Archive for: Art. 38 APL

Internet websites, case I C 1532/09

March 13th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Observatory of Media Freedom in Poland run by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights reported on a case of Augustyn Ormanty, the mayor of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska town, who sued Tomasz Baluś, the administrator of website, for personal rights infringement after he found that the website hosted defamatory comments directed to his person. Mr. Ormanty decided to request the court to order the removal of 18 comments because he received negative response from Tomasz Baluś who claimed that these questioned statements put in the form of comments to information published at his website, are the individual opinions of people who wrote it, for the content of which, Tomasz Baluś is not responsible, because they are owned by their authors.

The District Court I Civil division in Kraków in a judgment of 11 MArch 2010 case file I C 1532/09 ruled that website cannot be deemed as the press according to 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 amendmets, because it did not meet the criterion of periodicity. The court noted that website is rather a collection of publications and serves as a wall on which people are able to post their comments. The court emphasized that the purpose of Internet portals, such as is primarily to initiate and shape public debate on issues important to the local community. The court added that the Internet is, in principle, free from control and could be subject to control only, if it fits the regulation provided in the APL. The court also stated that Augustyn Ormanty failed to prove that the offensive – in his opinion – comments related to the facts. According to the Court, they were rather opinions, which in principle cannot be judged based on the criterion of truth and falsehood.

In addition, the court held that Tomasz Baluś had a limited capacity for meticulousy checking and editing of the entries appearing on the forum of his website because of their large numbers. The court stated that the measures taken by the Mr. Baluś to search and control the entries for vulgarity and to remove obviously insulting comments were sufficient. According to the Court, Mr. Ormanty had a possibility and the right to request the removal of comments he found insulting, based on provisions of Article 14 of 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.

The court pointed out to the argument stating that the mayor is a public figure who must reckon with the fact that its activities may be subject to criticism. As a public figure, Mr. Ormanty should show greater resistance to critical opinions, negatively evaluating the performance of the functions entrusted to him. In conclusion, the Court added that the law has not kept pace with the development of modern technology and therefore, it does not precisely regulate the issues of freedom of expression in the Internet. Therefore, the careful evaluation of such situations, is entrusted to the judges. Their task is to ensure and guarantee the freedom of expression in similar cases.

See also “Social networking sites, case I A Ca 1202/09“.