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Wikiquote FR/Closure of French Wikiquote

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Please see the announcement [1] and FAQ for up to date information since the rest of this page is an archived discussion.

This page is here to discuss the possible closure of the french speaking Wikiquote that could be imminent if the community does not react quickly.

In any case, more precise rules will have to be adopted by the wikiquote community in order to avoid serious legal issues.

The final decision about what to do should involve the wikiquote community.


Wikimédia France received a letter on the 13th of August 2005 from a company maintaining a quote database.

Their point of view : They claim Wikiquote extracted a substantial part of their database. They request that we remove the offending quotes (without giving any specific name) and also to provide them assurance that it will not happen again.

Our reaction : We had three weeks from the writing of the letter before the president said he'd talk to his legal advice. The three weeks are expiring today.

The lack of reaction from the fr.wikiquote community : During this time, we tried to contact people within the fr.wikiquote community but nobody seemed to care about this potential legal threat.

It is suggested that the whole series of events be reported, legal risks explained, possible solutions discussed with the wikiquote community. In the end people will have to chose between supressing the potentially infringing parts of the project, doing the entire website again from scratch or simply closing the project... and anyway they will have to adopt stricter rules.


List below the issues that we face, along with a description and some possible solutions.

  • You should certainly consult a lawyer. Ask Soufron.
  • Since this is a cooperative database, it is clear that only an actual infringer, if any, will know that he has been copying extensively the plaintiff database. The managers of the database cannot possibly know whether a contributor is sending his own findings, or his personnal collection selected here and there (which is lawful), or whether he has been extracting substantially from a single database.
  • It is rather interesting to discuss legal issues in public, but maybe not such a good idea when you are under threat. So I will stop here. You can write to me if you wish. (Bernard Lang)

Le producteur d'une base de données, entendu comme la personne qui prend l'initiative et le risque des investissements correspondants, bénéficie d'une protection du contenu de la base lorsque la constitution, la vérification ou la présentation de celui-ci atteste d'un investissement financier, matériel ou humain substantiel.
Cette protection est indépendante et s'exerce sans préjudice de celles résultant du droit d'auteur ou d'un autre droit sur la base de données ou un de ses éléments constitutifs.

Le producteur de bases de données a le droit d'interdire :
1º L'extraction, par transfert permanent ou temporaire de la totalité ou d'une partie qualitativement ou quantitativement substantielle du contenu d'une base de données sur un autre support, par tout moyen et sous toute forme que ce soit ;

2º La réutilisation, par la mise à la disposition du public de la totalité ou d'une partie qualitativement ou quantitativement substantielle du contenu de la base, quelle qu'en soit la forme. Ces droits peuvent être transmis ou cédés ou faire l'objet d'une licence.
Le prêt public n'est pas un acte d'extraction ou de réutilisation.

This French law is required by this European directive. Hence there will be a similar law in any European Union member country.

Article 10 of the TRIPS agreement, part of the WTO agreement of the Uruguay Round requires the protection of Databases for all WTO countries, though it is not as precise as the above laws. So basically there is no geographical escape.


Guys, it is pretty simple. Citations can't be possesed by anyone, anf if so, this company just have to give you a clear list of those we can't use. Give us the name of the compagny too, and everyone wo have a website will make bad publicity! They can't make you close for this. They have to prove that the quotes they have can't be sawn in any book or any thing that we can own or find on another website... That's it. edouard--------

An idea. Since this is a french law, it doesn't apply to other countries. Just move WikiQuote to another country and it's done. Bob C. at 14 september.

Wrong ... it can be sued in any country (see above), provided there is actual ground for it. Bernard Lang, 14 september.

