Company Re-registration: what a fuss!

If you happen to be involved in the company re-registration fuss in Bulgaria, you would probably know how necesary is to keep a stiff upper lip. The first step that you have to make is to acquire a certificate for re-registration from the court. The Commercial Register Act specifies that the latter certificate shall be issued within three days after the application is submitted.

Instead of three days, the court administration issues the certificate five days after the the application is submitted. Only two clerks process the paperwork therefore a fifty-metres-long queue is formed infront of the submittion desk.

The new Companies register entered into force on 01 January 2008

As from 01 January 2008, a new Companies register started in Bulgaria. Pursuant to the Commercial Register Act each company registered in Bulgaria have to re-register. The latter action is necessary because the company information have to be moved from the Court Register to the new Companies Register. There won't be any due state fees if the companies don't make changes to their status. If you, for example, want to increase your capital or replace your Manager: that will be treated as a change in the company's status and a state fee will be due.

Some of the main new features of the Companies register are:

  1. Basically it will be possible to register a company for less than a week.
  2. The location of the authority where you have to submit the registration documents is not bonded to the registered address of the company.
  3. It is possible to register a company and to make changes to already registered company via the Internet (digital signature ("DS") issued by a Bulgarian DS provider is required).
  4. Reduced amount of state fees
  5. All state authorities will not require certificates of good standing any more. They will check your company's status via the Internet.
  6. The Companies register is accessible via its Internet site. The information in companies' registration files is freely accessible.

Unconscientious Bulgarian workers take advantage of the British expats

The British community in Bulgaria expands very fast. Most of the family couples buy countryside houses in poor condition and usually major (re)construction works are necessary before one can live in such house. The new owners hire local construction workers to do the rebuild but do not realize that sometimes they can be taken advantage of.

The British (or any other) expats must keep in mind that each assigning of construction works should be in writing. This shall secure the owner of the house in case of any unconscientious actions taken by the worker. And even more, if any damages are caused by the worker, the owner may require not only a reimbursement, but even a penalty if agreed.

The owner should ask an English speaking  lawyer to draft an agreement if the construction works are at a great scale and therefore a lot of funds are invested. It is better the agreement to be drafted bilingual. This will ensure that each party understands its rights and obligations.

Free access to Bulgarian legislation

The Bulgarian Parliament is now hearing a draft  law which stipulates that the Bulgarian State Gazette shall be published on the Internet. For the time being,  the State Gazette is published only on a hard copy which costs 0,80 Lev (approx. 0,40 EUR) per copy. The above fact is in collision with a principle stipulated in the Bulgarian Constitution: each Bulgarian citizen has the right to access state information in case not explicitly marked as classified.

Presently there are few companies which take advantage of the fact that State Gazette is not published online. They offer software applications which provide digitized copy of  all Bulgarian laws and thus making profit from information that should be public domain.

In case the draft law becomes law, each Bulgarian citizen will have free online access to the Bulgarian legislative database.

Residence certificates for EU members' citizens

Every citizen of an EU member state who wants to stay more than three months in Bulgaria has to notify the Migration Directorate for that stay. The latter issues a long-term residence certificate ("the Certificate") and an Unique Citizen Number ("UCN") is assigned to the foreigner.

Prior to Bulgaria's accession to EU, ID cards were issued to every foreigner who resided for more than three months in the country. Now, as Bulgaria is an EU member state, the citizens of other EU countries don't have to obtain such ID cards. They can use their own passports or ID cards. But in order to identify themselves before Bulgarian authorities (e.g. the Police Department, municipalities etc.) it is necessary that they have the Certificate.

Since very few of the clerks working in the state authorities can speak English or any other language except Bulgarian , it is necessary to identify yourself with the Certificate (which is written in Bulgarian).

The curious thing about that Certificate is that it does not look like a certificate at all. It is a rectangular, laminated, white sheet of paper measuring about 7cm x 5 cm with personal information details printed on it.

I think that Bulgaria's accession to the EU kind of surprised the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior. I mean that the above mentioned certificates are being issued while at the same time:

  1. the Ministry of Interior hasn't notified its clerks and the Police Departments about the existence of the Certificate, and
  2. the Certificate does not have the UCN printed on it
Therefore one can find himself/herself in pretty unusual situations: for instance a foreigner couldn't prove his/her status in Bulgaria because the authorities still require the old ID cards issued to foreigners.

Securing Creative Commons website content: legal actions

Regarding my previous post, now I want to outline some details about obtaining evidence for copyright of website content licensed under Creative Commons.

