[Foundation-l] a day in a life of a board member... and thoughts

Florence Devouard Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 12 15:58:42 UTC 2008

I read recently someone complaining that they were not informed of 
on-going legal complaints. Let me tell you about the latest one.

Between Christmas and New Year Eve, I got a phone call from the local 
gendarmerie (gendarmerie is what plays the role of police in rural areas 
in France). They had received a complaint, against me, for a problem on 
Wikipedia, and needed to receive me to inform me of the details of the 
complaint. I indicated I was on holidays, travelling, but would be back 
just before the 1st. They said "no problem, there is no urgency, let's 
pick up a meeting date in january sometimes. It is related to the 
Chateau de Luneville (a castle in the north east of France, near Nancy)".

Just in case, I had a look at the article, looking for defaming or 
similar bad thing. Nothing special.

So, this saturday morning, I headed to the Gendarmerie, to meet one of 
the officer over there. He handed me out the document.
The complain was over "lack of respect of the author rights of a 
publication". In short, copyvio. It referred to "Le Chateau de 
Luneville" but did not give the URL, nor indicated the "text being a 
copyvio". The person complaining is the equivalent of the head of the 
museum associated to the Castle. She gave the source of the presumable 
copyvio (a book produced by local services about castles...).

The gendarm shrugged, and commented "why did they go to the police for 
this ? could not they have emailed you ?". No comment...

So, the gendarme and I headed to his computer. First surprise, the 
computer ran on Linux. He opened a new doc to record my statement... 
open office. Then, he launched internet... firefox. Cool, right ?

I said "the copyvio is probably on the article related to "le chateau de 
Luneville", let me give you the exact url to type..."
His answer was "i'll launch google rather, the link should be in the 
first few answers". Sure enough, wikipedia was ranked 4...
Sounds like the guy knew the project pretty well...

Went to the article. Long, juicy, lot's of history. No idea which part 
is the copyvio, but very likely the entire history section, so 90% of 
the article. I suggested that we could, good will, immediately blank 
most of the article, and ask for more details afterwards. The gendarme 
answer was "no, she should tell you first, no use removing content which 
is NOT copyvio by mistake. She should have given more details, her 
problem". I suggested we could print the article, so that she could 
stabilo it... his answer "let her sweat a bit, she should provide the 
proofs of copyvio, not you".

Allllllll right.

Then, we headed to the complain itself, and I must say, we laughed.

The complaint was filled up at the police in Nancy mid august 2007.
She made some efforts to know who was "responsible", since she directed 
the complaint at me namely.

It apparently went through a first service, looking for me. I went in 
Nancy to give a presentation in my engineer school, and got two press 
papers first page, in the two local newspapers. So, the report provided 
a copy of the press clip. "proof that I am in charge".
Then, the report mentions a search about me, to discover my exact address.
Then, the report contained a print copy of the page on Wikipedia about 
copyright, explaining EXACTLY the procedure to follow to report a 
copyvio (indicate the URL, the exact text, send an email etc...). All 
4-5 pages printed directly from Wikipedia, clearly using the "print" 

Last, the report mentionned "the office does not have access to 
internet, so we can not write the email mentionned in Wikipedia 
procedure, best is to find Florence Devouard and have her go to the 
police to receive the complaint).

I am still a bit perplex of how they could find and print the copyright 
violation page on Wikipedia without internet... but eh...

The request was made mid august. It left Nancy mid october. It was 
recorded in my nearest gendarmerie 30th of november (did the doc 
travelled by bike ?).
I was contacted by the phone end of december.
Mid january, we will send back a document to the complainer saying "we 
respect people copyright. Please provide exact URL and exact text 
claimed copyrighted. We'll delete it immediately upon receiving the 

Now, the big game is "how long will it take for the request to go back 
to Nancy ? How long for the person to provide the info ? How long to go 
back to my city ? How long for me to go back to the gendarmerie ?"

The whole story took already 5 months, and time/energy of several 
people, and we are still halfway fixing the copyvio issue.
This is absolutely ridiculous. It could have been fixed mid august if 
she had made the effort to send a single email. Maybe we could add on 
this page that it REALLY is suggested to send an email before going to 
the police and lawyers...

Now, the good news was at least to discover
1) that the gendarmerie nearby is "libre" (Linux, firefox, openoffice...)
2) that the officer in charge is familiar with Wikipedia, and was more 
amused by the whole story than anything. At least, this time, it was not 
necessary to do a 2 hours explanation on how the whole project is working.


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