The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 16 December 2015 case file I ACa 142/15 decided a case of a Polish rockman who sued a tabloid newspaper for publishing online article that infringed his personal interests. The Court found the journalist and author of the article liable and ordered him to publish apology and to pay proper compensation. However, the Court dismissed the claim that would order the publisher to remove the article from newspaper’s website. The Court ruled that the role of the judicial authorities is not to participate in the falsification of history by ordering the removal from the public sphere of all traces of publications recognized in the past by the final judicial decisions as unjustifiable attack on the good name of individuals. Accordingly, a proportional and adequate form of protection for the plaintiff would by be amending online defamatory publications with a relevant footnote, comment or link to information about the outcome of the proceedings.
Archive for: privacy
Leszek Czarnecki and his wife Jolanta Pieńkowska sued Grupa o2, the owner and publisher of pudelek.pl website. Mr Czarnecki claimed that articles posted on this website infringed his personal interests by publishing information about social status and a new home, which was built on a grand scale.
The District Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 24 October 2011 case file IV C 1639/10 found the publisher guilty. The court held that the content of articles undermined the prestige of the spouses as they are people commonly known, reputable and rich. The Court ruled that the amount of compensation is up to 200.000 PLN, because, as the judge assessed the higher the prestige of imputed persons is, the higher should be the economic sanction.
Grupa o2 appealed. The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment case file VI ACa 73/12 ordered owners of both sites to issue an apology but reduced the amount awarded, and ruled that the company has to pay 20.000 PLN for social purpose. Both parties filed cassation complaints.
The Supreme Court in its judgment of 12 September 2014 case file I CSK 542/13 repealed the contested judgment and returned the case for further reconsideration. The reasons were based on procedural grounds. It turned out that the Appeallate court has assessed the evidence, but it did not find its own conclusions. The Court also did not rule on the relationship between comments posted by Internet users and the provisions of Polish Act on Providing Services by Electronic Means that exclude the liability of the ISPs.
Roman Giertych sued Ringer Axel Springer, the publisher of fakt.pl website, for the infringement of personal interests. Mr Giertych demanded that defamatory comments posted at fakt.pl should be removed by the publisher. He also seek for the compensation and the apology to be published on some websites.
Ringer Axel Springer argued that it is not responsible for the comments that appeared on its website based on the provisions afforded in 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, and the TOS that excluded the liability of the publisher for vulgar or offensive comments.
The District Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 20 October 2011 case file III C 330/11 agreed that all these comments were defamatory, however, the Court ruled that there is a different legal status of the editorial part of the website that included newspaper articles, and another status has to be attributed to a part that included the users’ comments – i.e. an internet forum, even if these comments were posted under the article placed by the owner of a website/web hosting provider. Despite claiming the right to control the content of entries (comments) that were made by website’s readers, in the light of the provisions of the PSEM, the publisher has no such obligation. The Court decided that the publisher can not be held responsible for offensive comments posted on its website, however it can be found responsible only in case it failed to remove such comments, after obtaining positive knowledge of the unlawful nature of such entries. It means that under the Polish law, the publisher is not liable for the infringement of personal rights, but only for a possible damage that is based on the general principles that are provided in the Polish Civil Code. Mr Giertych appealled.
The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 11 October 2012 case file VI A Ca 2/12 made a clear distinction between the services provided by Ringer Axel Springer. The first one was a news service of a daily newspaper made available for free in the electronic form under the domain name fakt.pl, and the second was a free service of the internet forum. The provisions of the Polish Act of 26 January 1984 on Press law – APL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo prasowe), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 5, item 24, with subsequent amendments, should be applied to the first service, and the provisions of the PSEM to the second. The Court ruled that comments posted for free, by anonymous users of fakt.pl website under the article that was an online version of a paper edition, do not constitute press materials as defined in the Article 7(2)(i) of the APL. The lack of any influence from the editorial over anonymously published comments, not to mention any of their prior verification makes this kind of speech free of control and as such cannot be regarded as a press material. The Court disagreed with Mr Giertych that such comments should be treated as “letters sent to the editor” of a journal that is published electronically. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 28 September 2000 case file V KKN 171/98 ruled that letters to the editor are the press material if they were sent to the editor for publication, and the editor-in-chief is responsible for publication of press releases, however, the publication of the letter to the editor must be preceded by careful and accurate checking of the information contained in such a letter to the editor. The Court agreed that such comments could be deemed as letter to the editor according to the APL, but only, if they were published in the paper version of the magazine, therefore, the editor (editor-in-chief) or the publisher would have full control over the content of such comments/letters. Users of fakt.pl do not send their their opinions and comments to the editorial of fakt.pl for publication on a discussion forum that exists on that same website, but they decide themselves about such a publication. The editor-in-Chief cannot therefore be responsible for comments published by third parties, because he or she had no control over the content or the action. The Court also ruled that Mr Giertych drawn incorrect conclusions as to the Terms of Service of fakt.pl website, in which the editorial of fakt.pl allegedly reserved the right and at the same time undertook its control over the content posted on fakt.pl website, including comments, and the right to manage them, especially the right to decide which comment deserves publication and which does not. First, the Court found that Ringer Axel Springer has reserved only the right and not an obligation to manage of comments posted by users, secondly, this right was reserved in the TOS not on behalf of the editorial of a journal that is published in electronic form under the domain name fakt.pl, but on behalf of the administrator of the IT system, thirdly, the reserved right applied not to decisions about publication of a particular comment on the website, but to decisions about its blocking, moderation or deletion. Therefore, the Court dismissed the appeal. Mr Giertych filed a cassation appeal.
