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Can Be Welcome be sold

"How to prevent BW getting a commercial platform too if there are enough data to change and make money with? Who is the owner of BW?" these are common questions these days.

Legal Status

BeWelcome (BW) is owned by BeVolunteer (BV), a non profit organization registered in France. Official members of the organization decide on legal issues. You can check the statutes to see how this organization works. The statutes can be modified only by an extraordinary General Assembly. At least half of the voting members of BeVolunteer (31 members as of January 2014) have to be present or represented and 3/4 of them would have to agree to the changes of the statutes.

History

Historically, BeVolunteer was founded by former volunteers of Hospitality Club who were upset with the (lack of) legal structure in Hospitality Club (which is officially Veit Kühne's personal business). This has had some effect on the way the organization was structured legally late 2006 and early 2007.

Since mid 2007 former volunteers of CouchSurfing joined for similar reasons (such as lack of transparency and unclarity about the 501(c)(3) status). A high degree of agreement is needed for any structural changes and with the number of members (21 active members in September 2012) and their conviction and background it's highly unlikely that BeWelcome will ever be sold out in the way that CouchSurfing has. September 2012 also saw a new influx from (ex-)CS members when CS announced it would enforce new Terms of Use (ToU) and Privacy Policy.

However, the most important factor is that a significant number of BeWelcome members care and keep an eye on how BeWelcome and BeVolunteer are organized.

Comparison with other hospex networks

Transparency: The bylaws of Couchsurfing have always been kept secret, except the originals bylaws - which according to CS were immediately revised before taking effect. HC does not seem to have bylaws, but is instead apparently run as a one-person personal business. In contrast, the bylaws of BV, under French law, must remain permanently public and accessible to not only members but to anyone. Furthermore, the bylaws are posted on the site.

Participation: Under CS bylaws, Casey Fenton had personal control of the former nonprofit. The bylaws of the present for-profit CS corporation are also secret, and CS has announced they will be kept secret. In contrast, under French law, BV must be administered collectively and must have a general assembly of all members at least once a year. The General Assembly - which consists of all members - has final say on all decisions. The smaller Council of Administration derives all its power from the General Assembly.

Non-Profit Legal Status: CS was able to manipulate US law by voluntarily avoiding being approved for charity status. No such mechanism exists in France, and the legal status of BV can not be altered. The CS nonprofit never had more than 5 legal members, all appointed by and under direct control of Casey Fenton. HC is run for the sole personal profit of one person. CS is a for-profit C corporation obliged under US law to "maximize stockholder profit" ("B corporation" is not a legal entity, it's merely a label given out by another for profit company). BV is legally prevented from profiting individuals.

Discussion

  • AQ: This seems to me a poor basis for important decisions.The owner of my appartment is a Non Profit Society with hundreds of members. Every lodger has to pay and is a member. The board with about eight members is under the control of the general assembly with 100 to 200 members. Every important decision is discussed in the General Assembly. One shop used to be organised in this form too and important decisions were made through a voting by post. Everybody had the right to become a member for only 10 Swiss francs one time to pay. 21 members is too a poor basis for democratic decisions. And as basis for democrativ decisions there should be a continous discussion about BW and less discussion about CS after leaving CS.
    • Application to BeVolunteer membership Every active BW member can (and should) become a member of BeVolunteer.
    • AQ - your statement is not clear to me. Is your apartment in France? If so, the organization you describe most likely does not own your apartment. Neither is it an "Association loi de 1901", but rather a "syndicat de copropriétaires", which uses different law.
  • is selling all assets covered by this? Couldn't the BoD decide to sell everything to themselves? (CS style)
    • Short answer - under French law "abus de biens sociaux" is punishable by 5 years of prison and a 375,000.00 euro fine (approximately one half million US dollars). This offence is defined as using assets for personal gain or for another business.
  • In the apocalyptic scenario, can't BW/BV just move it's business to another country, that doesn't offer this kind of protection, first and then sell out?
    • Not sure if it is 100% impossible, but it would definitively be against the statutes, against the concept of the association and against the ToU. The General Assembly (i.e. all BV members) would have the last say too. At the end of the day it would never be accepted by the BW members, unlike on CS. Another aspect: the BW software is open source and the wiki has a creative commons license. There will likely be a possibility to export your profile information as well. So at least it would be easier to fork and start an alternative project, if things go wrong on.
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