The last amendment to the law on the common court system in Poland is to introduce a new, extraordinary power of Minister of Justice of major importance for software suppliers. Now the Minister will be able to issue a decision forcing the owner of the copyrights to the software used in the judicial IT systems to sell the copyrights to the state. The price of the sale would be subject of the opinion of the expert witness and exhausts any claims of the owner of the copyrights. The copyright owner will have a right to appeal such decision to the common court.

This extraordinary power will cover already licensed software solutions used in the courts and provides extremely solid leverage and instrument of economical pressure during negotiations on any existing contracts with the copyright owners.

The new law may be applied in cases where there is a threat to continuity of operations of the software or IT systems using such software and where "agreeing with owner of the copyrights to the software encounters obstacles".

This regulation creates a very dangerous precedent because of its potentially broad field of application. In particular, a term "agreeing with copyright owner encounters obstacles" is highly imprecise and in practice may be interpreted broadly. That means that in extreme cases even lack of agreement in terms of purchase price while negotiating a software contract might be considered as such an "obstacle" which would authorize Minister of Justice to execute its extraordinary power.

What is also surprising the proposed regulation has not been explicitly restricted to custom-made software only, therefore it is not clear whether it might be applied also to standard software available on the market.

The law has just been passed by Sejm (major chamber of parliament in Poland) and now awaits for Senate scrutiny. Knowing however current practice one may expect that law will enter into force quickly, maybe even in next few weeks.

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