The Supreme Court in its judgment of 10 January 2014 case file I CSK 128/13 partially agreed with Mr Giertych and returned the case to the lower court for reconsideration. The SC held that if the comments were defamatory and included vulgar words, the IT system applied at fakt.pl should have automatically removed such comments, but it did not, therefore it must be presumed that the publisher of a website, could know about offensive comments. If there was such knowledge, then the publisher/editor is liable for the infringement of personal interests. The Supreme Court established the so-called presumption of facts based on the provisions of the Article 231 of the Civil Proceedings Code. The court may conclude and consider as established facts, that are relevant for the outcome of the case, if such a conclusion can be derived from other established facts (presumption of fact).
Regardless of the cassation complaint filed in this case, Mr Giertych filed a complaint before the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. Mr Giertych requested the Tribunal to decided whether Article 14 of the PSEM is consistent with the principle of the rule of law, the right to protect of private life, family, honor and good name.
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.
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.
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.
Cezary Pazura sued Grupa o2, the owner and publisher of pudelek.pl website. Mr Pazura claimed that the company infringed his dignity, the inviolability of the home, privacy and publicity, by publishing 17 articles that concerned his relationship with Edyta Zajac, then fiancee, and now his wife. He argued that comments like “his mistress was no longer pretending, what she meant?”, “oldish playboy” were clear examples of the infringement. The District Court agreed with Mr Pazura, but Grupa o2 appealled, and the Appellate Court reversed the contested judgment and dismissed the suit. Mr Pazura filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Court in its judgment of 14 December 2011 case file I CSK 111/11 repealed the contested decision and returned it to the Appellate Court for further reconsideration. The Court held that the public status of a person does not automatically mean that his or her private life becomes also a “public life”. The Court clarified the understanding of the provision of Article 14(6) of the Polish Act of 26 January 1984 on Press law – APL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo prasowe), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 5, item 24, with subsequent amendmets.
It is not allowed to publish information and data concerning the private sphere of life without the consent of the person concerned, unless it is connected directly with the public activity of such a person.
The Court ruled that in this case it was necessary to demonstrate the relationship between the public activity carried out by Mr Pazura, and published image, or private information that was published on pudelek.pl website. Therefore, it had to be a relationship between a person’s behavior in the public sphere. In addition, the disclosure of such information should serve to protect specific, socially legitimate interest. Therefore, the primary task of the courts was to determine whether in this case, Mr. Pazura’s consent was granted, or whether it was not needed at all.
Paweł Wodniak, journalist of the website “Fakty Oświęcim” was sued by Artur Kierczyński for violation of his personal interest. Mr Wodniak prepared a short video report in which presented testimonials of Broszkowice citizens, who participated in blocking the road 933 in a protest against a nearby gravel-pit from being functional. The report also contained footage of Marian Gołąb, who was the Mayor of Broszkowice, stating that there is already a criminal investigation underway on the ex-owner of the gravel-pit. Mr Gołąb released full name of Artur Kierczyński. Mr Kierczyński sued for violation of personal interest for releasing his full surname while there was an ongoing criminal trial against him. In his opinion, Mr Wodniak’s behavior breached the rule of alleged innocence and it was a breach of Article 13(2) of the Polish Act of 26 January 1984 on Press law – APL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo prasowe), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 5, item 24, with subsequent amendmets.
One cannot publish in the media personal information and images of individuals, against whom there is an ongoing preparatory proceedings or court proceeding as well as personal information and images of witnesses, wounded and hurt, unless these persons agree to it.
