I was surprised to find this story on the front page of Saturday’s Guardian because it shows the growing importance of copyright questions in the mainstream press. However, I was less impressed with the article’s content. The headline tells us that “Polish priests threatened with jail for plagiarising sermons”. Quite an impressive claim, and definitely a headline-grabbing topic. Plagiarising priests behind bars, it doesn’t get any better than this, right?
Certainly, if the priests are lifting entire sermons from online sources, that is clearly copyright infringement, besides being morally dubious, and potentially a sin if one considers it as theft. However, nowhere in the text of the article there is evidence for the claim that the plagiarising clergy will be thrown into jail. Copyright infringement is mostly enforced through civil remedies, and very rarely there are criminal implications for casual copiers. So, maybe Polish copyright law is different? Polish copyright law punishes with two years of imprisonment for two years for “any person who usurps the authorship or misleads as to the authorship of all or part of the work or performance of another…” So in theory it is possible, but this does not seem like something that would be enforced.