Bloggers who want to be treated as journalists should think twice for their wishes may come true in a surprising package. They may fall into traps they have not foreseen, when new technologies clash with old laws.
In its recent ruling, the Polish Supreme Court has declared that websites, including blogs, fall under the articles of the Polish press law of 1984. The exact details of the ruling aren't know at this moment, but according to the Polish press law, sites updated more often than once a year will be treated as magazines and sites updated more often than once a week will be treated as newspapers. (This begs a question, will Polish podcasters soon have to obtain broadcast licenses?)
One one hand, this is a good thing, webmasters will become editors in chief, bloggers will become true journalists, with all of their privileges and duties. On the other hand, webmasters will become responsible for the site's contents, including the comments made by the visitors.
All sites that fall within those broadly defined laws have to apply for the official registration in their local courts of law. It costs 40 PLN (approx. 14 USD) and the application can be rejected. Running a website without registration will be punishable by a fine or a few years in jail.
Quite understandably, Polish bloggers aren't happy to hear the unexpected news. The ruling also raises serious privacy concerns, because it removes the anonymity of the webmasters (editors in chief), journalists (bloggers), and publishers. To add insult to injury, the vast majority of national and local government website aren't registered as magazines/newspapers.
Some side effects include possible ISSN registration system overload. It is also unknown how the court system will cope with the deluge of registration applications. Also, this unfortunate ruling opens a new chapter in the history of domain ownership wars. Who's more entitled to the domain name, the owner of the domain or the publisher of a magazine/newspaper?
So, if you are a blogger seeking the same rights as journalists, you may want to start or join the movement to change the press laws before you inherit duties you never expected.