The District Court in Kraków in its judgment case file I C 1050/09 dismissed the lawsuit. The Court ruled that a news report that merely mentions an individual’s involvement in a criminal proceeding does not constitute a violation of the above mentioned regulations on Press Law, the rule of innocence, or journalism ethics.
A critical article was published in a paper magazine entitled “Forum Akademickie”. It concerned one of the scientist from the University of Opole. Some offensive comments appeared also at magazine’s online forum. These entries were removed after the administrator received a notice from the researcher. There was another offensive entry published on 30 November 2008, but on the same day it has been removed by a site administrator. The researcher sued the editor for allowing for the publication of inaccurate and defamatory comments which in consequence infringed on his personal interests. The District Court in Lublin dismissed the claim as unjustified. The Court held that according to regulations included in Article 14 and 15 of the PSEM the defendants cannot be held responsible because they prevented the access to questioned data/entries. The plaintiff appealed.
The Appellate Court in Lublin in its judgment case file I ACa 544/10 held that defendants should be held liable because they provided a website that was used for discussion and exchange of different views and they posted also a warning message about the moderation or deletion of entries that will not fit for certain rules, although according to the Court they were not obliged to do so, but they also employed for this purpose a person whose duty included monitoring the entries and the removal of those that were posed not in accordance with law and social norms. Therefore, The Court ruled that defendants had knowledge of illegal entries. As a result, they were responsible for failing to remove them without delay and to do so only after many months, at the request of the plaintiff.
The Court ordered the defendants (the editor of the magazine and its publisher) to publish under the article the statement of apology and to pay jointly 5.000 PLN to charity. The judgement is not final.
Polish pop-singer Dorota Rabczewska sued Polish rapper Mieszko Sibilski for the infringement of her personal interests. She demanded an apology and 20.000 PLN as compensation for the damage she suffered. Rabaczewska lost the case in the first instance. The Court of second instance ordered Sibilski to publish an apology for the infringement of her dignity in the form of an online ad that has to be placed for 7 days at Polish portal site Onet.pl. The calculations showed that such action would cost around 32.000.000 PLN. Sibilski lodged an cassation complaint.
The Supreme Court in its order of 2 February 2011 case file II CSK 431/10 held that the court cannot order an apology for the violation of dignity, if the plaintiff requested for the protection of other personal interests, in this case her reputation and right to privacy. Moreover, the Supreme Court ruled that the second instance court improperly ordered the form of publication of an apology because it did not take into account technical requirements and the costs associated with it. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment and sent the case back for reconsideration.
The case of Tomasz W. and his image treated as personal data still continues. See “Personal data protection, case I OSK 667/09“. GIODO annulled its earlier decision, however it also refused to take account Tomasz W. requests in its new decision. GIODO ruled that personal data (photos and captions) of Tomasz W. are not presented on the website, and are not publicly available because they were removed from the specified address. GIODO also noted that Nasza-Klasa is still processing the personal data treating it as evidence, because it keeps them on its servers and in the system’s memory. GIODO finally held that the Company, as controller, is processing these data under provisions of Article 23(1)(v) of the PPD, under which such the processing of data is permitted because it is necessary for the purpose of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller and that the processing does not violate the rights and freedoms of the data subject. Among the reasons justifying the data processing, GIODO mentioned the possibility of establishing the responsibility of the recipient for violations of the Terms of Service that were set by the Company. This judgment is not final yet. GIODO filed a cassation complaint.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 1 December 2010 case file II SA/Wa 1212/10 ruled that, these circumstances do not fulfill the conditions for legitimate interests of data processing. It should be noted that the condition relates to the existing and unquestionable situation, so if there is a need to demonstrate a need to claim in business, not a situation where the data are processed for eventual trial and the possible need to prove that personal data obtained without the consent of the person concerned shall be processed in accordance with the law. The Court also noted that Tomasz W. only announced but he did not initiate any courts proceedings against Nasza-Klasa. Therefore, according to the Court, Nasza-Klasa was not allowed to process personal data only to protect itself against any future and uncertain claims mentioned by Tomasz W. Otherwise, there are doubts how long to process personal data if Tomasz W. fails to comply with his announcement.
In 2001, the Polish magazine “Polityka” published the article entitled “Po pierwsze Sandauer”. The author quoted a surgeon, who operated Adam Sandauer, the president of Primum Non Nocere association, in which he had said that instead of more surgery Mr Sandaur needed a psychiatrist. The author quoted other doctors, who spoke about Sandauer being in conflict with the medical community and suggested that he is in bad mental condition. He quoted passages of Sandauer’s private mail to confirm this statement. Mr Sandauer sued and the case went through all instances. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 17 listopada 2010 case file I CSK 664/09 held that publication of private correspondence without the permission of the author, and especially when it concerns the sphere of his or her private life, such as health, is unlawful.
