Two legal changes in France, one working for us, one against us:
1) Wartime copyright extensions
Before 1995, the normal duration of copyright in France was 50 years
after the death of the author, or after publication in the case of
collective or anonymous works. However, there were special extensions
meant to compensate the world wars. Due to European "harmonization" of
laws, the normal duration was extended to 70 years (following Germany, I
think). The lingering question was whether the war extensions still
applied. The French Court of Cassation
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_of_Cassation> said they didn't (at
least in the case where extensions didn't start to elapse before 1995,
but those who did will be over in 2009 or so). A yet unsolved question
is the case of the 30 year extensions for authors killed in action (the
only major author that comes to mind is Antoine de Saint Exupéry
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoine_de_Saint_Exup%C3%A9ry>, of /Little
Wikimedia France is having its counsel investigate the exact
implications of this evolution. In any case, it seems that the situation
is better for us.
For the curious, the relevant articles are in the Code of intellectual
property, L123-1, -8, -9 and -10, and in rulings 280 and 281 of the
Court of Cassation, first civil chamber, for 2007.
2) Repression of 'happy slapping'
The French parliament has just passed a law aimed at preventing
delinquence. Among a gazillion of measures on diverse issues more or
less related to delinquence, the Senate passed an amendment aimed at
repressing 'happy slapping'. 'Happy slapping' is basically youngsters
beating up people, filming the scene with cell phones, and broadcasting
the movie in order to humiliate the victim.
Unfortunately, the wording of the amendment was broad, and basically
criminalized against filming or broadcasting the film of certain kinds
of violences, unless one does so for gathering evidence for legal
proceedings, or as part of the normal work of a *profession* whose goal
is to inform the public.
In short, they have outlawed normal citizens (not professional
journalists) video reporting on certain kinds of violences. This could
prove a problem for Wikipedia, Commons and Wikinews contributors; for
instance, if reporting on police violence.
Wikimedia France contacted officials, who claimed that this was not the
intent; the only target was happy slapping, and that if we had called
them earlier they would have the amendment altered.
Now, several good things can still happen :
* The opposition has had the law sent for constitutional review. It is
possible that this article will get constitutional "reservations of
interpretation" that will clarify the situation of non professionals.
* The government will perhaps clarify the issue; that is, make it clear
that the intent of this article is not to punish non professionals
reporting on events with a goal to inform the public.
* Even if the law is accepted as is, prosecutors may get orders not to
enforce it against non professionals who merely meant to inform.
* Judges may also decide the same, if they feel there is a superior need
of freedom of speech.
Finally, do not forget that there are legislative elections 3 months
away or so, and this law may go 'pschitt' if the current opposition wins.
In any case, I don't expect actual prosecution of "citizen journalists",
though I envision as a credible possibility that overzealous police may
want to get rid of undesirable reporters using this law. Even if you are
prosecuted or sentenced in the end, being taken into police custody is
Wikimedia France tries to get informed on that issue.