[Foundation-l] Texts deleted on French Wikisource

Mike Godwin mnemonic at gmail.com
Wed Jun 2 17:53:09 UTC 2010

Yann Forget writes:

> In addition, I receive a personal letter, as "the main editor" of
> these texts, according to Gallimard. We didn't receive any information
> from the Wikimedia Foundation, and I know the details only because I
> have been personally involved.

Yann seems to be suggesting here that the Wikimedia Foundation did not
notify him about the Gallimard takedown, but at the same time Yann
acknowledges that he knew about the Gallimard takedown. It is precisely
because we knew Yann knew about Gallimard's takedown demand (it wasn't a
"request") that we did not send him additional correspondence to inform him
about something he already knew about. I still have in my email storage
correspondence with Yann regarding this event from March of this year -- it
seems odd to have Yann complaining that he didn't know enough about it.

Furthermore, when we noted in the takedown who was demanding the takedown
(Editions Gallimard) *and we further listed their contact information* so
that francophone Wikimedians who disagreed with the takedown demand could
make their feelings known to Gallimard. We did this at the very beginning of
the takedown process, which we are obligated by international law to obey.

> Now three months later, we didn't receive any
> information from the Foundation about this, and the texts are still
> deleted.

Yann seems here to say that some unnamed group did not know about the
takedown. We posted the takedown information publicly. Yann in fact knew
about it from the beginning. What's more, we listened to Yann's feedback,
including claims that some of the material Gallimard demanded taken down was
material they had no right to make such demands about. We narrowed
Gallimard's takedown demand accordingly.  Yann knows this.

> Many contributors are obviously not very happy, and feel that
> the Foundation submitted to the pressure of a commercial publisher.
> Comparing with the National Portrait Gallery affair on Commons, it
> looks like a double standard was applied.

I strongly suspect that any contributors who feel as Yann says they feel are
relying on mistaken information and assumptions.  We absolutely did resist
the demands of Gallimard within the full extent that French law allows. We
retained French counsel who represented us in discussions with Gallimard,
and we forced Gallimard to make their demands both more specific and
narrower. The "pressure of a commercial publisher" played no role. (A
noncommercial entity making the same legal demand would be entitled to the
same takedown, assuming that the formalities were met.)

Comparing the National Portrait Gallery affair suggests lack of knowledge
about the underlying copyright issues involved. The NPG dispute involved art
works that unquestionably were no longer protected by copyright according to
the law of most signatories of international copyright treaties. The NPG
actually knows this, and did not press any legal challenge, likely because
of uncertainty whether their anomalous theory of copyright protection for
digitized centuries-old artworks would be upheld even by British courts. The
Gallimard case is fundamentally different, since most of the works they
demanded taken down were asserted to be modern works that are clearly within
the period of French copyright protection.

Just a few days before these texts were deleted, I asked Cary what was
> the official opinion of Wikimedia Foundation about texts which are in
> the public domain in USA, but not in France. I was told that "the
> community is entitled to decide by itself".

Cary is correct that the Wikimedia Foundation is not purporting to give you
legal advice about copyright and the public domain.  We're not your
lawyers.  For that, you are best served by consulting French legal counsel.


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