Kataryna, actually Katarzyna Sadło appeared in the Polish blogoshpehre shortly after the so-called Rywin affair. Since then Kataryna simultaneously publish her blogs on both blox and salon24.pl websites. She quickly became well-known person who comments on political life in Poland and received a large number of comments. Her identity quickly began to attract the interest of the mass-media. A few journalists were suspected for writing under this pseudonym. Kataryna gave interviews in press but did not disclose her identity.
In May 2009, the owner Salon24 website announced that Krzysztof Czuma, son of the Polish Minister of Justice Andrzej Czuma, sent a letter to Salon24 seeking the removal of lying and offensive blog entry of “a Kataryna”. Salon24 responded that the content of the blog posts does not affect the TOS of Salon24 and therefore it will not be removed. However, Kataryna announced that if the minister Czuma would like to bring the civil lawsuit against her, she will reveal her personal data.
Shortly after that, the Polish daily newspaper “Dziennik Polska-Europa-Świat” published information that it knows the identity of the blogger. Although the newspaper did not publish her name, but described it in a way that allowed for unambiguous identification. These were more than enough information to let Internauts to identify Katarzyna Sadło as Kataryna.
Kataryna decided to reveal (tweet) the contents of SMS, which has received from Sylwia Czubkowska, a journalist reporter from Dziennik, in which the she urged Kataryna to disclose her identity in the newspapers and warned that otherwise the information may be used by “Fakt” which is a tabloid owned by the same publisher – Axel Springer Poland. Kataryna sued Axel Springer, the publisher of “Dziennik” and the editors of this newspaper for violation of her right to privacy. The case was brought before the District Court in Warsaw case file XXIV C 760/09, however it was settled out of the court.
Nasza-Klasa.pl website is a very popular Polish social networking service bringing together classmates. It provides its users with a possibility to contact and search for old friends. In 2008, an unknown person created an account for the name of Dariusz B., The fake profile included his personal data: name, place of residence, phone number, age and images. This account was set without the knowledge and the consent of Dariusz B. Many offensive comments were sent from this fake account to other users of the portal. These comments provoked negative emotions and responses from its recipients. Dariusz B. and his wife, tried to apologize to every person they met. Dariusz B. was also forced to change his phone number, and met with harsh comments from friends, and especially from the strangers. Maria B. – wife of Dariusz B. contacted Nasza-Klasa.pl by e-mails with the request to remove or to block the fake account. When it did not bring any results, they brought a lawsuit against Nasza-Klasa.pl.
Nasza-Klasa.pl was found responsible by both the District and the Apellate courts because it has not removed, or at least not immediately blocked the fake account, created in the name of Dariusz B., thereby making violations of his personal interests possible.
The Appellate Court in Wrocław in its judgment of 15 January 2010 case file I A Ca 1202/09 ruled that nature of the infringement performed by Nasza-Klasa.pl was to allow a third party to encroach on personal rights of Dariusz B., by not fulfilling its obligations under 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.
1. A person who gives access to the contents of a network IT system to a customer, where the customer stores data, is not aware of the illegal features of the data or activity connected with the data and upon receiving an official notification or credible information about the illegal features of the data or activity connected with it, immediately bars access to the data, shall not be responsible for the data.
2. A Service provider who has received the official notification of an illegal character of the stored data that was supplied by the customer, and prevented the access to the data, shall not be liable to the customer for damages resulting from preventing access to such data.
3. A service provider who has received credible information of the illegal character of the stored data supplied by the customer and prevented access to the data, shall not be liable to the customer for the damage resulting from preventing access to such data, if it has immediately notified the customer of the intention to prevent access to data.
According to the Court, Nasza-Klasa.pl did not immediately block, and then delete the questioned fake account. Therefore, it forced Dariusz B. to bear a humiliating behavior caused by another person, which in consequence violated his serenity, good mood, sense of personal dignity, i.e. his personal interests. However, the Court did not agree with the argument that the standard of conduct, professionalism, requires the administrator to filter and delete statements that violate the law or may violate the law in an objective view, without a prior notice regarding such event. Putting such a requirement would be contrary to the provisions of Articles 14 and 15 in connection with Article 12 of the PSEM.
The Constitutional Tribunal in its judgment of 30 October 2006 case file P 10/06, examined the preliminary question referred by a Regional Court in Gdańsk concerning the provision of Articles 212 § 1 of the Criminal Code – CRC – (in Polish: Kodeks Karny) of 6 June 1997, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 88, item 553, with later amendments.
