been resolved in the same way by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 21 June 2012 case file I OSK 666/12. See “E-access to public information, case I OSK 666/12“.

See also “Polish case law on e-access to public information“.

Criminal law, case IV K 875/07

September 19th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

A person, who was working in a call center of one of the Polish telecommunication company, has used social service offered by that company and sent to subscribers of the telecommunications company a text message in which he made derogatory statements regarding another person. This person felt insulted and brought private charges based on the provisions of Article 212 § 2 of the 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.

The Regional Court for Warszawa City IV Criminal Division in its judgment of 5 July 2012 case file IV K 875/07 sentenced the accused person to a fine. The Court held that the sent message humiliated this person in public and exposed to the loss of trust necessary for the conduct of his business. The case was heard on 33 hearings.

Criminal law, case III K 56/12

September 14th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Robert Frycz created a website that was available under anytkomor.pl domain. The domain name and the content referred to the activities of the Polish president Bronisław Komorowski. It hosted a game entitled “Komor Killer” in which the player was able to throw feces in the animated figure of the President Komorowski.

The Prosecutor Office from Tomaszów Mazowiecki pressed charges against Mr Frycz based on the provisions of Article 135 § 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 135. § 1. Whoever commits an active assault on the President of the Republic of Poland
shall be subject to the penalty of the deprivation of liberty for a term of between 3 months and 5 years.
§ 2. Whoever insults the President of the Republic of Poland in public
shall be subject to the penalty of the deprivation of liberty for up to 3 years.

The judge decided to conceal the hearing due to breach of good manners and important private interests of the Polish President. The District Court in Piotrków Trybunalski in its judgment of 14 September 2012 case file III K 56/12 found Mr Frycz guilty and sentenced him for the penalty of one year and three months of of the restriction of liberty with the obligation to perform 40 hours of community service per month.

Access to public information, case I OSK 903/12

September 11th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Daniel Macyszyn, acting as the President of the ePaństwo Foundation, asked the First President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland to disclose information why and on what legal basis, the Supreme Court in its decision No. BSA III – 055-90/11 posted references to the LEX software that is published by Wolters Kluwer, in situation when information available under these references is available for free and in public repositories that are published by the Supreme Administrative Court, and there are also other commercial legal information systems available on the Polish market. The Foundation wanted to know, whether the Supreme Court has the license for the use of LEX software. If the answer was positive, the Foundation inquired when, and in what procedure, and for what price and how many licences were purchased, and what were the criteria for selecting this software. Mr Macyszyn also aksed why the Supreme Court uses this software and not the public and free resources such as repositories of decisions of administrative courts, provided by the Supreme Administrative Court and the gazettes published by the Government Legislative Centre. The last question was whether the Supreme Court cooperates with the Wolters Kluwer on matters other than purchasing a license by the Supreme Court to the LEX. The First President refused to initiate proceedings with regard to disclosure of the requested information and noted that civil law contracts between public authorities with third parties operating in the sphere of private law, do not belong to the category of public information, consequently, they cannot be disclosed to anybody. Such contracts do not in fact belong to the category of “public information” within the meaning of Article 6(1) pt. 4 of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments.

Article 6. 1. The following information is subject to being made available, in particular on:
1) internal and foreign policy, including:
a) intentions of legislative and executive authorities,
b) drafts on normative acts,
c) programmes on realisation of public tasks, method of their realisation, performance and consequences of the realisation of these tasks,
2) entities, defined in Article 4, it. 1, including:
a) legal status or legal form,
b) organisation,
c) subject of activity and competencies,
d) bodies and persons performing functions therein and competencies,
e) property structure of entities, defined in Article 4, it. 1, points 3-5,
f) property they dispose of,
3) principles of functioning of entities, defined in Article 4, it. 1, including:
a) mode of conduct of public authorities and their organisational units,
b) mode of conduct of state legal persons and legal persons of local authorities in the area of performing public tasks and their activity within the frames of budget and non-budget economy,
c) methods of passing private-public acts,
d) methods of accepting and settling matters,
e) state of accepted cases, order of their settling or resolving,
f) conducted registers, books and archives and on methods and principles of making data there contained available,
4) public data, including:
a) contents and form of official documents, in particular:
– contents of administrative acts and other resolutions,
– documentation on the control and its effects as well as presentations, opinions, conclusions and statements of the entities having conducted the control,
b) opinion on public issues made by the bodies of public authority and by the public officers in the understanding of the provisions of the Penal Code,
c) contents of other presentations and assessments made by the bodies of public authority,
d) information on the condition of the state, local authorities and their organisational units,
5) public property, including:
a) property of the State Treasury and state legal persons,
b) other property rights to which the state and its debts are entitled to,
c) property of the units of local authority and professional and economic local authorities as well as property of legal persons of local authorities and the ill persons’ offices,
d) property of the entities, defined in Article 4, it. 1, point 5, coming from disposing of the property, defined in c. a) – c) as well as the profits from this property and its encumbrances,
e) incomes and losses of the commercial companies in which the entities, defined in c. a) – c) hold the dominant position in the understanding of the provisions of the Commercial Companies Code and disposal of this income and the method of covering losses,
f) public debt,
g) public assistance,
h) public burden.
2. The official document in the understanding of this Act is the text of declaration of will or knowledge, preserved and signed in any form by the public officer in the understanding of the provisions of the Penal Code within the frames of its competencies, directed to another entity or filed to the acts.

The Foundation requested for the re-hearing and the First President again refused. Daniel Macyszyn filed a complaint against these two refusal orders.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 10 January 2012 case file II SA/Wa 2257/11 repealed both orders of the First President and ruled them unenforceable. The First President filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 September 2012 case file I OSK 903/12 dismissed it and held that any agreement between the public authorities and other entities, is deemed as public information. The Supreme Administrative Court pointed out that in matters of access to public information, the public authority cannot refuse to initiate proceedings. It have to either disclose public information, or if there are situations provided in Article 5 of the API, refuse to disclose such information, but in the form of a decision. But even while considering by the authority, whether the requested information is public information, or in case that would lead to the answer that the information is not public information, or that the authority simply does not have it, the proceedings were already initiated, therefore it cannot refuse to initiate it.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 September 2012 case file I OSK 916/12 dismissed another cassation complaint filed by the First President against the judgment of the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw of 10 January 2012 case file II SA/Wa 2259/11 that repealed orders of the First President of the Supreme Court in which it refused to initiate proceedings to disclose information on the content of the contracts, which the Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland, the authorities or persons acting under the authority of the government, concluded with the company Wolters Kluwer, with regard to series of books published by Wolters Kluwer such as “Studies and analysis of the Supreme Court” and “Bulletin of the Supreme Court – Labour and Social Security and Public Affairs Chamber”, and the disclosure
of the contents of the contracts, which the Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland, the authorities or any person acting from on behalf of the authorities, have concluded with the publishing house LexisNexis Publishing sp. z o.o,, with regard to a series of publications such as “The case law of the Supreme Court – Civil Chamber (OSNC)”, “The case law of the Supreme Court – Labour, Social Security and Public Affairs Chamber (OSNP)”, and disclosure of the contents of the contracts, which the Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland, the authorities or persons acting under the authority of the government, concluded with the Editorial Board of the “Palestra” with regard to a series of publications entitled “The case law of the Supreme Court – Criminal Chamber and the Military Chamber (OSNKW)”. The Foundation requested also the disclosure of information on what procedure governed the purchase of the above mentioned periodicals by the Supreme Court, in what amounts and for what price.

