Projekt Fundacji Bęc Zmiana

Paweł Chojecki: There is no subsidized public art collection of Warsaw (yet)

What is the legal status of art objects created thanks to the financial support of the City of Warsaw?  As citizens of a city boasting the highest number of non-governmental organizations in Poland, as well as the highest number of cultural public art works, are we given the opportunity to make use of them?  Who does Warsaw city’s public collection belong to?  Does the city have a transparent policy on copyright issues?  How do non-governmental organizations deal with the knotty issue of copyright?

One of the obligations of the capital city of Warsaw, as well as any other Polish city, is to fulfil the collective cultural needs of its community.  The city can fulfil its citizens’ cultural needs independently, by delegating the creation of a specific task to its employees, or by concluding an agreement with an external contractor, such as the designer of a monument.  The city can also create self-governing cultural institutions, or – in the final resort – can mandate certain cultural tasks to non-governmental organizations. (…)

Today, works of art funded by municipal grants remain the property of the artists who created them, or the non-governmental organizations who commissioned them.  Whether a given work of art will be made available to the public or not depends solely on the goodwill of an artist or organization, or their acknowledgement of the fact that such work was publicly funded.  When a public work is commissioned, one should remember that it should be made available to the public.  Therefore, we are talking here about the possibility of making a work commissioned by the city accessible on multiple occasions after its completion.

Since the ownership of cultural works created with the use of public grants remains, in the best cases, with non-governmental organizations, the city of Warsaw doesn’t have a legal basis to use them.  In order for the city to obtain that right, it would have to sign an additional agreement with the cultural organization on the assignment of ownership rights and/or copyright to the work.  In the absence of the city’s right to exploit such works, citizens are also deprived of that right.  The question therefore arises as to whether this is acceptable.

Paweł Chojecki –  advocate.  He specializes in intellectual property law and commercial litigation.