Article 212. § 1. Whoever imputes to another person, a group of persons, an institution or organisational unit not having the status of a legal person, such conduct, or characteristics that may discredit them in the face of public opinion or result in a loss of confidence necessary for a given position, occupation or type to activity shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to one year.
§ 2. If the perpetrator commits the act specified in § 1 through the mass media shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to 2 years.
§ 3. When sentencing for an offence specified in §1 or 2, the court may adjudge a supplementary payment in favour of the injured person or of the Polish Red Cross, or of another social purpose designated by the injured person a supplementary payment (nawiązka).
§ 4. The prosecution of the offence specified in § 1 or 2 shall occur upon a private charge.
The Regional Court and different NGOs claimed that the sufficient protection against defamation may be realized within the relevant provisions of the civil proceedings, in particular, the system of protection of personal rights/interests, provided in the Civil Code. The Regional Court alleged that the penalization of the defamation limits the constitutional freedom of expression as set forth in Articles 14 and 54 of the Polish Constitution in a way which is not necessary in the democratic State and, therefore, it constitutes a violation of the principle of proportionality, guaranteed in the Article 31(3) of the Constitution.
The Republic of Poland shall ensure freedom of the press and other means of social communication.
1. Freedom of the person shall receive legal protection.
2. Everyone shall respect the freedoms and rights of others. No one shall be compelled to do that which is not required by law.
3. Any limitation upon the exercise of constitutional freedoms and rights may be imposed only by statute, and only when necessary in a democratic state for the protection of its security or public order, or to protect the natural environment, health or public morals, or the freedoms and rights of other persons. Such limitations shall not violate the essence of freedoms and rights.
1. The freedom to express opinions, to acquire and to disseminate information shall be ensured to everyone.
2. Preventive censorship of the means of social communication and the licensing of the press shall be prohibited. Statutes may require the receipt of a permit for the operation of a radio or television station.
The Constitutional Tribunal did not uphold the aforementioned argumentation and ruled that the challenged provisions of the Criminal Code are in conformity with the constitutional principle of proportionality. The criminal-legal protection of private life and good reputation is necessary in democracy and may not be sufficiently substituted by the civil-legal provisions. Judges Ewa Łętowska, Marek Safjan i Mirosław Wyrzykowski presented dissenting opinions. Those judges focused mainly on the solution adopted in Article 213 § 2 of the CRC.
Article 213. § 1. The offence specified in Article 212 § 1 is not committed, if the allegation not made in public is true.
§ 2. Whoever raises or publicises a true allegation in defence of a justifiable public interest shall be deemed to have not committed the offence specified in Article 212 § 1 or 2; if the allegation regards private or family life the evidence of truth shall only be carried out when it serves to prevent a danger to someone’s life or to prevent demoralisation of a minor.
The Tribunal ruled in favour of the private life and good reputation. Such conclusion is justified in the axiology of Article 30 of the Polish Constitution.
The inherent and inalienable dignity of the person shall constitute a source of freedoms and rights of persons and citizens. It shall be inviolable. The respect and protection thereof shall be the obligation of public authorities.
The latter argument, namely the strict link between individuals’ privacy and human dignity, leads to the conclusion that the protection of privacy is in the interest of not only a person whose privacy has been violated, but also in the interest of the entire society. Hence, the protection of privacy and good reputation constitutes the public interest that needs to be taken into consideration in construing the system of anti-defamation protection mechanisms. The Tribunal ruled that defamation is a violation of the human dignity. The obligation of public authorities is to respect and protect human dignity which includes the need to ensure protection against infringement also by private entities. The Constitutional Tribunal transposed the aforementioned argumentation into the field of comparison of the criminal liability, which is aimed at repression, and civil liability, which is aimed – in principle – at compensation.
In the Tribunal’s opinion, the constitutional requirements concerning the protection of privacy and good reputation impose on the legislator the duty to create mechanisms which would take into account not only the need to satisfy the victim of defamation (to compensate his or her harm), but also to the need to underline the social condemnation of such activities. The civil liability fulfils only first of these conditions. That is why there is a necessity – the necessity in a democratic State – to encompass the defamation with the scope of criminal law, since where a certain type of behavior is treated by the legislator as a criminal offence, it signifies that such a behavior constitutes a threat to public interest and not only to the rights and freedoms of victims.
These arguments led the Constitutional Tribunal to the conclusion that the challenged provision of the Criminal Code, penalizing the defamation of a person, does not violate the Constitution.