midsch’s Blog


What is the legal status of BeWelcome ?

written by midsch - 2011/09/05 22:05

Recently we experience an unsual number of new members, that's great! So first of all: BeWelcome, I'm happy to have you here. As a lot of questions naturally come up to a newbies mind, someone had the idea to explain some of the important things in the community news, so here we go: I'm no lawyer, but I'll try to explain the basic legal setup of BeWelcome.

BeWelcome isn't owned by anyone and I think that's a good thing. The software and content (except private data off course) is open source / open licenced and can't be monopolised by anyone. Nevertheless it's very usefull (if not required) to have a legal organisation to run the network. Right now there is a french Organisation called BeVolunteer who is running the site and dealing with the financial and legal issues. The french legal setup of BeVolunteer is in a way, what makes it impossible to "own" or "sellout" anything. Personal profits are just illegal. Everyone at BeWelcome can become a member of BeVolunteer (and therefore vote or be elected to the board), but doesn't have to, i. e I'm not.

Experience with similar networks show, a lot of people don't really care, so I think this "outsourcing" helps to have a structure able to work and make legal decisions. But the practical decisions for BeWelcome are usually made by consensus of people (who do care about it) in the forums.  More tools at BeWelcome to make deciscions (i. e. polls) have been discussed but need to be implemented first. In theory BeVolunteer could ignore such decisions / decide in another way, but it won't work very well, as the members of BeWelcome could make most changes anyway.

In an unlikely worst case scenario, when BeVolunteer is taken over by "bad guys", BeWelcome is free to move on to another setup / legal setup. And sure we do. If the "bad guys" try to get their fingers on donation money, they'll face legal consequences in France, as it is simply illegal. On the long run, it's maybe useful to back up the french organisation with similar setups / organisations in other countries as well. In the moment BeWelcome / BeVolunteer is lacking personal ressources, maybe also the urge to do so. Dealing with this legal stuff isn't so much fun for the most of us.

I hope this helps to get an idea, here are more Details: FAQ BeWelcome organisation in general - Feel free to explore the Wiki, the Forum and all the other pages. And if there are more questions, feel free to ask.

BeWelcome works because we (yes, this includes you) make it work.



written by sitarane - 8 years ago (i)
Nice piece. But I'd like to hear from a lawyer the following sentence: "It is impossible that BeWelcome be taken over by private interests".

Maybe impossible is impossible, and I suppose there will always be a way to trick the system. I hope the legal structure is solid for now. Maybe when BW finds a way to legal advices, hardening it against this will be possible.

There were talks about hiring a developer to do some dirty code-work nobody wanted to touch. Would that have been illegal then?

written by midsch - 8 years ago (i)
No, hiring people (coders, accountants, lawyers, administrators, office stuff) should be ok, as long as it is it is backed up by BeVolunteer. Don't know about the exact french terms, but probably the Board of Directors can't hire themselves. Ask a french, hähä.

Thinking about it: I pay you money to code the stupid nazi flag near my name away. If your code is GPL and the community considers it a good idea to remove nationalist flags and wants it to go online, I can't see any legal problems.

written by guaka - 8 years ago (i)
One more thing to cover: code and content are free but in theory BeVolunteer could take hold of the database. In practice there's a team of trusted sysadmins. And if it will ever be feasible (i.e. safe, implementable, fast, ..) BW will become a hub in a decentralized network - so that people can move to another network, or keep their profile here updated from another network. I don't have clear ideas about this, but there's quite a lot of interest in this, especially now that people feel they will loose out if they move away from C$ - and then there are folks who have first moved from HC to C$...

written by dedecastor - 8 years ago (i)

Now all you have to do is get midsch to explicitly say that BeVolunteer is an association 1901 and owns the rights BeWelcome.

That and learn French so you can understand the wiki. Google "Association 1901" and you'll get all the material you need, even as a layman. Paranoia has its limits, folks.

written by midsch - 8 years ago (i)
Well, I can't explicitly say anything official, I'm not even a member of BeVolunteer. After a forum discussion I only took the initiative to explain my understanding of the situation at a exposed place on the page.

According to the french legal status is clear for me and so far I can't see anything wrong with it. The domain is registered by Jean Yves for BeVolunteer, also fine for me. Software/content has an open licence. No single person can proclaim property of BeWelcoem (and BeVolunteer) or make money out of it.

So from my point of view any serious trouble with all this is very unlikely. Off course this setup can be discussed and even changed, if someone comes up with something better, but right now I'd consider it a waste of time. We've more urgent things to do.

written by lupochen - 8 years ago (i)
Thanks for the good sum-up! I think this is really useful for a lot of people that are interested in the background of the organization.

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