Compared to other European Union countries, Poles' legal conscience regarding copyrights is on a relatively low level. In Poland, until now, knowledge of rights to which all authors are entitled is not widespread, nor any common culture of respecting such laws exists.
European Union copyright laws as well as norms of most important international contracts guaranteeing respect for intellectual property in signing countries make part of Polish legal order.
Even though the first complete codification of Polish law passed in 1952, and the copyright law that is in force now passed in 1994, for an average Pole copyrights are still a novelty.
What's more, even among lawyers thorough knowledge of copyrights is not common. Set university study programmers offer copyright law subject as additional or facultative, which doesn't encourage broadening of their knowledge.
In the public perception, knowledge of copyright laws is primarily the domain of corporations, and protection performed by the author often meets with incomprehension, especially if it tries to raise awareness of what losses the author suffered and what is the social role of copyright.
At the same time the authors' awareness of the range of the laws they are entitled to thanks to creating a piece of work is still very small.
Rarely do authors see ways to make a distinction on the market (the license and the transfer of authors' possession laws), which is fundamental to the system of copyright works. In Polish law, the transfer of authors' possession rights requires a written contract giving all fields of use, under which the transfer of rights to the piece of work is made - the fulfillment of such far-reaching issues of formalism creates problems to all the parties on the market - from the authors of the buyers. Only occasionally drawn agreements for the transfer of copyrights are valid and enforceable, resulting in essentially licensing of most of the intellectual properties in circulation, and as a consequence the partial uncertainty and instability of rights of market participants.
The authors themselves are not aware that certain rights, like the right to signing the track by their own names and surnames, or the supervision of the use of the work cannot be waived or abandoned. Employees who do creative work and because of employment contracts transfer rights to their works to their employers for fear of losing their jobs and becoming part of the multitude of unemployed people, do not make use of their personal copyrights.
There can be no doubt that the high tolerance for the violation of copyrights is a specific social problem. The socially acceptable behaviors include: coping whole books by students, downloading files with movies and music or buying counterfeit luxurious products because they offer cheaper access to goods.
Compared with the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century, there has been a significant decrease in the number of violations related to the distribution and sales of counterfeit clothes, perfumes, leather products, which resulted from the tightening of the market, as well as the process of the growth in the social affluence. Nevertheless, the amount of illegally downloaded content has simultaneously experienced enormous growth caused by the extension of the access to the Internet. What has a special importance in that matter is the illegal use (importantly, also by companies) of software, as well as downloading computer games, multimedia, e-books, book scans. It should also be noted that numerous websites that offer pirate copies of music files or movies provide their services at a fee and, according to some research, they gather significant profits. The above proves that an ordinary user is willing to pay money for the access to the multimedia, however, legal copies are either too hard to get or their price is too high - portals that share illegal copies fill the market niche.
On the Internet, the copyrights of photographers, graphic designers and publicists are being extensively violated. The phenomenon is so common that, in the social consciousness, it is not regarded as any kind of unacceptable behavior. The low traceability of the violation of copyrights and the helplessness of authors who lack any legal support is a specific encouragement to use illegally distributed works.
The interesting phenomenon that proved the legal consciousness of Poles was the mass critique (especially on social websites), or even numerous street protests and demonstrations that occurred at the beginning of 2012 in relation to the plans to accept the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, the so-called ACTA.
The very agreement did not essentially change anything in the Polish legal system as the formalized European legacy of intellectual property is much more advanced and strict than the present international standards. Nevertheless, the resentment that arouse against the questioned note that there is no general law for the Internet users to download content from the Internet, proves not only the little knowledge of the Internet users, but also their familiarization with using works illegally distributed on the Internet. That also proves the well-established patterns of behavior that consists in the unlimited, free and uncontrolled access to the content.
Some research shows that the violation of the intellectual property rights does not stem from the lack of education - although that is another problem. The illegal use of other people’s works occurs although users are aware that they use them illegally. One of the causes of that is the institutional obsolesce of the copyrights law which, in spite of regular amendments being introduced into it, does not keep up with the technological development.
In Poland, in the following several or dozen years, the atmosphere will be maturing towards the introduction of system changes in the intellectual property law. The Polish, as well as the European legislation will be forced to reconcile different interests of creators and organizations of mass management of the creators' rights with the need and expectations that have been recently formed in information societies. However, before that happens in Poland, there will have to be the popularization of the intellectual property law in the society and, more importantly, the re-evaluation of the views and common acceptance of the unacceptability of violating copyrights.
Illustration: Stefan Papp