Trade mark law, case Sp. 202/12

September 11th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Apple, Inc. filed the request for invalidation of the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark A.PL registered for goods and services in Class 9, 35 and 42 and owned by the Polish company Internet S.A. from Warszawa. The Polish company also provides an online grocery store under the domain name a.pl. The main arguments presented by the U.S. company were based on confusing similarity between the sign A.PL and national and Community trade marks that are owned by Apple. Arguments based on the unfair use of the reputation were also raised.

R-222253

The Adjudicative Board held the first hearing on 29 august 2012 case no. Sp. 202/12. However, due to the large volume of evidence supplied by Apple, the hearing was adjourned.

Criminal law, case II W 363/12

August 30th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

A person who used a nickname “Leon z gazowni” wrote derogatory comments on Internet forum regarding the death of Polish soldiers in Afghanistan. Jacek Żebryk, a Polish soldier who served in Afghanistan, and whose friend died on the mission, informed the Prosecutor Office in Białogard about the possibility of committing a crime. The Prosecutor located the computer of Jerzy W. and charged him based on the provisions of Article 52a of the Polish Code of Offences – PCO – (in Polish: Kodeks wykroczeń) of 20 May 1971, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 1971, No 12, item 114, with subsequent amendments.

Whoever:
1) publicly incites to commit a crime or tax offense,
2) publicly incites to violent action in order to prevent an act that constitutes source of universally binding law of the Republic of Poland,
3) publicly applauds a crime,
if coverage of the act or its effects were not significant – shall be liable to arrest, restriction of liberty or a fine.

The Regional Court in Środa Wielkopolska in its judgment case file II W 363/12 found the person guilty and fined him 100 PLN. The case was decided in the prescriptive procedure in criminal proceedings. Jerzy W. failed to appear at the hearing. He also did not file an appeal, so the judgment became final after 7 days.

Personal data protection, case I OSK 1827/11

August 29th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Inspector General for Personal Data Protection (GIODO) in its decision of 24 September 2010, no. DIS/DEC-1134/38146/10 ordered the Polish company Info Veriti Polska Sp. z o.o. Obsługa Serwisu Internetowego Sp.J., the publisher of online database of Polish entrepreneurs, to inform the individuals whose data that were publicly available in sources such as Court’s Monitor and Economic Monitor and which have been collected and preserved by the Company, according to the information requirement referred to in Article 25(1) of 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, within 3 months from the date on which this decision becomes final.

1. In case where the data have not been obtained from the data subject, the controller is obliged to provide the data subject, immediately after the recording of his/her personal data, with the following information:
1) the address of its seat and its full name, and in case the controller is a natural person about the address of his/her residence and his/her full name,
2) the purpose and the scope of data collection, and in particular, about the data recipients or categories of recipients,
3) the source of data,
4) the existence of the data subject’s right of access to his/her data and the right to rectify these data,
5) the powers resulting from Article 32 paragraph 1 point 7 and 8.

Furthermore, the GIODO ordered the Company to register the collection of personal data of customers (owners of e-mail addresses) within 30 days from the date on which the decision becomes final, to allow users of infoveriti.pl website to freely consent to the processing of their personal data for marketing purposes within 30 days from the date on which this decision becomes final, to create documentation establishing security policy and the intruction for management of IT system that used to process personal data, within 30 days from the date on which this decision becomes final, to grant the authorization to the processing of personal data to persons who are allowed to process personal data within 14 days from the date on which this decision becomes final, and to create a record of persons authorized to process personal data within 14 days from the date on which this decision becomes final. Info Veriti argued that the provisions of Article 25(1) of the PPO should not apply in its case because the provision of other law provides and allows for personal data collection without the need to notify the data subject. Such allowance happens in the case of laws that introduced a formal disclosure of public registers, that include records containing personal information. The formal disclosure of a registry means the right of everyone to access data in the register, without the need to show the legal or factual interest. Due to the widespread legitimacy in terms of access to recorded data, a person obtaining information from the register is not in any way identified during data acquisition. The Laws relating to public records and registers, also do not require explicit registration of the collected data, and there is no knowledge of the registration body of when and to whom the data were disclosed. Moreover, some registration authorities, on the basis of generally formulated principles of transparency, put the data from public records for public networks such as the Internet, which makes impossible to control access of who accessed such register. The GIODO noted that the PPD does not prohibit the creation of separate collections based on data from sources generally available, however, it does not mean that such collections are not subject to the provisions of the PPD. The Company receives data from the National Court Register in order to create a separate database, which uses for its own commercial purposes. In this way, Info Veriti Polska becomes the administrator of the collected data, therefore, as the controller, it is obliged to information requirements. The right of individuals to keep information regarding their situation and status in private, is constitutionally guaranteed, and may be restricted exclusively by laws that have the statutory rank (only Acts). The Act on the National Court Register (KRS) is just such an act. In this case, the record of a natural person entered to the KRS is publicly available, because such Register was created to ensure the transparency of the economic market in Poland. The persons referred to in the Act on the National Court Register, are therefore required to provide their data for inclusion in the register and they must also reckon with the disclosure. This does not mean, however, that they must agree to the use of their data for purposes other than the generally speaking, transparency of economic activity. However, the data controller that processes personal data should provide due care in order to protect the interests of the persons whose data were collected and in particular to ensure that the data were collected for specified and legitimate purposes and are not further processed in a way incompatible with those purposes. The GIODO also noted that the list of situations that allow for waive the requirement to provide information, referred to in 25(1) of the PPD has changed as a result of amendments to the Act that were made in 2004. The provision of Article 25(2) pt 2 that allowed to waive the abovementioned obligation in a situation where the data provided for collection are generally available, was repealed. For these reasons, it was obvious that the intention of the legislature was to require data controllers who collect data “generally available” to completing the duties arising out of the provision of Article 25(1) of the PPD.

