Liability for Internet Copyright Infringement


Nowadays, the Internet enables much wider, and at the same time uncontrolled, use of intellectual goods than a few years ago. For the vast majority of people, it is the primary source of information, as it enables easy access to knowledge that used to be difficult to access, as well as current information. We have the ability to quickly and in most cases free access to knowledge resources that seem to be inexhaustible.

The Internet, despite its young age (its origins date back to the end of the 1960s, but in fact it became generally available only at the beginning of the 1990s), has become an integral part of the life of a large part of society. As a result, there has been an opinion in the society that the availability of the Internet translates into the fact that everything on the Internet is free and you can use it freely. This belief is primarily due to the lack of legal awareness and knowledge of the need to respect intellectual property. Who is responsible for online copyright infringement?

Internet and copyright

The Internet is a huge challenge for the legislator. The dynamic development of electronic communication and digital technologies and their widespread dissemination have significantly changed the way works are created and distributed. Nowadays, therefore, a strict approach to copyright sometimes raises opposition not only of the public, but also of the authors themselves. It is not a discovery to say that copyright does not always keep pace with technological progress, and therefore with the development of the Internet. Therefore, the demand for partial limitation of legal protection in the name of cultural freedom is becoming more and more popular (especially when the protection of copyright takes a paradoxical form, e.g. paying royalties for every public performance of works, also in cafes and restaurants).

The same copyright laws apply on the internet as they do in the real world. All information that we have included in the articles about the work, the creator, types of rights he is entitled to and how to protect them are up-to-date in relation to the Internet resources. So no matter how the work ended up on the Internet, whether it has any value (whether it is a beautiful picture or a funny meme) - it is protected by copyright if it is characterized by individuality and creativity.

The Internet, however, is not completely out of control. After all, we have companies that provide internet access services or servers, we also have a person who places materials on the web through them, and a person who ultimately uses these materials. How is the liability for infringement of copyright on the Internet distributed in this network of connections of the creator whose work has been unlawfully uploaded, shared and disseminated?

This article aims to answer that question. So when is the web content provider, the web service provider (including the hosting provider), and the end user responsible for infringing copyright on the Internet?

Web content providers and their liability for infringement of copyright on the Internet

Determining the liability of the content provider is the least problematic, because the provider is a person or institution that makes material (content) available to other people via computer networks. If he shares his own materials (created by himself), i.e. he is their author or simply owns the proprietary copyrights to these materials, the problem of copyright liability does not exist (of course, he may be liable under different rules, if the shared content is illegal, e.g. related to pedophilia. ).

Service providers and their liability for infringement of copyright on the Internet

Liability of the service provider for infringement of copyright on the Internet, or rather its limitation, is regulated in the Act of 18 July 2002 on the provision of electronic services. Pursuant to the act, the service provider is not obliged to check the transferred, stored or shared data in the situations specified in the act.

First of all, according to Art. 12 of the Act, the service provider (including the transmission of data in the telecommunications network or the provision of access to the telecommunications network) shall not be liable for the content of such data, if:

  1. it is not the originator of the data transfer;
  2. does not select the recipient of the data transfer;
  3. does not select or modify the information contained in the message.

The exclusion of liability for infringement of copyright on the Internet also applies to the automatic and short-term indirect storage of transmitted data, if the purpose of this action is merely to carry out the transmission and the data is not stored for longer than is normally necessary to carry out the transmission.

In addition, the provider is not responsible for caching, i.e. automatic and short-term intermediate storage of data in order to speed up re-access to them, if:

  1. does not modify the data;
  2. uses recognized and usually used in this type of activity information techniques that define the technical parameters of data access and updating, and
  3. it does not interfere with the use of information techniques recognized and usually applied in this type of activity in the field of collecting information on the use of collected data.

The provider will not be liable for caching also if, by following the above procedure, he deletes the data or prevents access to it, when it obtains a message that it has been removed from the original transmission source or access to it has been denied.

Liability of the hosting provider for infringement of copyright in the Internet

Another matter is liability for infringement of copyright in the hosting provider's internet. A hosting provider is an entity that provides data storage (hosting) services. It consists in the fact that websites are created as platforms for users to whom a certain amount of memory is made available on servers in order to store materials from these users on them.

The hosting provider will not bear responsibility for the stored data if, while providing the resources of the ICT system for the purpose of data storage by the user, he does not know about the unlawful nature of the data or related activities, and in the event of receiving an official notification or obtaining reliable information about the unlawful nature of the data or related activities immediately will prevent access to this data (in such a situation, it will not be liable to the user for any damage that arose or could have arisen as a result of preventing access to this data).

Internet Copyright Infringement - End User Liability

Pursuant to Art. 23 of the Copyright Act, it is allowed to use an already disseminated work for personal use free of charge. In addition:

Art. 23. The author's permission shall not be required for temporary or incidental reproduction of works that do not have independent economic significance, but constitute an integral and fundamental part of the technological process and are intended solely to enable:

1) transfer of the work in the ICT system between third parties through an intermediary or

2) lawful use of the work.

The end-user can therefore use the works when they have been temporarily copied to his computer's RAM and displayed on a monitor, and this will not be considered an infringement of copyright. This is about getting to know the piece. So even if a work has been found on the Internet illegally and infringes the rights of its creator, the end-user is not in a position to determine this, so saving the song temporarily in the RAM of his computer (which is necessary to display this song) does not infringe the rights of the creator. However, it should be remembered that it is illegal to make a work saved on a disc, which we do not have copyright, available to others.