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To register or not to register, that is the question!

Let’s start with the “formalities” everyone detests. For most people creating a blog only involves one formality, indicating your e-mail address when registering on a website that provides your blog template (e.g. WordPress.com, Blogger.com). Here, however, a “surprise” awaits us.

It turns out in many cases it is necessary to fulfill an obligation resulting from the Act of January 26, 1984 – Press Law (“Press Law”), namely – the obligation to register the blog in the register of… dailies and magazines. Although this may sound abstract and hard to believe for most people that they must take on the role of “editor-in-chief” of their blog, the matter is serious indeed. The importance is manifested by the fact that the obligation of website registration was handled by the Supreme Court, but we’ll address this shortly .

First we should note, according to Article 20 clause 1 of the Press Law, publishing a daily or magazine requires registration in the provincial/regional court that has jurisdiction over the seat of the publisher. The Act requires a registration be submitted to the court containing the name of the daily or magazine as well as the seat and full address of the editorial office, personal data of the editor-in-chief, identification of the publisher including its seat and full address, and the publication frequency of the daily or magazine. Thus the question arises: what does “daily” or “magazine” actually mean? The answer can be found in Article 7 clause 2 of the Press Law, outlining which dailies and magazines constitute “press” being defined as:

1) periodical publications,

2) that do not form a self-contained, uniform totality,

3) appearing not less than once a year,

4) having a fixed title or name, current number and date.

According to this provision a “daily” is a general information periodical presented in print, sound transmission or sound and image transmission format that appears more than once a week. A “magazine” is a periodical presented in print appearing no more than once a week but no less than once a year; this provision also applies to sound transmission as well as sound and image transmission.

Originally court rulings did not provide a conclusive interpretation regarding the obligation to register websites. Currently, however, in light of the prevailing view of the Supreme Court (decision of December 15, 2015, file no. III KK 250/10), it should be assumed that:

The Press Law Act directly indicates the press includes not only traditional press, but also any mass media currently existing and emerging due to technical progress (and therefore, in particular, websites),

provided they meet the criteria indicated in Article 7 clause 2 of the Press Law (periodical publications that do not form a self-contained, uniform totality appearing no less than once a year, having a fixed title or name, current number and date);

depending on the “periodicity”, websites shall be qualified as dailies (published more than once a week) or magazines (published no more than once a week, but no less than once a year)

there is no obligation to register websites per se, but only such websites that meet the legal definition of the press.

For this reason, prima facie there is no doubt electronic versions of “traditional” (paper) dailies and magazines shall be subject to the registration obligation. But how is it in the case of blogs and other websites that are not such equivalents?

The analysis of court rulings to date dealing with this matter indicate that insofar as a blog fulfills the aforementioned criteria, i.e.:

– periodicity (updated no less than once a year);

– fixed name/title; dated posts;

– posts are not as related to one another as to form “a self-contained, uniform totality”,

in principle such blog could be considered as press, subject to the registration obligation (as a daily or a magazine, depending on the publication frequency of posts).

An additional criteria – that does not follow directly from the provision of Article 7 clause 2 of the Press Law, but was developed by scholarly works and court rulings on the basis of the general definition of the press – is provided by the purpose of the blog. In order to consider a blog as press it should also be of general information nature (since the role of the press, according to its general legal definition, is the dissemination of information – cf. decision of the Appellate Court in Łódź of January 18, 2013, file no. I ACa 1031/12 and referenced therein decision of the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw of October 30, 2008, file no. II SA/Wa 1885/07).

Considering a given blog as press (either “daily” or “magazine”) will result in the provisions of the press law, including provisions regarding the registration obligation in the court register, to apply to such blog. Qualifying a blog as press will also entail a particular responsibility for the contents of published posts (we will describe this issue in detail in a future post).

In the next post we will deal with the consequences of not registering a blog.

P.S. We optimistically assume that our posts will be published more often than once a year. With this in mind, without any hesitation, we have registered our blog in the register of dailies and magazines as maintained by the Regional Court in Warsaw.

#internet law #press law #registration blog #registration press

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