Being a contributor of Wikiquote in French, and having used many sites or other material to include citations, I have always taken care of referencing to the real author's work thus signifing that the citation I had included was taken from the good material and was appropriate to be added to wikiquote. Seconding that, I can assure that citations of authors that are I'd say thousands of years old were searched by myself (before adding them) in free accessible citations databases that have more that 100 years old (so as to be in the public domain). For my part, citations added on my account was done in a purely reviewed manner and was double checked in part for citations that were added by other users. As the last sentence of the 2nd Frenchlaw Article states, I wasn't trying to extract material but merely refering to as many source as possible to get the best citations on this quote compendium (there after, searching thoroughly in authors books for the citations in question).
I also give my apologies and greatest regrets if these procedures have to end the french wikiquote.
Lincher 21:48, 6 September 2005 (UTC) or can be reached in the French Wikiquote[reply]

This does seem like a sad attempt at abuse. The contents of a database of quotes are bound to be eventually reproduced on Wikiquote, if the database was accurate to start with. Ah well, I've always had a feeling Wikiquote should be like Wikimedia, that is to say language-neutral. French quotes in French, with various translations provided, and likewise for other authors. Urhixidur 03:21, 2005 September 8 (UTC)

What about an online petition?

First of all is that true ? Why not just ask the "company maintaning a quote database" to give exemples of what quotations have been extracted from their database ? Then if it occurs to be true that some people copied the database, just remove the copied material and let's see if Wikimedia fundation and that company can reach an agreement.

How can a company claim to be the owner of a quotation? I think it would be really sad if Wikiquote closed its doors. Can't we simply remove the "stolen" quotations? -- 11:02, 13 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]

+1 I totally agree
+1 I totally agree, aussi :)
+1 I totally agree, vraiment :p

I (Arnaud Laprevote) think the following things :

  • yes, there is a french law protecting the creation of a database,
  • there is also a french law protecting the right to quote even copyrighted materials,
  • can they prove that the quotations were entered in their site before being in wikiquote ? I think that they could have a very hard time proving that. Even with database timestamps, legally it is nothing (I mean, you want me to prove in front of court I can change database timestamps ? whenever you want). They need some kind of "depot legal" which is very, very rare for database, Because, if it is not the case, where are the proofs, was wikiquote not in fact copied by them ? Can they prove that ?
  • moreover, there is a quantity problem. If 10 or 20 or even 100 quotations are common, it has no importance. An important share of quotations need to have been taken (sure, there is some previous judgement giving an estimation). It is the same as a source code copy, if there are some similar lines in 2 programs, it is not important. An important share of the code needs to have been taken. It would be interesting to know, if the law does not try to avoid automatic copy of a database. Because, here, wikiquote can easily prove that all the work done by wiki people is only and totally manual. So in any case, the amount of common quotes can not be enormous.
  • so a letter is nice, but they need to show their cards if they want anybody to play with them. First ignore them, then laugh at them, then fight, then win (no the quote is not that).
  • there are some french advocates that are personnally involved in the free software arena. Maybe they should be contacted for advice (I think to Mélanie Clément-Fontaine for example, but there are others).

I (KaTeznik) totally agree with Arnaud on this case. I think we need to reply kindly to the company, arguing they have to prove precisely their claim before we can take any action.

The history logs of wikimedia are sufficient to prove the manual work done by contributors, except if there is **a lot** (hundreds or more) of quotes modified by the same IP on the same day, with content **exactly** similar from their database.

This should be sufficient to prove our good willing, or "bonne foi" in french.

KaTeznik (french wikipedia contributor, 09/14/2005 19:31

And what about the company which send the letter?

I understand you could not publish the name of it, but is the database available to the web freely or not? Because, if not, it may be difficult for Wikiquote to copy the quotes from this company; and if the access if not free, it may be easy to know if someone paste quotes from one site to another, because it may be registered with the company, and with wikiquote (to publish a lot of quote). And if the access is free, I don't understand where is the mistake, but if (I (Laurent Baysse) don't want to imply anyone on wikiquote) and only if someone copy some quote from this site to wikiquote, he must ask the permission to do it. -- 17:50, 14 September 2005 (UTC)

