Archive for: pseudonym

Personal interest, case IV CSK 665/10

November 7th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Writing under a pseudonym, Dariusz B. posted a comment on the website “Gazeta online Elbląg 24”. In his post Dariusz B. wrote to the Mayor of the Elbląg town, that he has photographs of people who sit in the city council, and he described the content of these pictures as a “sex scandal”. He noted that the Mayor’s spokesman ignored this case, so he wanted to know what should he do next with such photographs. Other anonymous Internet users posted comments under the post that has been written by Dariusz B. One of them has disclosed who is the author of the post, and also expressed a negative opinion about the post, by calling it a blackmail. This person also suggested that Dariusz B. has used the media for his own purposes in order to manipulate press journalists. The intentions of Dariusz B. and his honesty, were also undermined. The post of Dariusz B. was described as a blatant violation of the law for which he should bear criminal responsibility. “Gazeta online Elbląg 24” is a service available for free. It is operated by the Municipality of the Elblag town. The comment in which personal data of Dariusz B. was disclosed was written from a computer that had the IP address belonging to the organizational unit of the Elblag town. The unit operates wireless Wi-Fi, whose range includes several publicly accessible areas of the building and parking lot adjacent to it. It was not possible to identify the person who posted this comment. The Police, at the request of Dariusz B. commenced an investigation and failed to establish who was the author of the comment, even when the Municipality of Elblag has disclosed all data, including IP addresses. Dariusz B. sued the Municipality of Elbląg for the infringement of his personal interests. The District Court and the Appellate Court dismissed the suit. Dariusz B. filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 8 July 2011 case file IV CSK 665/10, published in electronic database LEX, under the no. 898708, held that critical comments of the content of post and the very fact of its posting, or disclosure of the name and surname of Dariusz B., was not a violation of his personal interest. However, it was a violation of personal interests (dignity and reputation) when such action has been called illegal activity, fraudulent and manipulative, a blackmail and provocation, which undoubtedly discredited Dariusz B. in public opinion, especially as a social activist, who was active at another online forum. Such statement, not supported by the facts, was unlawful. In the case of an infringement of one’s personal interests, the court may award pecuniary compensation to a person whose personal interests have been infringed, an approriate amount as pecuniary compensation for the wrong suffered or may, on his demand, adjudge an appropriate amount of money to be paid for a social purpose chosen by him, irrespective of other means necessary to remedy the effects of the infringement. Not only the person who directly caused the damage shall be liable, but also any person who has induced or helped another person to cause the damage, including those who consciously took benefit from a damage caused to another person. However, the Court ruled that there was no normal causal link between the actions of the Municipality of Elblag, and the damage suffered by Dariusz B., and such a link occurs only when the action is directed to accomplish the tortious activity.

By opearating a website “Gazeta online Elbląg 24” and a discussion forum, the Municipality of Elbląg was deemed as the Internet services provider. However, such ISPs, are responsible for the violation of personal rights performed by others only when they knew that the post violates these interests and they did not immediately prevent the access to the post. Therefore, the ISP is not obliged to control the content of posts written by users on a free discussion forum website. Taking into account the nature and purpose of services based on making available free of charge of a discussion website, and considering also that there were no general rules for the management of such services and systems, the Court held that there were no grounds to impose a general obligation on the ISP to provide tools to identify users of such a website. The Court ruled that the anonymity of persons using the publicly available online news website, is a generally accepted principle and essence of this type of service. It provides freedom of expression, which is the goal of such websites. Consequently, the Court held that the ISP that created and provides free access to the website with a discussion forum, has no obligation to ensure the ability to identify the users who maded posts on this website.

Personal rights, case II CSK 539/07

March 27th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The company QXL Poland sp. z o.o. is the owner of the auction website which removed the user account of a natural person (Cezary O.) who was using the nicknames CezCez, 2cez, 2xcez and espia. The company presented different reasons for its decision to remove the account and tried to justify such action by putting various statements about CezCez on its forum website “Cafe Nowe Allegro”. CezCez did not agree with QXL’s statements and sued. The court of first instance agreed with Cezary O.’s arguments and ruled that QXL Poland make a statement of apology as follows wishes to apologize to CezCez for using comments by one of its employees which publicly appeared on the New Cafe Allegro on 17 January 2003,– wording that implied CezCez was dishonest, he lies, he is selfish and that he pursues his own self-interest. These actions and comments affected the good name of CezCez, which was not the intention of QXP Poland.