The company filed a complaint to the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw against the decisions issued by the GIODO. Info Veriti requested the Court to decide on the invalidity, or their repeal, in addition, the Company has applied for stay of the execution of the contested decisions and the order to return the costs of proceedings. Infor Veirit claimed that the processed data is very limited, restricted to surname, the national identification number (PESEL), date of birth and functions performed in the entities disclosed in the KRS. Therefore, it is impossible to provide information to persons whose data are processed, because some of them have historical character. These are people who in the past served specific functions. The data administrator is not able to provide such individuals with the required information. The data controller does not process data allowing for direct contact with a person (e.g. home address), and sending information to the address of the entity (e.g. companies created according to the provisions of the Polish Code of Commercial Companies), which in the past served a given function, can not be considered for the execution of the decision. In order to comply with the decision, Info Veriti would need to gather additional categories of data to make contact and send the required information. However, such an obligation should clearly expressed in the decision, which has not happened. The Company has no legal basis for the acquisition of new categories of personal data. The deadline of three months that was ordered by the GIODO is unrealistic in order to collect the required contact data in relation to all of the data are included in the database. The Company noted that its database contains all the data entered in the National Court Register. The purpose of data entered in the National Court Register is closely related to business transactions, and the widespread availability of the registry should not be regarded as interference in the private sphere of the individual whose data is disclosed in the registry. There isn’t therefore a need to notify such persons regarding the process of collecting their personal data, as instruments of public-law on protection of personal data are treated as protection of the right to privacy. The person who serves or served in the bodies of commercial companies must accept that the data will be in an open public record to which access will have anyone interested in business. The purpose of transparency and certainty of economic activity, according to the legislator, prevails over the protection of the name, surname, date of birth and the PESEL number of the persons who performed specific functions in the bodies that were entered into the KRS. Info Veriti also disagreed with the opinion of the GIODO, which opposes the existence and goals of the KRS and data collection of the Company, the latter being also created in order to provide the transparency of economic activity. Services provided by the Company are based on data from public records and explicitly relate to economic activity of specific individuals. Such commercial processing of data previously collected by public entities is allowed by EU law, such as Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information. Information on such entities contributes to the establishment of the internal market and creates a system ensuring undisturbed competition in that market. It is also emphasized that public sector information is an important starting material for products and services related to digital content, and more opportunities to re-use this information should allow European companies to use their potential and contribute to economic growth and job creation. As “information services” of Info Veriti are based on data obtained from public records, they fit into the goals provided in the recitals of the Directive 2003/98/EC. According to Infor Veirit, the consequences of the position taken in the decisions of the GIODO, which implies obligation to provide information to any person that collects data from the National Court Register, if there are situations referred to in Article 2 (1-2) of the PPD, are also unacceptable.

Article 2
1. The Act shall determine the principles of personal data processing and the rights of natural persons whose personal data is or can be processed as a part of a data filing system.
2. The Act shall apply to the processing of personal data in:
1) files, indexes, books, lists and other registers,
2) computer systems, also in case where data are processed outside from a data filing system.

Such requirement would have to be commonly executed in the course of trade in relation to a number of activities related to the acquisition of data from the National Court Register. Given the widespread use of copies of the KRS, that are used for instance to identify the persons authorized to represent the company at the conclusion of the contract, such an interpretation would lead to economic paralysis, and certainly also to the irrational (excessive) financial costs, in the name of privacy protection, which in the present case does not occur.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 2 June 2011 case file II SA/Wa 720/11 dismissed the complaint. The Court held that the Polish legislator afforded the citizen’s right to privacy in Articles 47, 49 and 51 of the Constitution. This also includes the protection of personal data and privacy against excessive interference by others. The provision of Article 47 of the Constitution sets out the principle of the protection of private life, Article 49 provides for the protection of the correspondence, while the provision of Article 51 states that no one shall be obliged, except under the Act to disclose information concerning his person, a public authority may not acquire, collect and share information on citizens other than those necessary in a democratic state ruled by law, everyone has the right of access to official documents and it datasets. Limitation of this right may be established by statute (act), and to anyone has the right to request the correction or deletion of information incorrect, incomplete, or collected in a manner inconsistent with the Act. These regulations are expanded in 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, which in turn refers to the solutions contained in Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data. These instruments created a basic framework for data protection in the Republic of Poland. The PPD created statutory principle of the protection of personal data. In accordance with Article 1 of the PPD, any person has a right to have his/her personal data protected. The processing of personal data can be carried out in the public interest, the interest of the data subject, or the interest of any third party, within the scope and subject to the procedure provided for by the Act. The protection of personal data is a fundamental right of citizens in a democratic state of law. Protection of personal data is closely connected with the protection of private life and, therefore, it determines the freedom of the citizen. The right to protection of personal data, however, is not absolute and it is limited in the interests of the public or justified interests of others. However, since it is a citizen’s right, that determines a person’s sense of freedom, the exceptions allowing for the collection and use of personal data should be subject to strict interpretation. The legislature guided by the values of protection of constitutional rights cannot allow for a situation in which the law by the wider interpretation of the provisions relating to the processing of personal data, is violated. The provisions of the Act on the National Court Register lay down the rules of registration and the rules of disclosure of data. Such data are available electronically by the Central Information of the KRS or by viewing the register files in the appropriate departments of the Polish courts. These data are made available to any interested person, for the purposes of certainty of economic activity. The persons who undertakes an activity that is to be entered into the KRS, knows that the data is maintained by the State in the registry and data will be used only on the basis of the provisions relating to the functioning of the registry. Meanwhile, Info Veriti collects personal data and information disclosed in the register, such as surname, the PESEL number into its own database, in which data are processed. Data and information from the KRS are not intended for this purpose, and the people who share their personal information do not accept the fact that their personal data had been placed in another private database. When entrepreneurs decide to place their data into the KRS, they also have confidence that such data will be disclosed and used only in a manner permitted by the Act on the National Court Register. The legislature cannot allow for the situation that the protection of personal data contained in the KRS will not be limited to entities that wish to use the data for other purposes, and in a different way than permitted by the Act on the National Court Register. At this time, it would lead to a situation in which data from KRS could be used in an unrestricted way, against the will of the people entered into the register, for instance, in order to create a database for the marketing campaign. The court did not agree with the argument that the contested decision is contrary to the provisions of Directive 2003/98/EC. According to the court, the Directive does not apply directly to the Polish law, as EU directives are implemented into the law of a Member State and only then enter into force in the legal system. This Directive is not implemented to the Polish law, and Poland still works on the implementation. The court held that the contested decision is enforceable. Info Veriti builds its own database and has data that allow the Company to perform the information requirement to those who are in the database. It is possible because there are surnames and PESEL numbers of individuals, and businesses headquarters, where they perform given functions. Moreover, Info Veriti may use the services of the Central Bureau of Domiciliary. The fact that it is a big organizational task and it involves a large number of people does not mean that it is not feasible. By building a large database the Company had to be aware that in relation to the number of people it will have specific obligations according to the provisions of the PPD. Info Veriti filed a requested to stay the execution of the decisions.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 30 September 2011 case file I OSK 1827/11 decided to stay the execution of both decisions.

