In the second half of March 2015 the lower house of the Polish Parliament adopted an Act cryptically named: “Act on changes of certain laws in connection with enhancing landscape protection measures”. This complicated name was shortened in the media to a few graceful words – the Landscaping Act draft.
Despite the fact that the Landscaping Act has only passed the first stage of legislative process (hearings are currently being conducted in the Senate) and there is still a long way to go before its enactment, it has already enjoyed wide criticism from a variety of circles. In particular, regulations allowing communities to impose so called advertising fees on entrepreneurs has inspired particular controversy. No matter what we think about the legitimacy of the drafted provisions, this Act involves a certain degree of originality, which may be the first step in stabilizing the provisions in this matter. The popularity of the Act in the media constitutes a perfect springboard for the discussion about the condition of our public space and should contribute to the clean-up of provisions in this scope.
I would also like to take this opportunity to present a short summary of the current legal status in order to show the Polish regulations regarding outdoor advertising.
- Announcements, posters, leaflets, appeals…
Let’s start with the most basic matter. If we would like to put a small advertisement, poster, appeal, leaflet, inscription or picture we must do this in a place intended for this purpose. According to Article 63a(1) of the Offenses Code, whoever puts in a place not intended for such purpose any of the aforementioned items or displays them to the public in any other place without the consent of the manager of this place shall be subject to the penalty of restriction of liberty or fine. Moreover, in case of committing this offense, the court may order the seizure of items being the subject of this act and a fine in the amount of PLN 1,500 or the obligation of restitution ad integrum. Thus, if we for example, place an announcement about our lost pet on a bus stop we may be subject to liability on account of violating Article 63a of the Offenses Code, even if we act in good faith. Also, this does not exclude liability under the Civil Code. Our actions will be fully legal only if we put our poster on a proper notice board. However, in order to be certain, it is worth checking whether this does not entail a small fee because not every notice pillar or board in the neighborhood has to be free of charge.
- Attention, advertising on the road!
All over Poland, you can notice alongside roadways signs, advertisements of various products and companies on almost every road. Inasmuch as a large portion of society understands and accepts this form of reaching customers, some advertising measures may lead to an actual threat to public safety, which has been met with the legislature’s reaction.
The Public Roads Act defines advertisements as a visual information medium in any material form together with structural elements and attachments, located within the field of vision of road users, not being a sign in the meaning of provisions on road signs and signals or informational signage informing about public utilities placed by the community.
Therefore, if we wish to put a specific advertisement along a public road (irrespective of whether it is a community, country, province or national road), we have to submit an application to a competent road manager for permission to occupy such place.
Other regulations relating to advertising are spread throughout various legal acts. Let’s take a look, as an example, at provisions of the Regulation by the Minister of Transport and Maritime Economy on technical conditions to be met by railway intersections with public roads and their localization. According to this Regulation, placing advertisements, posters and other items that could limit visibility of approaching trains is prohibited at the train crossing and within 20 meters of the said crossing. Moreover, it is prohibited to put on railway viaducts, within a road strip, advertisements, posters including information boards and other items not related to traffic. A similar provision may be found in the Act on Road Traffic that prohibits placing on the road or in its proximity devices emitting or reflecting light in a manner that could distract or mislead drivers. It is said advertising is the leverage of trade, but each action should be carried out in moderation. Installing a pulsating advertising stroboscope in proximity of a road, not mentioning being contrary to the law, would be a case of severe irresponsibility.
- I live inside an advertisement – some remarks about placing advertising media on residential buildings
The law also covers the manner of placing advertisements on residential building façades. It is a general rule that a residential (multi-family) building should be exploited in such a manner that allows residents to have unrestricted access to daylight. One may not therefore place an advertisement that would obscure the residents’ view. The only exception to this rule is during the period of construction works (e.g. thermal upgrading works) when, for example, placing a mesh banner protecting passer-byes from falling debris is permitted.
- Historic advertisements
The case is quite different for buildings entered into the register of historic monuments. Placing boards, advertisements, inscriptions or technical devices is, according to Article 118 of the Act on Protection and Care of Monuments, subject to a fine. This does not relate, of course, to signs informing that a given building is of historical value. In order to legally place an advertising medium on a building entered into the register of historic monuments the permission of the provincial inspector of monuments is required.
- Local law
Issues relating to advertising may also be covered by local spatial development plans, i.e. very detailed local law acts specifying the purpose, conditions of land development and location of public investments. Let’s take a look, as an example, at an excerpt from the resolution of the Council for the Capital City of Warsaw of October 16, 2014 as regards the enactment of local spatial development plans of the National Stadium area:
“… it is prohibited to put advertising media and advertisements:
– on pierced balustrades of balconies and terraces,
– on barriers separating roads, rail and tram tracks and stops,
– on gangways…”
“… the minimum distance between advertisements and other elements of city planning shall be as follows: advertisements of the area no larger than 3 sq.m. are to be located at a distance no less than 50 m from other advertisements.”
We can only hope the final shape of the Landscaping Act will contribute to the clean-up of outdoor advertising in Poland.
We will keep a finger on the pulse and will keep you posted about new regulations and progress in this respect.