I don't understand how they would be able to prove their database have been totally, or partially copied. Firstly, there is many quotes (citations, in frenhc) from many authors around the net. Via emails, for instance. Secondly, the quotes are taken from authors. It is possible to quote as many ahtors as you want, if it is a quote, or if the text have been published since more than 70 years. Thirdly, it would be quite difficult to defend the database copy on a law court, as the quotes have been -- at least -- copy/pasted. It is not an automated process, it is not a database steel. For instance, let's see the "openPGP project", which have printed, send, and OCR the original PGP sourcecode as workaround of the security code export deny from the US. asr 2005-09-05 12:00 +0200

Everyone here seems to agree that this company's complaint doesn't look serious, so why should we care? Just wait for them to show some serious proofs and then we will start to care about it.-- 10:36, 15 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]

I don't think we should close wikiquote because of this short letter. The best thing to do would be to establish a dialog with them in order to identify the "stolen" data. It will prove our good willing and underline that, till now, they didn't helped us much to resolve the problem. Now it is possible that their will is just to attack wikiquote... After all they may see us as natural threat to their business. In that case it wouldn't be a bad idea to call a lawyer. (It is not impossible, for instance, that the "stolen" data was introduced into wikiquote's database by the same company who sent the letter...) -- 23:24, 15 September 2005 (UTC)[reply]

I think -- like many others have already written -- that we should contact the company in order to identify the different quotes implicated. Check the evidences they have that those ones have been stolen and then -- if the theft is verified -- delete the stuff from the wikiquote database. (GrdScarabe)

As citations should be identical whether they are stolen or not, I suggest the administrators of wikiquote to check if the errors in wikiquote, for instance the typos, are similar to the ones in the plaintiff's database. Of course, this would be helped if the plaintiff would provide a list of supposedly illegally imported citations. Anoter clue, but more difficult to follow, would be to check whethter the wikiquote citations have been submitted in the same order as they are displayed in the plaintiff's website. If there is no evidence of illegal import, I think it is important to go to court if they do not retract their complain... In any case, asking for the list of illegally imported citations which should be deleted seems a good way to test the reaction of the plaintiff, while showing some good will to solve the problem. Good luck !! -- Charles

Alexandre Damiron - alexandre-at-damiron.net: Arnaud Laprevote is completely right. I've got a master degree in law and computing. Please note, the french law does not give a monopoly on the content of the database owned by the plaintiff. It protect the database on the whole, and forgive to extract and copy a substancial proportion of the database. For instance, it forgives you to automatically extract contents repeatidly. Copying the database structure is a strong element of proof. The indivudual elements are protected as a part of the database, but of course a one century old quotation remains in the public domain when used in other circomstances. It may not be clear, so think about the goals of the law: it is intended to protect the work of assembling the data. For example, to protect a business directory against raw pillage, or a dial numbers directory, but is is not a patent on the data.

What is absolutely sure is that you are allowed to build you own database by your own means. If you can show that you assemble your datas by your means, you are not in breach of the law. Your logs should be sufficient.

z80: Not an easy thing...Prevent massive and repeated quote's transfer imply monitoring each contibution against all other known quote's database... No way.. Perhaps there's a solution by limiting contributions size and number in the time for one IP.... Any other idea ?

One area where the operator of another quotation source may have a more serious legal claim is in the text of citations. I found (on English Wikiquote) clear evidence in a few cases where an editor had copied not just the source quotation, but the citation as well, from a standard reference work (Simpson's Contemporary Quotations). As Simpson's citations are of very low quality, I was able to rescue the page by finding correct citations for the quotations in question, and removing or rewriting the background information which was included in Simpson's description of the source. All WQ languages should be on the lookout for this sort of problem. (If the copying is not significant in relation to the whole, it may not be copyright infringement, but it still makes the project look bad.) 04:44, 22 September 2005 (UTC) (121a0012)[reply]

Discussions in french can be read there : http://linuxfr.org/2005/09/14/19573.html and http://linuxfr.org/~gart/19364.html