Tax law, case I FSK1644/11

August 27th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

A taxpayer who sold the old porcelain and books which were inherited from grandparents and parents, and bought on the antique fairs, was ordered by the Polish tax authorities to pay VAT for four years. Every year the taxpayer sold hundreds of these things, for more than three thousand PLN. Only 3089 PLN is the amount of income received during the year that is deemed as free of tax,. According to tax authorities this activity could not be regarded as a hobby, but as a professional activity, that should be taxed.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 August 2012 case file I FSK 1644/11 dismissed the complaint of the taxpayer.

Consumer protection, case XVII Amc 5817/11

August 26th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Court of Competition and Consumer Protection in its judgment of 31 May 2012 case file XVII Amc 5817/11 held that an entrepreneur cannot include in its terms of telecommunication services any regulations and provisions which would release it from the liability for any loss due to lack of customer access to the service provided. Activities that intend to misinformation, confusion, misconception or are directed to exploit ignorance or naivety of the customers and consumers, are contrary to good customs.

Personal interests, case I C 116/12

August 9th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Eryk Schuman wrote an article regarding Klaudiusz Sevkovic who is an alderman of Chorzów city and also the president of the local handball club. This critical piece appeared at dlachorzowa.pl website. According Mr Schuman, the data given in the declaration of interests of the alderman, could indicate that Mr Sevkovic uses the communal property in his private economic activities. Sevkovic filed a suit for the protection of his personal interests. He argued that the article overstated the amount of cash taken from the club. Mr Schuman wrote that the alderman took 275 thousand PLN (Schuman used the abbreviation “tys.” which stands for thousand in Polish) for a contract work. The journalist referred to a statement of financial interests filed by Sevkovic. However, the amount disclosed in the statement was 275 PLN not 275 tys. PLN. Schuman argued that it was an unintentional mistake in the text, and it was corrected immediately after he noticed it. He noted that the goal of the article was to draw attention to irregularities of the activities of alderman. Meanwhile, Sevkovic argued that such false information was visible on at least for two weeks and it was removed only after sending a letter to the editor to request a correction, and to publish an apology, which, however, never appeared on the website.

The District Court in Katowice in its judgment of 6 August 2012 case file I C 116/12 ruled that Eryk Schuman infringed Mr Sevkovic’s personal interest. The Court noted that the article served to undermine the credibility and good name of Sevkovic in the public opinion. The Court did not consider the text in question as a “typographical error”.

Database protection, case C‑138/11

August 3rd, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Court of Justice of the EU in its judgment of 12 July 2012 in Case C‑138/11 ruled that the activity of a public authority consisting in the storing, in a database, of data which undertakings are obliged to report on the basis of statutory obligations, in permitting interested persons to search for that data and/or in providing them with print-outs thereof does not constitute an economic activity, and that public authority is not, therefore, to be regarded, in the course of that activity, as an undertaking, within the meaning of Article 102 TFEU. The fact that those searches and/or that provision of print-outs are carried out in consideration for remuneration provided for by law and not determined, directly or indirectly, by the entity concerned, is not such as to alter the legal classification of that activity. In addition, when such a public authority prohibits any other use of the data thus collected and made available to the public, by relying upon the sui generis protection granted to it as maker of the database pursuant to Article 7 of Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 1996 on the legal protection of databases, or upon any other intellectual property right, it also does not exercise an economic activity and is not therefore to be regarded, in the course of that activity, as an undertaking, within the meaning of Article 102 TFEU.

E-access to public information, case II SAB/Wa 30/12

August 3rd, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

A Polish citizen requested a Mayor of the Community to disclose copy of the existing office instructions which are in force in the community. Mayor replied that information covered by the request is available on the Community website. The applicant filed a complaint on the failure to act.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 July 2012 case file II SAB/Wa 30/12 ruled that the public authority has not provided the requested information, because the Mayor had only indicated its source – the online Public Information Bulletin (BIP). According to the Court, the Mayor should also give a direct link, under which the requested information is located. The mere URL to the BIP of the Community, cannot be considered as complying with the request.

See also “Polish case law on e-access to public information“.

Tax law, case I SA/Łd 657/12

August 2nd, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Łódź in its judgment of 29 June 2012 case file I SA/Łd 657/12 held that the agreement that provides the website to use for advertisers is deemed as the unnamed contract and is similar in its provisions to a contract of tenancy as defined in the Article 693 of the Civil Code – CC – (in Polish: Kodeks Cywilny) of 23 April 1964, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 16, item 93, with subsequent amendments.

Article 693. § 1. By a contract of tenancy, the landlord shall assume the obligation to give a thing to the tenant for use and the collection of fruits for definite or indefinite time, and the tenant shall assume the obligation to pay to the landlord the rent agreed upon.

The Court decided that the income from advertising should be taxed like tenancy contracts or leases, which allows a taxpayer to choose a lump sum settlement on registered revenues.

Personal interests, case I ACa 689/13

August 1st, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

FS File Solutions Ltd. is the owner of a popular hosting website chomikuj.pl that allows for hosting different files by using a simple web interface. The Polish Chamber of Books (PCB) is Poland’s publishing industry trade body that found many of its titles available on chomikuj.pl without the permission of copyright holders. The PCB issued negative press and TV statements regarding chomiku.pl policy and business model. The Company sued the PCB for the infringement of its personal interests. FS claimed that by calling it “pirate service” the PCB infringed on its the company name (firm).

The District Court in Warszawa I Civil Chamber in its judgment of 20 February 2013 case file I C 407/12 ruled that PCB did not infringed personal interests of FS. File Solutions filed an appeal.

The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 10 October 2013 case file I ACa 689/13 returned the case to the District Court.

