Archive for: Art. 47 Constitution

Personal interest, case I ACa 142/15

February 17th, 2016, Tomasz Rychlicki

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.

Personal data protection, I CSK 190/12

August 29th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 8 November 2012 case file I CSK 190/12 held that without a doubt, the first name and surname constitute personal data of the individual, therefore, the important question arose, whether they belong to the scope of the individual’s privacy as understood in the provisions of Article 5(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.

Article 5. 1. The right to public information is subject to limitation to the extent and on the principles defined in the provisions on the protection of confidential information and on the protection of other secrets being statutorily protected.
2. The right to public information is subject to limitation in relation to privacy of a natural person or the secret of an entrepreneur. The limitation does not relate to the information on persons performing public functions, being connected with performing these functions, including the conditions of entrusting and performing these functions and in the event when a natural person or entrepreneur resigns from the right to which he was entitled to.

Previous opinions of the Supreme Court on the relationship between the right to protect of personal data and the right to privacy are not clear. They were formulated mainly from the point of view of the protection of personal interests as defined in 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 Supreme Court in its judgment of 15 February 2008 case file I CSK 358/07 (published in OSNC 2009, no. 4, item 63) ruled that legal commentators and case law of the Constitutional Court agree that the right to protect of personal data is derived directly from personal rights such as human dignity and the right to privacy, citing judgments of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal of 19 February 2002 case file U 3/01 (published in OTK-A 2002, no. 1, item 3) and of 12 November 2002 case file SK 40/01 (published in OTK-A 2002, no. 6, item 81). Nowadays, the collection and processing of the personal data is technically relatively simple, therefore it is necessary to protect a person against uncontrolled collection and use of his or her personal data, often without the contribution or even awareness of the person concerned. For these reasons, the legislator specifically regulated the issues of data collection, processing, use and protection of personal data in the Polish Act of 29 August 1997 on the Protection of Personal Data – PPD – (in Polish: Ustawa o ochronie danych osobowych), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 29 October 1997, No. 133, item 883, unified text published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 6 July 2002, No. 101, item 926, with subsequent amendments. While interpreting its provisions, one cannot ignore the 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, and its preamble that explicitly states that data-processing systems are designed to serve man, whereas they must, whatever the nationality or residence of natural persons, respect their fundamental rights and freedoms, notably the right to privacy. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 28 April 2004 III CK 442/02 (unpublished) stressed that when assessing whether there has been the breach of privacy protected by the law, this concept cannot be absolutized due to the degree of its generality, it requires interpretation, taking into account the specific circumstances of the situation. Events and circumstances that form the personal and family life can be classified as private sphere of life. The special nature of this area of man’s life justify the grant of its strong legal protection. However, this does not mean that any reference to a particular person was information in the field of his or her personal life. The regime of protection of privacy and personal data protection regime are therefore independent. Undoubtedly, when it comes to the relationships and the impact of these regimes, because in certain situations, the actual processing of personal data may result in a violation of personal interests in the form of the right to privacy, or protection of the right to privacy will required the objection to the use of personal data. It is difficult to unequivocally determine whether the disclosure of the first name and the surname of an individual by a local government violates his or her right to privacy. This problem can be resolved only while assessing particular circumstances of each case. In this case, the city was requested to disclose the names of individuals with whom it has entered into a contract of mandate and contract of work. One of these contracts concerned preparation and delivery of a lecture. It was difficult for the Court to accept that anonymization and hiding of the surname of a person giving such a lecture would have any meaning. Other agreements related to use of the electronic system of sociological analysis and organization of the conference. They were entered by specific individuals with a public body, which was the city. These people had to reckon with the fact that their personal data will not remain anonymous. For a person requesting access to public information related contracts entered by a local authority, names of parties to such agreements are often more important than the content, and it is understandable for obvious reasons. It would be difficult in this case to defend the view that the disclosure of names of people in the present context would be deemed as a limitation on the exercise of constitutional freedoms and rights of these persons. It had therefore to be assumed, that the disclosure of the names of persons entering civil contracts with a local authority does not affect the right to privacy of those persons referred to in Article 5(2) of the API.

See also “Polish regulations on personal data protection“, “Polish case law on personal data protection“.

Personal data protection, case I OSK 667/09

February 13th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 15 January 2008, Tomasz W. filed with the General Inspector for Personal Data Protection (GIODO) a complaint concerning an unauthorized processing of personal data carried out by the Polish company Nasza Klasa Sp. z o.o. from Wroclaw, the owner of website. He informed the GIODO, that this very popular Polish website on classmates, hosts a photo featuring his image together with a list of names of other photographed people attached to it. Tomasz W. has repeatedly appealed to the website administrators with the request to remove his name from the list. However, he received no response from Nasza Klasa company.

As a result of the investigation, the GIODO found that on 31 December 2007, a registered user of posted classmates’ photo featuring students of a primary school. On the same day, another registered user, placed the names of people who were portrayed at the photograph – including the name and surname of Tomasz W. On 2, 9 and 14 January 2008, Tomasz W. requested Nasza Klasa Sp. z o.o. the removal of his personal data.

