Blogger has won the case. He is not liable for Internet users’ comments

In January 2012, the Court of Appeal in Cracow changed the decision of the first-instance court and dismissed the lawsuit for the protection of personal interests brought against Andrzej Jezior in an attempt to hold him liable for comments posted by internet users on his blog.

Earlier in this case, the Circuit Court in Tarnów in its judgement found the blogger liable for unlawful entries of other persons placed on his blog. The first-instance court decision disregarded the fact that Mr Jezior had blocked access to such entries immediately after having obtained knowledge of the same.

Since the beginning of the trial, the HFHR observed the course of the proceedings and presented an amicus curiae opinion in the case.

In the oral reasons for judgement, the Judge of the Court of Appeal Paweł Ryglik highlighted that in cases where charges of infringement of personal interests are brought against a ‘hosting services’ provider (for instance, a website administrator who allows its users to add content to the website), general principles of law laid down in the Civil Code ought to be applied in a manner compliant with the Electronic Services Act. In this Act the liability of ‘Internet intermediaries’ is given special treatment, which takes account of the distinctive nature of Internet communications. It seems that the first-instance court did not pay sufficient attention to these regulations.

‘We’re relieved by the ruling of the Court of Appeal. The decision of the first-instance court, if upheld, could have created a dangerous precedent for curtailing the freedom of speech on the Internet’, says Dorota Głowacka, a lawyer with the Observatory of the Freedom of Media in Poland observing the trial. ‘If the Circuit Court’s broad interpretation of the liability of website administrators, natural initiators of a discussion with other Internet users, were accepted as law, this could strike a blow to authors of inconvenient blogs and be used to get rid of them. This ruling is also important insofar as it defines the extent of obligations of administrators and we come across more and more cases where it is unclear what they are’, adds Ms Głowacka.

Apart from dismissing the action, the Court of Appeal also awarded the defendant the costs of the proceedings. The judgement is final and binding.

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