Access to public information, case I OSK 896/12

July 29th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Edwin Góral, the Polish legal advisor (a profession similar to English solicitor), requested the Office of the Attorney General of the State Treasury to print at his own expense and sent him all the lawsuits and complaints filed by the Attorney General of the State Treasury Office in 2011, until 30 June. The President of the Office refused to disclose the requested information and decided that the Office of the Attorney General of the State Treasury is not an entity obligated to disclose public information, in particular, the documents produced by legal advisors who work for the Office and perform representation activities. Edwin Góral filed a comaplaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 29 December 2011 case file II SAB/Wa 357/11 dismissed it. The Court ruled that even if the contents of suits, summons, statements of claims, writs are considered as public information, the provisions of Article 1(2) of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments, provides that their disclosure should be specified in separate laws. The disclosure of civil suits (petitions) is possible under the provisions of the Civil Proceedings Code – CPC (in Polish: Kodeks Postępowania Cywilnego) of 17 November 1964, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 43, item 296, with subsequent amendments.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 23 July 2012 case file I OSK 896/12 dismissed the cassation complaint. The Court noted that the announcement of judgment occurs in open court. Judgments, including decisions of the Polish Court of Competition and Consumer Protection, should be disclosed to the public by a court as provided in the CPC. Similarly, the right of access to the case file, to receive copies of or extracts is governed by the provisions of the Civil Proceedings Code. It should be noted that this is a completely different position to that adopted in the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 11 August 2011 case file I OSK 933/11. See “Access to public information, case I OSK 933/11“.

Collective interests of consumers, case RPZ 11/2012

July 27th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection in its decision of 20 June 2012 no. RPZ 11/2012 ruled that the Polish company Creative Team S.A. infringed on collective interests of consumers, by posting in newspaper advertisements that concerned a dedicated interactive game for mobile phones entitled “Tank War”, of information suggesting a possible free use of that game, while free was just sending a text message to a specified number in order to download this application, and using it in a specific mode. The President decided that such actions were inconsistent with the provisions of the Polish Act of 16 February 2007 on Protection of Competition and Consumers – APCC – (in Polish: Ustawa o ochronie konkurencji i konsumentów), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 50, item 331, with subsequent amendments.

Creative Team S.A. filed an appeal complaint before the Polish Court of Competition and Consumer Protection.

Personal interest, case C-161/10

July 23rd, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Court of Justice of the EU in its judgment of 25 October 2011 joined Cases C‑509/09 and C‑161/10 eDate Advertising GmbH v X and Olivier Martinez, Robert Martinez v MGN Limited ruled that Article 5(3) of Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters must be interpreted as meaning that, in the event of an alleged infringement of personality rights by means of content placed online on an internet website, the person who considers that his rights have been infringed has the option of bringing an action for liability, in respect of all the damage caused, either before the courts of the Member State in which the publisher of that content is established or before the courts of the Member State in which the centre of his interests is based. That person may also, instead of an action for liability in respect of all the damage caused, bring his action before the courts of each Member State in the territory of which content placed online is or has been accessible. Those courts have jurisdiction only in respect of the damage caused in the territory of the Member State of the court seised.

The Court also ruled that Article 3 of Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (‘Directive on electronic commerce’), must be interpreted as not requiring transposition in the form of a specific conflict-of-laws rule. Nevertheless, in relation to the coordinated field, Member States must ensure that, subject to the derogations authorised in accordance with the conditions set out in Article 3(4) of Directive 2000/31, the provider of an electronic commerce service is not made subject to stricter requirements than those provided for by the substantive law applicable in the Member State in which that service provider is established.

E-access to public information, case I OSK 730/12

July 16th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Błażej P. who is serving a sentence of imprisonment, requested the Minister of Justice to disclose paper copy of public information from the online Public Information Bulletin (PIB) that concerned the Ministry of Justice. The Minister answered that it can only disclose information, which was not made available in the Public Information Bulletin. Błażej P. filed a complaint against such decision. He noted that he is serving a prison sentence and thus he does not have access to the PIB. Therefore, the decision of the Minister violates the constitutional right of access to public information. The Voivodeship Administrative Court dismissed the case, and Błażej P. filed a cassation complaint together with the request the Constitutional Tribunal to decide on the constitutionality of the provisions of Article 10 of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments.

Article 10. 1. Public information, which was not made available in the Public Information Bulletin, is made available on the petition.
2. Public information, which can be immediately made available, is made available in the oral or written form without a written petition.

Błażej P. argued that the fact that the convicted person has to request the prison director on Internet access in order to access public information that is available at the PIB, makes the access dependent on the will of the director, and the provisions of the Punishment Execution Code do not provide for use of the Internet.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 21 June 2012 case file I OSK 730/12 dismissed it. However, the Court said that serving a prison sentence does not exclude inmates from access to the Internet or mobile phones, but it also does not mean that it may be unlimited access and to any information. Inamtes may use it, but on the rules established in the prison. They can also obtain public information in a form other than online, as determined by the provisions of the Punishment Execution Code.

See also “Polish case law on e-access to public information“.

Copyright law, case C-128/11

July 5th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Court of Justice of the EU in its judgment of 3 July 2012 in Case C-128/11 ruled that Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the legal protection of computer programs must be interpreted as meaning that the right of distribution of a copy of a computer program is exhausted if the copyright holder who has authorised, even free of charge, the downloading of that copy from the internet onto a data carrier has also conferred, in return for payment of a fee intended to enable him to obtain a remuneration corresponding to the economic value of the copy of the work of which he is the proprietor, a right to use that copy for an unlimited period.

Articles 4(2) and 5(1) of Directive 2009/24 must be interpreted as meaning that, in the event of the resale of a user licence entailing the resale of a copy of a computer program downloaded from the copyright holder’s website, that licence having originally been granted by that rightholder to the first acquirer for an unlimited period in return for payment of a fee intended to enable the rightholder to obtain a remuneration corresponding to the economic value of that copy of his work, the second acquirer of the licence, as well as any subsequent acquirer of it, will be able to rely on the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of that directive, and hence be regarded as lawful acquirers of a copy of a computer program within the meaning of Article 5(1) of that directive and benefit from the right of reproduction provided for in that provision.

Personal data protection, case C-461/10

June 7th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Court of Justice of the EU in its judgment of 19 April 2012 Case C-461/10 Bonnier Audio AB and Others v Perfect Communication Sweden AB ruled that Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC must be interpreted as not precluding the application of national legislation based on Article 8 of Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights which, in order to identify an internet subscriber or user, permits an internet service provider in civil proceedings to be ordered to give a copyright holder or its representative information on the subscriber to whom the internet service provider provided an IP address which was allegedly used in an infringement, since that legislation does not fall within the material scope of Directive 2006/24;

It is irrelevant to the main proceedings that the Member State concerned has not yet transposed Directive 2006/24, despite the period for doing so having expired.