The above statement was to be published on the website but both parties appealed. The Appellate Court in Lodz did not share the conclusions of the court of first instance that the username (a nickname) used in internet services is personal right/interests (i.e. intangible personal property) eligible for protection under Articles 23 and 24 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 23
The personal interests of a human being, in particular to health, dignity, freedom, freedom of conscience, surname or pseudonym, image, secrecy of correspondence, inviolability of home, and scientific, artistic, inventor’s and rationalizing achievements, shall be protected by civil law independent of protection envisaged in other provisions.

Article 24
§ 1 The person whose personal rights are threatened by someone else’s action, may require the desist of that action, unless it is not illegal. In the event of the infringement one may also require, the person who committed the violation, to fulfill the actions necessary to remove its effects, in particular, to make a statement of the relevant content and appropriate format. According to the conditions laid down in the Code one may also require monetary compensation or payment of an appropriate amount of money for a social purpose indicated.
§ 2 If as the result of a breach of personal rights one has suffered pecuniary prejudice, the aggrieved person may claim compensation based on general principles.
§ 3 The above shall not prejudice the entitlements provided by other regulations, in particular in copyright law and the patent (invention) law.

The Appellate Court did not agree with the arguments that the user name (a nickname) has parallels with a pseudonym. The case went to the highest court in a further appeal as a cassation complaint. The Supreme Court of Republic of Poland in its judgment of 11 March 2008 case file II CSK 539/07 dismissed the case for procedural reasons. However, the SC did not agree with conclusion of the Appellate Court with regard to protection of nicknames or usernames in the digital environment. The court noted that a username fulfils a variety of functions. First, the creation of a username is a prerequisite to registering on the website in order to obtain its own account and so participate in auctions. A person using such a nickname may be a buyer or a seller. Secondly, a username allows a person to log into website. In the process of logging in, the user is given a pair of identifiers, such as a username and password. Thirdly, the username/nickname identifies the individual in question in the online environment, in this particular case, in the environment of people using services. The individual is therefore recognised as a user using a specific nickname. The Supreme Court could not agree with the position of Court of Appeal that the nickname is purely a technical issue used to personalise the operation. On the contrary it argued, the username/nickname defines and characterises the person who uses such an auction site, bids on it, is the party to a contract of sale, issues comments or is involved in correspondence with other users. The Court found that in some cases, participations in the auction website by a user using a specific name can be a source of information for other participants who know that this user typically takes part in an auction of that type, bids only to a certain amount of money, only on certain days, in a certain way, does not compete with users using specific names, that the user is honest, efficient and immediately carries out transactions, etc. The Supreme Court also ruled that a username identifies a specific natural person. A username consists of a series of signs and letters, and there are no counter-indications that a person who created his or her own username could use his or her own name, surname, artistic pseudonym, pen name, or alias or it could even be a natural person who is the agent and uses the company name (the firm) under which it operates its business. It appeared to the court that in the assumption of a username by a person rather than his or her own name, the pseudonym (which has so far been used as an example in artistic activities) is meant as the assumption of a nickname in order to allow for individualisation of that particular person. The word “nickname” comes from the Greek language (“pseudonymos”–bearing a false name, falsely named) and it means a first name, last name or another name which someone uses to conceal his real name or surname. The court found irrelevant the motivation of a person who takes a nickname which is used as a pseudonym only in the “internet environment” or that the nickname may only be associated with the activities of that particular person carried out within the scope of services offered by, since it may also have a broader meaning and go beyond the services of Consequently, the court noted that a username is subject to legal protection on the same basis on which protection is granted for any name, pseudonym or firm name, under which a person has established its business (whether it is a company name or that of a private person). At the same time, the court found no reason to treat a username/nickname as a separate personal right.