Liability for infringement of copyrights — what you can do

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What should I do if my copyrights are infringed? This is the question I am asked by clients who want to act when someone steals their work or pretend to be them.

In this article „Author’s economic and moral rights — what are they?” I told you what economic and personal rights are. But what if someone infringes these rights?

In the event of an infringement of the author’s economic or moral rights, you can make a number of claims against the infringer.

Liability for infringement of the author’s moral rights

Claims for moral rights are as follows:

  • to cease the infringement;
  • to remove its effects;
  • financial compensation and/or payment of an appropriate amount for an indicated social purpose.

Liability for infringement of the author’s economic rights

However, in the case of economic rights, the claims are as follows:

  • to cease the infringement;
  • to remove its effects;
  • compensation for the damage caused and/or payment of a specified amount for an indicated social purpose;
  • to return any benefits obtained;
  • and to make a statement of appropriate content and form publicly available.

However, there are two ways of claiming compensation for the damage caused. As a general rule or by paying twice the certain amount of money — and three times the amount, when the infringement was deliberate — of the appropriate compensation which would be due, if the author agreed to use the work.

The law is changing — the Constitutional Tribunal found the demand for three times the appropriate compensation too high. As a result, the current practice has been divided. Some lawyers apply the double amount to the culpable and unintentional infringement, while others stick to the principle of claiming compensation on general terms. 

Discontinuance of the author’s right infringements in Poland

This is one of the typically preventive intangible protection measures that our legislator has provided.

We have the right to demand cease of the copyright infringement in two situations. When the distribution has not yet taken place, but there is a risk of it happening, and when the infringement has already taken place and was a singular or continuous action.

The risk may be that a specific magazine with our pictures is being prepared or even already in print. The important thing is that any concerns must be objectiveand they should not be our own perception of the matter.

If we want to use such a claim, we need to specify exactly where the infringement occurred or will occur. General terms will not be sufficient.

Removing the effects of copyright infringement

Another intangible measure is to force the infringer to remove the effects that occurred after the infringement of our copyrights. The catalogue of possibilities by which the infringer can remove the effects of his or her actions remains open. The guidelines are that such a claim must be in proportion to the personal interests at stake and the nature and extent of the infringement.

Additionally, the selected measures must ‘give satisfaction to the claimant, but should not lead to humiliation of the infringer’ — cf. Administrative Court in Lublin, 10.07.1998, I ACA 202/98, OSA 2000, No. 2, item 6.

Examples that could help us include, among others, a public statement with the appropriate content and form or, more specifically, official information on the website at the place of the infringement. Such cases can be found, among others, on Pudelek website, which publishes erroneous information about celebrities.

We may apply this in addition to the claim for the discontinuance of the copyright infringement.

Filing a claim for declaration

Investigating a case to see whether an infringement has occurred is quite an interesting source of satisfaction. The claimant, who has a legal interest in the matter, fills a claim, and the court examines whether a legal relationship has arisen between the claimant and the infringer as a result of the infringement of moral rights.

Such a finding 'is sometimes sufficient to prevent further infringements or to remove the danger of infringement’ – cf. Radwański 2005, p. 176.

It is worth noting that this possibility can be used only after all other measures described have failed.

Payment of compensation for infringement of the author’s economic rights

If the infringement of copyrights caused material damage, the injured party has the right to demand that the damage be repaired on general terms by paying a specified amount.

The preconditions for the application of this claim are different from those presented at the beginning of the article. It is no longer enough for the infringer to act unlawfully. The injured party must demonstrate that their interest has been damaged, that there has been material damage and that there is an appropriate relationship between them.

An appropriate relationship— when the damage is a normal consequence of the infringement of our interest.

Payment of compensation for infringement of the author’s moral rights

The next method of pursuing one’s rights is to pay a specific amount to the entitled person for the harm suffered, i.e. the infringement of copyrights. This is a form of compensation intended to compensate for non-material damage, if such damage appeared, of course.

The preconditions are similar to the ones described above, but they must be based exclusively on non-material damage. It should be noted that in the doctrine it is acceptable to apply this provision only in the case of a culpable act of the infringer.

Payment of a specified sum of money for a specified social purpose

This is the amount that is to be paid under the decision of the court on the basis of the above point and it is to be paid for a social purpose indicated by us. In practice, the court often agrees to this, seeing it as a higher goal when the person entitled does not want the money for himself or herself.

Amicable settlement of the dispute

I often encounter situations when the infringement is not too serious, and it is enough to send an appropriate message with an amicable solution, e.g. a payment of a certain amount for a social purpose, and the case will end without the intervention of the court. I recommend this to everyone, because both sides will be satisfied with it.

It will be more costly to pursue your claims in court and it will increase the time it takes to resolve the dispute. And we don’t want that.

All claims combined

There is no doubt that the intangible and tangible measures can be combined. However, there is a certain dispute in the doctrine as to whether it is possible to demand the payment of compensation together with the payment of a specific amount for a social purpose. However, and I also agree with this, the decisions of the courts are beginning to change and, more and more often, these two claims can be used together.

That’s it

That’d be all when it comes to the claims we can pursue in the event of a copyright infringement. The topic has not been completely exhausted, but you have been provided with the most important information in order to create a vision of the basis of your rights.

After reading this article, you already know that there are many ways to react to copyright infringement. However, I would like to mention once again that the most frequent and probably the most desirable method is the amicable one; after all, that’ll be a win-win situation for everyone.

Do you think that your copyrights or other interests have been infringed? Do you need help with establishing your demands? Do you have other question connected to this one or another article? Feel free to contact me.

If you want to discuss a topic related to this article, you can post a comment below.

Arkadiusz Szczudło

Arkadiusz Szczudło

Jestem adwokatem, Partnerem Zarządzającym w kancelarii Creativa Legal, wiceprezesem fundacji Creativa Education, mentorem i twórcą internetowym. Specjalizuję się w prawie nowych technologii oraz prawnym wsparciu biznesu – w tym w szczególności e-commerce i biznesu online. Jestem ekspertem w zakresie prawnych aspektów technologii blockchain.

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