Under Article 20 of the Polish Act of 4 February 1994 on Copyright and Neighbouring Rights there is an obligation to pay royalties of up to 3% of the sale price of reprographic equipment. This obligation falls on the manufacturers and importers of reprographic equipment such as audio recorders, video recorders, photocopiers, scanners and any other similar equipment enabling making copies of a part or whole of a published copyrighted work or objects of neighboring rights (such as performances, concerts or TV programmes) as well as producers of clean data carriers (such as paper for photocopying) used for fixing such works and objects using the equipment indicated above. The current rates of the royalties are provided by the Ordinance of the Minister of Culture of 2 June 2003. This Ordinance determines categories of equipment and data carriers used for fixing works and on fees from sale of such equipment and carriers by its manufacturers and importers. The royalty rates vary depending on the type of equipment or carrier in question.

The royalties are not paid directly to owners of the copyrights or related rights but are paid to the relevant collecting societies which are responsible for distributing them to authors, performers and publishers in proportions prescribed by law.

The royalties should be paid by manufacturers and importers on a quarterly basis within 14 days from the end of the quarter concerned.

The law allows for collecting societies to establish joint bureaux responsible for collecting royalties from manufacturers and importers, but only few collecting societies in Poland actually decided to do so. This makes it very complicated for manufacturers and importers to make the payments while there are altogether 7 collecting societies author d to collect royalties from the sale of different categories of equipment and carriers.

The amounts of royalties to be paid for the sale of reprographic equipment and clean carriers has, for a long time, been unsuccessfully contested by manufacturers and importers of such devices. Many of them consider these royalties to be unfair where the actual purpose of use of reprographic equipment and clean carriers is not being taken into account. However, in practice, the burden of paying royalties from sale of reprographic equipment and clean carriers is transferred to end-users since the amount of royalties is included in the end-user price.

The issue of royalties related to reprographic equipment and clean data carriers was a subject of a recent stormy debate in the Polish parliament and according to the promises made by the Minister of Culture it shall be addressed in the new amendment to the Act on Copyright and Neighboring Rights that shall be adopted this year.

This will be of great interest in light of recent developments in Germany (see the May 2008 bulletin) and discussions currently underway in the United Kingdom, where in Lord Carter’s report ‘Digital Britain’, published on 16 June 2009, Ofcom has unexpectedly been invited to assess the cost / benefit and framework required for the introduction of ‘re-use’ fees on recording equipment for private copying and format shifting.