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Poland – Punitive damages for copyrights infringement declared unconstitutional by Constitutional Tribunal

ShredednotesThe Polish Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act gives the injured party an option to claim from the copyright infringer triple the value of license fees if the infringement was culpable. The value of the license fees is calculated on the basis of the market standard in similar cases. On 23 June the Polish Constitutional Tribunal found that provision to be unconstitutional.

The decision was made upon a request filed by UPC – one of largest digital cable television providers in Poland. The request was made in the context of a court decision awarding punitive damages against UPC in favour of the Association of Polish Film Makers for rebroadcasting of TV programs without paying a license fee.

The Constitutional Tribunal decided that a copyright owner cannot claim damages which exceed the damages which were actually suffered. In the Tribunal’s opinion such punitive damages constitute an inadequate remedy and are an unacceptable interference in the economic rights of copyright infringers.

The Tribunal’s decision means that the provision providing for punitive damages in copyright infringement matters will be repealed, with effect from the formal publication date of the decision (expected in a matter of days). Copyright owners will however retain their rights to claim damages in accordance with general rules of Polish law.