In a decision of 27 May 2008, case file DOLiS/DEC-314/08/13239, the GIODO, relying on the provisions of the Polish Act of 29 August 1997 on the Protection of Personal Data – PPD – (in Polish: Ustawa o ochronie danych osobowych), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 29 October 1997, No. 133, item 883, unified text published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 6 July 2002, No. 101, item 926, with subsequent amendments, ruled that information on the applicant’s full name, school and class to which he attended, together with his image, are personal data and the data collector is Nasza Klasa Sp. z o.o.

However, the GIODO also ruled that it should be borne in mind that according to the provision 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, Nasza Klasa sp. z o.o. provides electronic services for registered users of the portal website, consisting of the storage of data of these users in the computer system. This activity is the condition to legalize the processing of personal data in accordance with article 23(1) pt. 5 of the PPD. In addition, the GIODO found that in this case the applicant’s rights have not been violated, because the access to its data was limited to a group of people registered on website.

Tomasz W. asked the GIODO for the retrial. He pointed out that the reasons for the decision have many contradictions, inconsistencies and is ambiguous. He accused the GIODO of laconic and cursory treatment of his case. He again emphasized that his personal data have been published on the website without his knowledge or consent, in violation of his civil rights and liberties.

After the rehearing of the case, the GIODO annulled the contested decision, and discontinued the proceedings. GIODO claimed that the re-examination of the case leads to the conclusion that the disputed information about Tomasy W. did not fall within the definition of personal data. The name and surname have been given under his old image from many years ago. Hence, the combination of photos from the past, with a name and surname of a person and a primary school, which such person attended did not allow for the identification of a person without excessive costs and time. The findings that the disputed information is not personal data within the meaning of the PPD caused the proceedings in the matter to be groundless and on the basis of article 105 § 1 of the APC, it had to be discontinued.

Tomasz W. lodged a complaint with the Viovodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw. The complainant asked for annulment of the decision of first and second instance. Tomasz W. claimed the violation of the substantive law, i.e. article 6(1) of the PPD, through its improper interpretation, of article 32(1) pt 7 and 8 of that Act, by recognizing that Tomasz W. is not entitled to request cessation of the processing of his data and the right to object, and a breach of article 7 of the APC by not explaining all the relvant facts. Tomasz W. disagreed with the statement of the GIODO that questioned information about his person is not personal data within the meaning of the PPD. He stated that any information about an identified or identifiable individual is personal data. Furthermore, he argued that the claim of the GIODO that the data are available only for specific people – registered users of the portal is not acceptable, because has no mechanisms for verification of users identity, which makes the questioned data easily accessible for everyone. Moreover, Tomasz W. also argued that a registered user who does not know him would have some difficulty in identifying his person but such obstacles would not happen to a person who knows about Tomasy W., and is looking for additional information.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 March 2009 case file II SA/Wa 1495/08 ruled that the GIODO erred in its decisions, because information about the name and surname of Tomasz W., combined with information about the name and address of the primary school and the determination of the class to which he attended in 1978/79, even if it was thirty years ago, are personal data. According to the Court provisions of article 1 of the PPD introduced the principle of autonomy of human information, meaning the protection of information about human being. This provision is a kind of emanation of the general right guaranteed by the Polish Constitution in article 47, according to which “Everyone shall have the right to legal protection of his private and family life, of his honour and good reputation and to make decisions about his personal life”. This means that the protection of personal data is related to the protection of privacy rights. This follows from the wording of article 6 of the PPD, indicating that the personal data concern identified or identifiable natural or legal person and that the identifiable is a person is one whose identity can be determined. From wording of that provisions the VAC concluded that personal data are data that identify a person’s identity. The VAC also relied on the content of recital 12 of the 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, which emphasized the protection of all data relating to a person, and therefore also information about someones past.

(12) Whereas the protection principles must apply to all processing of personal data by any person whose activities are governed by Community law; whereas there should be excluded the processing of data carried out by a natural person in the exercise of activities which are exclusively personal or domestic, such as correspondence and the holding of records of addresses

However, in recital 26 of the abovementioned Directive states that data protection rules must apply to any information concerning an identified or identifiable person. In order to determine whether a person is identifiable, all the means which can be used by the controller or any other person to identify a person, should be taken into the account. The rules of data protection do not apply to data rendered anonymously in such a way that a subject of the data can not be identified. The identification of a given person concerns also past information about a specific human being, by which information one can learn about such person’s identity. Accordingly, the VAC held that European law means the protection of personal data as the protection of all the facts concerning the past of a particular person, which corresponds with the content of article 6(2) of the PDP. So this means that such data would also be protected. Referring to the foregoing facts of Tomasz W. case, the VAC ruled that that website published his image and name. In the opinion of the court these are the personal data which are protected by the PPD, because on their basis one is able to identify given person.

Nasza Klasa sp. z o.o. filed a cassation complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) challenging in entirety the judgment of the VAC. The Supreme Administrative Court in a judgment of 18 November 2009, case file I OSK 667/09, rejected the complaint. The SAC held that the primary issue arising in this case was whether a classmates’ picture that was taken thirty years ago, at which Tomasz W. is potrayed, in the circumstances of the case, can be analyzed to determine his identity without necessarily involving excessive resources or time, and therefore, whether the data disclosed in the photo in question, constitutes personal data within the meaning of article 6 of the PPD, and whether it should be protected.