There are certain difficulties when applying the method mentioned in my previous post, because of the nature of the Creative Commons license. A CC-ed content may have more than one author either initially or later on, when the content is distributed via the Internet. If the original author(s) have put the content under by-nc-nd clause or under by-nd clause of the Creative Commons, no derivative content is allowed and therefore the author(s) may take advantage of my explanations in the later post here in the Legal Blog.

If the original author(s) allow their content to be used as a base for derivative works, the situation is slightly different. I'll give you an example to illustrate my thoughts :

Let's presume that John Smith has published a website and he put the logo of by-nc-sa clause of the Creative Commons. This means that John Smith allows everybody to distribute his webpage content, to remix it (to make derivative works), to share it, but the user (remixer, distributer) is also obliged to fulfill two mandatory conditions:
  1. Not to use the content and the derivative works for a commercial purpose, and
  2. To indicate John Smith as the author of the used (distributed, shared etc.) content

Difficulties arise when there are two and more authors, who have remixed the original content. In this situation, my opinion is that one of the authors-remixers could apply the TimeStamp-ing method. In order to establish the Creative Commons nature of the content, he could state at the end of the content that it is licensed under CC and point out the sources of the original content. This will prove that as of that date of TimeStamp-ing the content it was licensed under Creative Commons and the sources of the original content will be indicated.

Disclaimer: The resolution of a copyright dispute depend on a great scale on the particular judge who hears the lawsuit. As the court in Bulgaria is independent, the above arguments may or may not be considered as enough evidence to rule in favour of the party who TimeStamp-ed the content.

Go Eastern: Bulgarian country houses

Over the past three and four years, foreigners have come to Bulgaria searching for a peaceful place to relax or to spend the retirement years. Most of these foreigners come from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany. So many people couldn't be wrong about their impression of the slow-paced life in Bulgaria's countryside: it's relaxed with breath-taking natural beauty. There even are villages in Bulgaria, where nearly half of the households are English (eg. Beliakovetz, near the city of Veliko Turnovo).

However most of the people who want to buy a holiday house or a family house, seek properties via real estate agencies in their own countries. This greatly raises buyer's expenses. Subsequently these agencies work with affiliates in Bulgaria, who also charge a fee. Additionally each affiliate recruits real estate agents and lawyers who also charge fees.

The whole go-between chain is unjustified and raises buyer's expenses. The buyer could spare those expenses if they chose a local Bulgarian lawyer to find the appropriate estate, to organise and prepare the purchase deal. The lawyer is to charge a single fee which si much smaller compared to the overall sum of fees charged by the chain of mediators.

How to protect my copyright over website content

No-one is ultimately protected from website content theft. Every kid with knowledge in HTML and PHP would succeed in stealing your web-site's articles. Of course, if you have put the (c) sign, there is copyright over the content. But the difficulties come when you undertake legal actions to protect this copyrighted content. Here in Bulgaria, the litigation proceedings are not so clear. I mean that the court will take into consideration each document evidencing who is the author of the content. While this is fairly easy with web software applications, the theft of website content is not so easy to prove. Software applications are not so dynamic and one can register a patent over them. The latter registration will give the author a certificate which, subsequently can be used in court as an evidence for copyright.

On the other hand, websites are large pieces of text code and text content.It is difficult to register a patent over the site's structure and code, as they are so dynamic that they will differ the next week after obtaining the patent certificate.

A good practice is to take advantage of a service called "digital certification of date and time". In Bulgaria each company which is duly licensed by Communications Regulation Commission ("the Provider") to issue digital signatures (digital private and public key) offers the so called "digital certification of date and time".

So if you want to secure your work and copyright over a website content, you can use this method. It is simple and gives you opportunity to prove your copyright over a whole website.

All you need to do consists of four simple steps:

  1. You must acquire a "digital signature" from the Provider
  2. Archive your whole website (eg. zip, rar, tar.gz or something else)
  3. Apply your digital signature to the archive file
  4. Use the TimeStamp service of the Provider (certification of time and date) over the digitally signed archive
If you follow the steps above you will have evidence to present before court. It will prove the following:
  • As of the date of TimeStamp-ing the content, you have had the possession over that archive, and its contents.
  • You have the copyright over the content because it has the (c) sign and your name (or company name) included as well as your digital signature applied.

Having this evidence on your side, your chances to win a copyright lawsuit in Bulgaria increase. Of course it depends on the lawyer you choose too. The more technical knowledge he has, the more your chances to win the case grow.