Directives 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications) and 2004/48 must be interpreted as not precluding national legislation such as that at issue in the main proceedings insofar as that legislation enables the national court seised of an application for an order for disclosure of personal data, made by a person who is entitled to act, to weigh the conflicting interests involved, on the basis of the facts of each case and taking due account of the requirements of the principle of proportionality.

E-access to public information, case II SAB/Lu 10/12

June 4th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Association of Leaders of Local Civic Groups (SLLGO) requested the Mayor of Opole Lubelskie town to disclose information regarding the fund from the years 2009-2011. The request was sent via e-mail. The Mayor ordered the SLLGO to supplement formal defects of the request and claimed that this form of an electronic document must be signed by the certified electronic signature as referred to in the Polish Act of 17 February 2005 on the Informatization of Entities Performing Public Tasks – IEPPT – (in Polish: ustawa o informatyzacji działalności podmiotów realizujących zadania publiczne), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 64, item 565 as amended, and the Act of 18 September 2001 on Electronic Signature – ESA – (in Polish: ustawa o podpisie elektronicznym), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw), No 130, item 1450, with subsequent amendments. SLLGO refused to comply and argued that the provisions of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments, allows for requesting the disclosure, even verbally, without any formality. The Mayor decided to leave the request without examination. The decision was based on the provisions of Article 64 § 2 of the Administrative Proceedings Code – APC – (in Polish: Kodeks postępowania administracyjnego) of 14 June 1960, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 30, item 168, consolidated text of 9 October 2000, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 98, item 1071 with subsequent amendments.

Article 64.
§ 1. The application will not be examined if the applicant’s address is not included in the application and it cannot be identified from the data available.
§ 2. If the application does not fulfil the requirements of law, the applicant shall be summoned to correct the defects within 7 days, with a notice advising that failure to comply will result in the application not being examined.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Lublin in its judgment of 20 March 2012 case file II SAB/Lu 10/12 ruled that the Mayor remained inactive and unjustifiably applied the provisions of the APC, therefore, the Court obliged the Mayor to examine the request. The authority that is obliged to disclose public information is not entitled to demand that a request submitted in electronic form has to be signed by any electronic signature. The Court reminded that the intention of the legislature was to unformalize the proceedings for the disclosure of public information, in order to ensure and fulfill the constitutional principle of openness of public life. The API indicates that a request for such information may take any form, and even the person requesting has not to be fully identified.

See also “Polish case law on e-access to public information” and “E-signatures in Poland“.

E-proceedings law, case III CZP 9/12

May 30th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The District Court in Toruń requested the Polish Supreme Court to answer the question whether a party of civil proceedings is allowed to file an appeal in form of electronic document. If the answer would be “yes”, the Court also wanted to know whether the deadline for lodging an appeal is confirmed by the date on which the letter was received by the device receiving the court’s e-mails. The District Court additionally enquired, whether such letters can be signed by electronic signature as defined in the Act of 18 September 2001 on Electronic Signature – ESA – (in Polish: ustawa o podpisie elektronicznym), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 15 November 2001, No 130, item 1450, with subsequent amendments.

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 23 May 2012 case file III CZP 9/12 held that filing an appeal by e-mail is acceptable only, if a specific provision allows for such action. Currently, this option is very limited in the Polish law. The printed version of an appeal filed by electronic means may be treated as effective, if it will be signed by the party at the request received from the Court, and the date for submission of such a letter to the court is then the date the printing was done.

Access to public information, case XVI K 112/11

May 18th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Grzegorz Pluciński, the CEO of the Polish company Mainframe, filed a private accusation against Andrzej Machnacz who was the Director of the Centre of Information of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration in 2008-2010. It is probably the first case based on the provisions of Article 23 of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments.

Article 23. Whoever, contrary to the obligation weighing on him, shall not make the public information available, is subject to fine, penalty of restricted liberty or penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to one year.

Mr Pluciński argued that the Director was obliged to disclose a contract between the Centre and IBM. The sum of the contract was below 38.000 PLN which allowed for its conclusion without meeting the conditions of the Polish Act on Public Procurement. During the trail before the Regional Court for Warszawa Mokotów, the Director argued that the request for disclosure of public information that was filed by Mainframe was worded too broadly and did not relate to this contract. Mr Machnacz also argued that he did not take the refusal decsion, and only accepted suggestions of his employees, and after consultation with outside law firm. However, only two signatures were available under this decision. According to the provisions of Article 16(2) of the API, the justification of the decision on the refusal of making the information available should also include the names, surnames, and these persons’ functions, who took decision under the procedure on making the information available and marking the entities, in relation to whose goods defined in Article 5, it. 2, the decision on the refusal to make information available was issued. The trial has been postponed until June 2012.

Internet domains, case III CSK 120/11

May 15th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

MEDianus sp. z o.o. and Medianus Agencja Reklamowa sp. z o.o. are seated in the same city, at a location nearby. The first one uses medianus.net domain name and the second medianus.pl. The first company was entered in the Register of Business Entities in the National Court Register (KRS) as MEDianus in June 2003 r. The second one was entered in 2009. MEDianus sp. z o.o. filed a complaint, to prohibit the other company to use the name “medianus” in the company name and as a domain name, based on the provisions of Article 3 and 5 of the Polish Act of 16 April 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 47, item 211, with subsequent amendments. MEDianus sp. z o.o. argued the the use of the same company name caused many confusions with delivery of post or invoices.

R-200943

The District Court dismissed all claims. However, the Appellate Court in Kraków agreed with MEDianus sp. z o.o. appeal and ordered Medianus Agencja Reklamowa to change its company name and website and to publish an apology in two national newspapers.

Z-360648

The Polish Supreme Court in its judgment of 9 December 2011 case file III CSK 120/11 dismissed the complaint filed by Medianus Agencja Reklamowa. The Court held that in order to apply the provisions of Article 5 of the CUC, both companies have to be in competitive relationship. This situation happens when there is a risk of confusion with regard to the identity of entrepreneurs. The Court also confirmed that the so-called cybersquatting is an unnamed delict (tort) under the Polish law on combating unfair competition.

See also “Polish case law on domain names“.

