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Modern Poland Foundation: protecting access to culture and knowledge

In this blogpost published on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of EDRi we present our member Modern Poland Foundation.

By EDRi · April 4, 2018

Modern Poland Foundation, EDRi’s member organisation from Poland, is working for the protection of open access to culture and knowledge. This article highlights their most notable successes.

The Modern Poland Foundation built the most popular Polish free online library Wolne Lektury  which has gained an audience of 5,7 million users. Since its launch over 4400 literary texts were published. Tools for digitizing and releasing books in various formatsand via mobile applications, an OPDS catalog, the OAI-PMH protocol and its open API are constantly being developed. All of the software is freely available under the GNU AGPL licence. The library hosts public domain works, edited and adapted for the modern audience, as well as contemporary works acquired for distribution under free licenses.

Between 2012 and 2015, the Foundation was involved in strategic litigation in the area of the public domain. A court decision was sought regarding the term of copyright protection for the works of Janusz Korczak, a Polish-Jewish children’s books author (King Matt the First) and pedagogue. Although his death in 1942 was well documented, some post-WWII laws on missing persons were used to prolong the copyright term of his works to 2017. The court’s decision put an end to this practice, and recognised the Foundation’s reasoning.

Another important intervention by the Foundation was the case of da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine”. In 2012, the Polish government paid one million Polish Zloty for using the image of the painting, which is already in the public domain. A FOIA requests was filed by the Foundation to the Ministry of Culture and the Wawel Castle, and brought considerable media attention to the case. The case was used in subsequent interventions in consultations regarding copyright and state involvement in culture.

Within the Prawo Kultury (Law of Culture) project, the Foundation led information campaigns and educational activities on the topic of copyright. These activities included:

  • running a social campaign “I have the right to…” aimed at raising awareness in the area of copyright and to educate the general public about their freedoms regarding limitations and exceptions specified in copyright law
  • organising the annual CopyCamp  conference about copyright since 2012 with the aim of fostering a balanced and multi-sided debate about copyright in its political and social contexts.
  • offering a copyright law help desk
  • helping citizens understand copyright and free licences by running an information website, including a comprehensive guide on copyright
  • organising trainings for non-governmental organisations, public institutions, businesses as well as for artist and student groups
  • editing and publishing a textbook for first year university intellectual property classes together with ready to use slides for download and use by university teachers, under a CC-BY-SA license
  • regularly publishing texts (including translations) crucial to the debate on the shape and changes to the copyright law (including such international authors as: Philippe Aigrain, Eben Moglen, Cory Doctorow)
  • hosting a research project “Right to Culture: Future Scenarios” for the development of scenarios for future creation, sharing and use of culture and the assessment of its impact on the state of society, culture, education, creative sector and copyright system in Europe in the perspective of 2040.

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