The concept of “personal data” on the Polish law includes any information concerning an individual if it is possible to define its identity and its identification. Personal data is a set of messages about a particular person such integrated that it allows for its individualization. It includes at least information necessary for identification (name, surname, place of residence), but this is not restricted, because it also include further information, strengthening the degree of identification. Such information will also include pictures of the individual, even if they were taken in the past, allowing to identify a person. In a situation where such a photograph is presented with a name and surname of the person portrayed, in a place accessible to an unlimited number of entities, it must be considered that it constitutes personal data subject to protection under the PPD. Mainly, the objective evaluation criteria decides for the qualification of given information as personal data, but it also should comprise of all information, including extralinguistic (context), to which third party may have or has an access. A different approach to the presented issues would maginalize the importance of the laws and it would not relate to its designated function.

Thus it should be considered that the image of Tomasz W. portrayed at the photograph that was taken 30 years ago, affixed with the class, his name and surname, and then published at website constitutes personal data within the meaning of article 6(2) of the PPD, and the cassation complaint was not justified. The SAC also noted that the consent for the processing of personal data cannot be in any way implied.

The SAC also stressed the fact the Internet as a source of information is increasing on a unknown scale and importance. It provides an access to specific information to a vast number of persons and allows for any of its processing within the meaning of the PPD. At the same time there are not yet developed appropriate mechanisms for the protection of individual rights when those rights have been violated as a result of the disclosure of information on the Internet. Then, it is a great role of law enforcement bodies, including the Inspector General for Personal Data Protection in creating practice to comply with applicable laws also on the Internet. It is an unacceptablr situation in which the entity seeks to remove its image from a particular website, and the administration fails to take action to ensure the protection of civil rights. The image is one of the very personal property rights and lack of consent to its publication, if it is not a public person, is a sufficient reason to believe that regulations of the PPD apply, if the conditions set in the article 6(2) of the PPD have been met. There is a legal sequel to this story. See “Personal data protection, case II SA/Wa 1212/10“.

See also “Polish regulations on personal data protection” and “Polish case law on personal data protection“.

Personal rights, case I ACa 385/2006

July 31st, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

Update on Februrary 27, 2010.
I reported on a final judgment in Justyna Steczkowska’s case in my post entitled “Personal rights, case I ACa 1176/09“.

My post that was written in Polish language is too long and probably boring for most of you. It concerns Justyna Steczkowska’s naked pictures taken during her holiday at Turkish Rivera and being published by “Super Express”, which is one of many Polish tabliods. I also wrote about some comments that were posted by Polish lawyers regarding the right of privacy issue and I wanted to write a comparative note about American and Polish legal systems but I am way too busy for such undertaking. I can only tell you that Maciej Ślusarek, an attorney representing Justyna Steczkowska, will have easier case in Poland as opposed to the US legal reality. Mr. Ślusarek previously won a case against “Super Express” publisher and editor-in-chief. It was a very important judgment of the Appellate Court in Warsaw of 29 September 2006 case file I ACa 385/2006. Mr. Ślusarek represented another Polish singer Edyta Górniak. The Court held that there is a need to distinguish the persons carrying out the public functions, if a person due to the character of those functions might be subjected to public control and the openness of their life is justified by the important society interest, from the commonly known persons, who are not subjected to such intense public control. The distinction included in court’s ruling is of course of great importance for protection limitations established for such persons.

The protection of personal image/publicity rights is provided in Article 23 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. This provision outlines the personal image as one of the personal property/interests – an intangible personal right. Furthermore, a person who would like to claim an infringment of his/her rights might also exercise the civil protection of personal image afforded by provisions of the Polish Act of 4 February 1994 on Authors Rights and Neighbouring Rights – ARNR – (in Polish: ustawa o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 24, item 83, consolidated text of 16 May 2006, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 90, item 631 with subsequent amendments.

Article 81.
1. The dissemination of an image shall require the permission of the person presented in that image. Unless there is a clear reservation, such permission shall not be required if such person has received the agreed price for posing.
2. The permission shall not be required for the dissemination of the image:
1) of a commonly known person, if such image has been made in connection with his/her performance of public functions and, in particular, political, social or professional functions,
2) of a person constituting only a detail of a whole, such as a meeting, a landscape, or a public event.
Article 83.
The provisions of Article 78, paragraph 1 shall apply respectively to claims brought due to the dissemination of the image of the person presented in it and the dissemination of correspondence without the required permission of the person to whom it was addressed; such claims may not be asserted after the lapse of twenty years from the death of that person.

Additional protection is also provided in the Act of 26 January 1984 on Press Law, the Criminal Code and the Act of 29 August 1997 on Protection of Personal Data. The protection of privacy and publicity may also derive from the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 2 April 1997.

Article 47
Everyone shall have the right to legal protection of his private and family life, of his honour and good reputation and to make decisions about his personal life.
Article 54
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.

And, of course, from the European Convention on Human Rights of 4 November 1950.