Access to public information, case I OSK 2265/11

May 11th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

A Polish company requested the Ministry of the Interior and Administration (MIA), and Director of the Centre of Information of MIA, to disclose all legal opinions prepared by the Polish Information Processing Society that concerned IT systems created by the Ministry. The Director provided all the requested documents, however the Ministry only asked the Company to clarify the request in the letter sent on October 2009. The Company filed a complaint for failure to act, claiming administrative inaction in its case. The Ministry also argued that the requested information cannot be disclosed because such expert opinions are copyrighted materials, and as such, are not deemed as public information.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 4 February 2010 case file II SAB/Wa 155/09 agreed with the Company and ordered the MIA to disclose requested information. The Court ruled that such expertises are public information, so they should be disclosed, unless they contain secret information protected by law. The Minister of MIA filed a cassation complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 August 2010 case file I OSK 757/10 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. However, the SAC only discussed and held that the VAC did not examine whether there was administrative inaction of the MIA. The Court did not examine the allegation that there was a breach of regulations of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on access to public information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 8 September 2011 case file II SAB/Wa 174/11 was bound by the interpretation of the SAC, and decided that there was administrative inaction. The Minister of the Interior and Administration, once again filed ​​a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 7 March 2012 case file I OSK 2265/11 dismissed it. The SAC held that if the Minister found that it had the requested information, while it also concluded that there are obstacles to the disclose because of the circumstances set out in Article 5 of the API, or other provisions of specific laws, it was obliged to initiate ex officio proceedings on the refusal to disclose information. The refusal should be issued as an administrative decision only. The lack of such a decision was deemed as administrative inaction, subject to a complaint. The letter sent by the Minister on October 2009 was clearly not an administrative decision. The SAC reminded that the administrative decision should obligatory contain: the name of public authority, date, identity of the party or parties, the legal basis on which the decision was issued, the conclusion and findings, factual and legal grounds, instruction, whether and how to file an appeal against the decision, the signature with the name, surname and position of the person authorized to issue a given decision. Although the letter was signed and affixed with the seal by the Deputy Director of Administration and Finance Office of the MIA, is was not mentioned that the Director acted under the authority of the Ministry. The letter did not contain a ruling on the request of the Company, but on the contrary – the Director explicitly stated that the request was not recognized in accordance with that Act on access to public information. The Letter had no form of a decision, it did not include the instruction, whether and how to file an appeal against it. The Court decided that this letter was purely information message sent on paper. The Polish legislature did not formulate any legal definition of “access to public information”, or the very concept of public information, both in the Polish act on access to public information or in any other legal act. However, Article 1 of the API ab initio provides that each information on public matters constitutes public information in the understanding of the Act and is subject to being made available on the basis of principles and under the provisions defined in this Act. According to legal commentators, a public matter is the activity of both public authorities, economic and professional self-government bodies that exercise tasks of official authority and the management of public property. A specific individual case of a person, especially of a private nature, is not deemed as public matters. The access to administrative files falls Within the catalog of public information. Public information is therefore the content of any document relating to public authority. These range from documents produced by government bodies, as well as those used in the execution of the tasks provided for by law, even if they do not come directly from the authorities. Such opinion was confirmed by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 30 October 2002 case file II SA 1956/02, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Opole in its judgment of 17 January 2008 case file II SAB/Op 20/07, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgmet of 16 July 2008 case file II SA/Wa 721/08, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgmet of 26 June 2008 case file II SA/Wa 111/08. The criterion for determining the disclosure and availability of the documents under the API is not their authorship, but the opinion that they are used to carry out public duties, and were prepared at the request of public authorities, when at the same time, their content and does not violate the privacy of an individual or trade secrets of business. It is not about the disposal of copyright, but about access to the content of the document that was created on behalf of the public authority to carry out public duties. Such opinion was confirmed by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 July 2011 case file I OSK 667/11, by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 7 December 2010 case file I OSK 1774/10, by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 September 2008 case file I OSK 315/08, by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 February 2007 case file I OSK 517/06. Not all opinions or expertise, that were created by a public authority or on behalf of public authorities, are public information. The classification of legal opinion in documents that are available under the API is determined by the purpose for which it was prepared. A legal opinion prepared for the public authority on the merits of initiating future proceedings in a particular civil case does not constitute public information for the purposes of Article 1 of the API. It was confirmed by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 16 June 2009 case file I OSK 89/09. An expertise that specifically relate to a given legislative proposal for which the legislative process continues, are deemed as public information. These documents relate to the facts, of such, is the legislative proposal submitted to the competent authority in the legislative procedure. It was confirmed by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 27 January 2012 case file I OSK 2130/11. If a disclosure of public information threatens the common or individual interests, there is the possibility to restrict the access to such information by refusing its disclousure by an administrative decision that should be based on the provisions of Article 16 of the API. The expertise prepared by the Polish Information Processing Society for the Ministry, associated with the formation by that authority of systems, and the preparation of examinations for persons applying for a certificate of qualification for the controllers and communication systems, satisfy the conditions of public information, because they concern the implementation of tasks by the public authority. If the the expertise concerned computerization and informatization of the public sphere and involved the expenditure of public funds, therefore it is public information, because it refers to the public affairs, which is the issue of computer software/programs in the implementation of public tasks, and how they are used and implemented, the implementation and impact of these tasks and information on public property, including property of the State Treasury.

There was also a specific issue of the expropriation of copyright for public purpose. Article 1 of the Polish Act on Authors Rights and Neighbouring Rights provides that the subject of copyright should be any manifestation of creative activity of individual nature, established in any form, irrespective of its value, purpose or form of expression (work). Opinions and expertise made ​​by qualified persons or entities meet the statutory definition. According to Article 4 of the ARNR, the copyright should not apply to legislative acts and their official drafts, official documents, materials, logos and symbols. Expertises commissioned by the Ministry, are official documents within the meaning of the Article 4(2) of the ARNR. They are used as a servant in decision-making process of the executive authority and are not the subject of copyright. The Polish Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court agree that the official documents are materials that come from the office or other state institution or concerned official matters, or was the result of application of the official proceedings. As it was decided by the Supreme Court in its judgment of 26 September 2001 case file IV CKN 458/00, and by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 19 February 1997 case file I SA/Kr 1062/96. The effectiveness of social control and supervision over the information used on completion of assigned tasks of public authority correspond with such understanding of the relationship between the provisions of Article 1 of the API and Article of the ARNR. Such opinion was confirmed by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 27 January 2012 case file I OSK 2130/11. Hence, the definition of an official document, provided in Article 6(2) of the API does not provide a basis for restricting access to public information, defined in the Article 1(1) of the API, including the catalog of examples contained in Article 6(1) of the API.

