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The Warsaw Voice » Law » December 2, 2009
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Law in brief
December 2, 2009   
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Poland Punished for Overcrowded Jails
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has awarded 3,000 euros and 3,500 euros in compensation to two Poles who complained to the court about overcrowding in their prison cells.

One of the individuals, identified as Krzysztof O., stayed in a prison in the southwestern Polish city of Wroc³aw, and the other, Norbert S., served his time in the northern city of Koszalin. Both complained that their prison cells were too small, with less than 3 square meters of space per inmate. They argued that this violated article 3 of the European convention on human rights, which bans "inhuman and degrading treatment." The court ruled in their favor.

The court is expected to examine 160 other complaints against Poland involving overcrowded prisons.

Company Lawyers Band Together
Legal department heads from a number of large companies operating in Poland have founded the Polish Association of Company Lawyers. The organization aims to support company lawyers in their professional activities.

"We want the association to become a forum for sharing experience and views on best professional practices," said the organization's chairman Waldemar Koper.

The lawyers come from companies such as Unilever, ABB, Svenska Handelsbanken, Barlinek, Sanofi Aventis, Kompania Piwowarska, Vattenfall, BZ WBK, and Fortis Bank.

The organization is a member of the European Company Lawyers Association based in Brussels. Similar organizations operate in other countries in Europe as well as North America and Asia.

Downloading Software? Beware
In contrast to music and film files, downloading computer software may be illegal in Poland, law enforcers warn. Software is protected by intellectual property law and software offenses are prosecuted under the penal code, experts say.

Downloading pirated software is regarded as theft. Under article 278 of the penal code, acquiring a computer program for financial gain without consent from an authorized person is punishable by a prison term of up to five years. Penalties for accepting pirated software range from a fine to two years in prison.

The intellectual property law treats computer software in a special way. Under article 77, the provision of permissible personal use does not apply to computer programs. This means that in the case of computer software, in contrast to music and film files, it is impossible to cite article 23 of the intellectual property law, which permits the use of a work that has already been published without the author's consent.

New Rules for Technological Bonuses
The government plans to change the rules for granting technological bonuses, a form of European Union support for businesses under the Innovative Economy Program. The program allows businesses to obtain EU-subsidized loans for new technology from commercial banks. The subsidized part of the loan is referred to as the technological bonus.

The government wants to change the way in which technological bonuses are calculated. At present, they are pegged to the company's sales revenue generated from the use of new technology. The problem is that in a time of crisis businesses do not have enough funds to invest in new technology. This harms the businesses involved and also hampers the use of EU funds by Poland. Experts estimate that up to 30 percent of the 410 million euros available for technological bonuses for Polish businesses could remain unused.

Under the changes proposed, the technological bonus would be calculated on the basis of actual expenditure incurred to carry out a project involving new technology. The bonus would be made available in a single payment after the project's completion.
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