lagadu on 15 Jul 2000 23:34:46 -0000

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Re: <nettime> shut down

geert lovink wrote:

> from's intelligencer europe:
> LE MORT D'ALTERN:, a French Web hosting service that's been in
> operation since 1992, shut down in late June, leaving its 40,000 personal
> sites out on the rue...

> (in
> Perhaps could someone in France (Christine?) explain what the motives of
> Valentin and others have been to shut down  Is a strong
> statement to close an alternative network in France?  Did the police and
> justice force or was it a thread which could be done at any
> time? Where there also financial reasons to close the server? Can't
> be hosted in another country, for example in Holland, Belgium,
> Germany? Just some questions. Why play with the victim card? I wonder. Too
> bad!

Why shut down

Because Valentin Lacambre who runs Altern alone since 1992, could not
function anymore as he used to do, before the law was passed. This law is
obviously going to multiply abusive complaints (companies or individuals
pretending to be diffamated by critical statements or satyrical ones,
copyrights problems, lobbying against leftist, hacktivist, political
groups etc etc). The way this law "protects" the hosting services from
beeing responsible of contents, is to turn them into judicial auxiliaries
and to shift the burden on authors (which is not a problem in itself) by
considering them as potentiel criminals and forcing them to identify (
(name, firstname and adress) ) before any publication. That is mingling
public communications (media) and public expression. With no garanty on
the privacy of the collected datas (connexion datas are protected, but as
far as we can read the bill, not nominative ones !)  The law will also
apply to other communication services such as newsgroups, MLs, forums, in
fact all archived and publicly available kind of messages. 

A decree of application has to be passed by the Constitutionnal Council,
after advice from CNIL. So probably not before september. But two recent
cases show that providers and judges will apply the spirit of the law from
now on.  for info : and

The law requests :

1/ every person or company publishing on the Net must now identify
directly on his/her page, or to give his/her identity to his/her hosting
service, who has to provide him/her with the means to do it. That is to
impose an obligatory ID formula for everyone registering an
site, and archive and keep the datas at the disposal of the judicial

The way Altern works is quite different. You can register your e-mail and
upload your pages automatically from the whithout any
control (ID or content). 

That is the reason why Valentin had so many trials since three years
(sometimes, several notices per week or day) . Because the complaignants
knew he was a small structure, not able to afford big lawers bills, and
easier to intimidate (at least they thought so). So, they were suing both
the authors AND the service provider, and Valentin had to close some pages
(let's say the too "critical"  ones), and spend quite a lot of time and
money on lawers. 

Last year the Estelle Halliday trial ( for nude pictures of her) finally
costed him 75 000FF (though 80 000FF were collected through the web), but
at the beginning they were asking for 400 000FF plus a perday of 10 000F
if the page was not closed. He was sued with the author of a pastiche site, who was finally condemned alone to a 200 000FF fine. Some people
even tried to complain about "undecent words" in e-mails posted under
altern adresses. The list of aberrations is long ! 

2/ the law states in article 46-8 that any third party feeling offended by
a page or message can informally - through a simple letter or e-mail - ask
the provider to proceed to the "appropriate diligencies". Which are not
defined in the law itself, but according to the discussions at the Senate
and Assembly, mean at best, contact the author and warn him about a
possible trial (that is play the same intimidation game which drives to
self-censorship), at worse to close the pages and signal it the the
judicial authorities (that is in doing so, judge of the illicit aspect of
a content and play the role of auxiliary of the justice).  This means
spending time and money. In the case of a one-person free and
non-commercial service, as it is the case for Altern, it is financially
and ethically impossible. 

So, to answer Geert's question, there has been no external threats, or
pressure on Valentin, just the bill of law... which when you read it (BTW
I posted an english translation on nettime) seems to be far enough. And
the fact that he is tired of these daily troubles. 

It is not a "victim" posture, it is a demonstration of what this law is
going to produce and an attempt to shake french internauts consciousness
and an invitation to insurgence (a site will come up soon). But if you
have better strategies ideas, we'll be glad to hear them. 

Since the vote, several groups are studying models of cooperative or
mutualist structure to clone Altern and keep free, non-commercial hosting
services in France. Running them from Belgium or elsewhere would not
change the problem, unless the legal responsible person is not french.
Otherwise, you are french, you are under french law.  If some of you have
some experience or pointers, please let us know.We need to be ready for
the fall. 


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