“We did it! We’ve just turned 100!”

The passing of March 19, 2018 marked the beginning of a new century for our organization.

We pride ourselves on the fact that ZAiKS is still, to this day, is a strong and vibrant organization self-governed by the authors themselves. The truth of the matter is it wasn’t always easy to maintain this strength. We were most certainly not coddled by history, we hardly ever had the steady hand of economic and political comfort on our side. Yet we managed to survive the last 100 years: we endured the troughs brought on by World War II, stalinism and communism. No such other similar organization between the Elbe River and Vladivostok managed to keep afloat and survive the same plights we did. We continue to remember this even today. We remember how we were threatened with nationalization during communism and as in times of martial law when we were intimidated with facing bankruptcy as an alternative plan to the liquidation of our organization. ZAiKS was able to remain one of the few financially independent institutions in Poland probably due to the internal force of our members and the unwavering self-awareness that the organization was ours, and solely ours. This realization helped us immensely in surviving the tumultuous years between 1945-1989. Since the very beginning of ZAiKS, we’ve always tried to combine the logic of thought with the logic of self-interest.

This is not to say we aren’t aware the interests are different because we are. This formulation would be misleading. Instead, the awareness of these differences propels us to do everything we possibly can in our power to the benefit of our authors and the organization’s health. Ensuring the harmonious coexistence of this relationship promotes an unbreakable cohesion internally within the organization. Writer Antoni Marianowicz often told us, “You have to be wise to exist for a long time, and, to be wise you must have existed for a long time.” Our turbulent, and sometimes even dramatic, history simply cannot be measured in a traditional manner. The battle for ZAiKS’ continual survival throughout the last 100 years was often extremely hard. Fortunately for us, successive generations of authors inherited the tenacity for the struggle in their genes.

And it all began with Poland’s entrance into the Berne Convention in 1919 and the enactment of the Copyright Act in 1926. In the latter year the International Congress of Copyright Law was organized in Warsaw under the protectorate of President Ignacy Mościcki and our country participated in the International Congress of Dramatic Authors in Paris which lead to the formation of International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC). In 1934, the CISAC Congress took place in Warsaw. We owe this fantastic achievement to our founding fathers who were part of the series of meetings in Udziałowa in 1918. Their efforts laid the foundation for future endeavors.

The following questions have been on my mind recently. How do the problems we face today differ from the problems we faced before the war? For instance, can we say that the resistance of the Philharmonic or the Radio is really that different from the various complications which arise from various lobbying groups of broadcasters, producers, providers and other users when it comes to the question of authors and their rights nowadays? Attempts were made to present the Copyright Act in a negative light to the public at the time. We need to remember, that in those times too, both the government and parliament sided with the authors. Today a large part of the government widely prefers to support foreign producers and distributors directly on the “cybercommunity.” Back in 1926, Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński managed to relieve the authors a bit of studio related construction expenses in addition to getting the government’s support to obtain 50% of accrued revenue. Today we’re sorry to even mention, despite promises made, that very little was actually returned to us!

Who could have expected that the collapse of so called “socialist realism” – apart from opening up so many new possibilities – would bring so many threats to the world of culture!? Just like at the very beginning, in those first chaotic years of regained independence and just like after the war when everything had to be rebuilt, just like in the times of communism when we had to defend ourselves against members of the party who wanted to nationalize us – today we are faced with an unfavorable climate that we must contend with. Fundamental changes in the system do, unfortunately, not always bring forth periods of prosperous development for creators. However, not everything is lost. We must continue to fight for what’s ours, and take note from our founders, rely on forms of self-help. The important aspect of ZAiKS that distinguishes us from other foreign organizations of the kind is our emphasis on working together through these challenges. This is why we must continue to do everything in our power to maintain our emphasized interdisciplinarity, or in other words, a harmonious coexistence between a dozen creative environments and wide-scale social entreprises.

All the ZAiKS Presidents known to me have repeatedly said that the highest task of the organization is to keep caring for its members and cultural institutions. That we must continue to promote valuable creativity. We are not, nor do we want to be, only a legal office or a bank. We exist for our colleagues. We serve them the best way we can, while always keeping in mind the paramount value of national culture.

The history of our organization is made up of various creative achievements. Even in the most trying and difficult periods of political oppression, Polish creators have always found the spirit of solidarity at ZAiKS, transcending all current rampant divisions of the time. Many authors have been recorded into history and culture – both in the history of fine art and science as well as mainstream culture – at the highest available artistic and professional level possible. Supporting financially weaker prestigious preeminent creators with the help of the commercial authors was and continues to be the feature that distinguishes us among other copyright law organizations in Europe, and probably the world. This feature is an example of solidarity in the deepest cultural sense.

Let’s remember the merits of our outstanding colleagues. Above all else, let’s salute Karol Małcużyński, president of CISAC from 1980-1982. It is worth remembering how important CISAC is. At that time, it brought together nearly 200 copyright protection organizations bringing with them almost a million artists all around the world. Today there is even more of us. Under different circumstances, the CISAC Congress of 1998 in Berlin, which was held under the premise of the Authors Rights in the 21st Century to tackle cultural challenges within our organizations in the digital information era selected Andrzej Szczypiorski as its leader, and to its legal council, professor and postdoctoral scholar Dr. Jan Błeszyński. Małgorzata Semil, Bogusław Olewicz and Marek Hojda sat on the boards of the CISAC Board of Authors. The work of ZAiKS’ Jan Młotkowski and Rafał Kownacki has also been strongly acknowledged abroad. The first mention, Młotkowski, was elected by CISAC to sit in on the Communications Experts Group (CEG). The second mention, Kownacki, became a member of the GESAC Madrid Group as well as the CISAC Global Policy Committee.

To celebrate our anniversary on the break of May and June 2018, representatives from almost all entire world will come to Warsaw. So once again after 84 years, we will be hosting the CISAC General Assembly. A little earlier, on March 18, 2018, we will all meet at a celebratory gala held in Great Theatre—National Opera in our capital. We celebrated our 75th Anniversary under the honorary patronage of President Lech Wałęsa. Our 80th and 85th Anniversary was patronized by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski. President Lech Kaczyński took over the honorary patronage of our 90th Anniversary. President Bronisław Komorowski patronized our 95th Anniversary, and President Andrzej Duda is the honorary patron of our 100th Anniversary.

My experience working for ZAiKS over the last 30 years reminds me not to forget about the soundness of spirit which allows us to make peace with what we cannot change, provides us with the courage we need to do all we can in our power to change for the better and the power and wisdom to distinguish one from the other. Let’s honor the phenomenon of our survival. We’ll continue do everything we can to consolidate, ingrain and creatively develop the noble idea cultivated by the many generations of authors working with ZAiKS – the idea of helping oneself and helping other artists as much as possible. Let’s continue to take care of our home we’ve created, this home of the utmost importance to us!

Janusz Fogler

President and Chairman of the Board of ZAiKS