Access to public information, case I OSK 1550/11

May 7th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 22 November 2010, Bogusław Kler, a Polish patent and trade mark attorney, requested the President of the Polish Patent Office to disclose public information concerning the word trade mark PRINCE POLO R-148617, in order to know, whether during the examination, the trade mark POLO R-69429, or other marks containing this word were taken into account, and in particular, if the expert who was proceeding and examining the trade mark application, noted and listed any signs with the word “polo” in the examination card of the trade mark PRINCE POLO R-148617. In addition, Mr Kler requested for information on whether in a possible conflict between “Prince Polo” and the earlier “POLO” signs, the examiner considered any settlement actions of the owners of such trade marks, indicating that he is not requesting the full texts of documents, but seeking to confirm whether such documents if any, were submitted to the trade mark file and they were used in the assessment for the trade mark PRINCE POLO.

The President of the PPO expressed the opinion that the examination card of the trade mark PRINCE POLO R-148617 is not deemed as public information, because it is not directed the parties of the proceedings, and therefore it cannot be disclosed. With regard to information on materials concerning possible settlement between the trademark owners, the President explained that such information can be obtained by directly asking the entitled entities. At the same time, the President pointed out that decisions on the granting of exclusive rights belong to independent experts, and the requested filed by Mr Kler can be read as an unfounded and unjustifiable attempt to control of examinations conducted by experts and the procedures for the granting of exclusive rights. The President argued that such control process of the legality of decisions undertaken by the Polish Patent Office falls within the competence of administrative courts. The method of preparing and filing of the examination card of a trade mark is not regulated in any legislation being in force. Information to be included in it depends on the expert. The examination card is somehow a reflection of thinking of a person who was handling a given case.

Bogusław Kler filed a complaint for failure to act (administrative inaction). Mr Kler argued that the President of the PPO did not consider his request or did not issue a refusal decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 13 May 2011 case file II SAB/Wa 88/11 dismissed the complaint. The VAC held that information requested by Mr Kler is not public, in particular, these are not public data. The Court held that the examination card is not an official document since it does not contain a declaration of will/intent or knowledge of a public official. Based on the card, it is not possible to unambiguously determine conditions, that were followed by the authority granting the right of protection for a trade mark. The card is a working internal document of the PPO, which provides information of operational activities aimed at a comprehensive assessment and examination of the validity and legitimacy for granting the protection of the sign applied for. Mr Kler filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 1 December 2011 case file I OSK 1550/11 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. The SAC held that according the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, a citizen should have the right to obtain information on the activities of organs of public authority as well as persons discharging public functions. Such right should also include receipt of information on the activities of self-governing economic or professional organs and other persons or organizational units relating to the field in which they perform the duties of public authorities and manage communal assets or property of the State Treasury. Limitations upon the right of information may be imposed by the Act solely to protect freedoms and rights of other persons and economic subjects, public order, security or important economic interests of the State. The principle of the “right to information” provided in the Constitution sets basic rules of interpretation of this right. It is a constitutional right, therefore, the law defining the procedures for access to information should be interpreted broadly, and any exceptions to this right should be construed and interpreted narrowly. This implies the use in relation to these acts of interpretation, which favor expanding rather than narrowing the obligation to disclose information. The enumeration, what is deemed as public information, is provided in the Polish Act on Access to Public Information, however this enumeration includes exemplary situations, and it does not cover all cases in which information is disclosed. The Court noted that public information is each information or data that was created or referred to the widely defined public authorities, or was created or referred to other entities performing public functions in the execution of tasks of public authority. The Supreme Administrative Court shared the view that all files of entire administrative proceedings conducted by a public authority, constitutes public information – including both documents created and held by the authority in connection with a particular case. Therefore, the Court held that, in principle, all that is in the file of the proceedings, regardless of whether it will be a public document or private, should be disclosed. It does not matter whether the document in the file is an “internal” or “working”. Even giving up the assumption that the whole proceedings constitute public information, it cannot be excluded that given documents from these files have such nature. In each case, every request for disclosure of public information requires a detailed analysis. Only as a result of such analysis, the authority should decide whether the requested information is public, followed by what standards govern the procedure of its disclosure.

Copyright law, case C-406/10

May 5th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Court of Justice of the EU in its judgment of 2 May 2012 Case C-406/10 ruled that Article 1(2) of Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs must be interpreted as meaning that neither the functionality of a computer program nor the programming language and the format of data files used in a computer program in order to exploit certain of its functions constitute a form of expression of that program and, as such, are not protected by copyright in computer programs for the purposes of that directive.

The CoJ noted that Article 5(3) of Directive 91/250/EEC must be interpreted as meaning that a person who has obtained a copy of a computer program under a licence is entitled, without the authorisation of the owner of the copyright, to observe, study or test the functioning of that program so as to determine the ideas and principles which underlie any element of the program, in the case where that person carries out acts covered by that licence and acts of loading and running necessary for the use of the computer program, and on condition that that person does not infringe the exclusive rights of the owner of the copyright in that program.

The Court also ruled that Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the reproduction, in a computer program or a user manual for that program, of certain elements described in the user manual for another computer program protected by copyright is capable of constituting an infringement of the copyright in the latter manual if – this being a matter for the national court to ascertain – that reproduction constitutes the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of the user manual for the computer program protected by copyright.

Personal interest, case II C 626/11

April 27th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

In 2007, for about 6 months, the Polish Central Anti-corruption Bureau collected telecommunications data, including billings and location data from Base Transceiver Stations, of a Polish journalist Bogdan Wróblewski. Mr Wróblewski sued the Polish State Treasury which according to the Polish law represents the Polish state in certain legal aspects..

The District Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 26 April 2012 case file II C 626/11 has confirmed that the Central Anti-corruption Bureau violated personal interests of a journalist by collecting his telecommunications data. The Court pointed out that privacy is a fundamental human right and its breach must be justified and proportionate. The permission is limited “objectively” to offenses of corruption and “qualitatively” – its condition should be determined by the fact that there are not available less invasive means of control which could be useful. The process of receiving of telecommunications data must take into account these limitations each time it is initiated.

E-access to public information, case I OSK 2172/11

April 20th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 February 2012 case file I OSK 2172/11 dismissed the complaint against the judgment of the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw of 25 August 2011 case file II SAB/Wa 87/11 in which the court ruled that e-mail correspondence of employees of the Agency for Restructuring and Modernisation of Agriculture (ARMA) is not deemed as public information.

See also “Polish case law on e-access to public information“.

Personal data protection, case IX Nc 1850/11

April 14th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Regional Court in Wrocław in its judgment of 2 February 2012 case file IX Nc 1850/11 held that that there was no reason to accept the view that electronic services providers are required to bear costs for rendering information on given data to the state authorities for the needs of legal proceedings carried on by them. Therefore, the court ruled that the Police has to pay to the company that operates social-networking site for gathering and processing requested data and information, according to the specifiaction that was received from the Police.