As agreed please find here the minutes of the EBT-Meeting held on January3, 2008, in Gennevilliers (France) ; a statement written by P. Girolami is attached to these minutes (i.e, it appears following to the minutes in this post), indeed, as the minutes refer to this statement.
Whilst reading this post, please keep in mind that minutes are meant to mimic the discussions that have taken place. This meeting was an opportunity for each participant to express its eventual disagreement with other persons ; considering the crisis that emerged on Christmas Day, it was essential to "put on the table" some things. At least, it has been done ; and now, a solution is found for EuroBillTracker.
Once again, the discussion on the statute of the European Society of EuroBillTrackers is not open.
Minutes of EBT Meeting
Gennevilliers, January 3, 2008
Present: M. Schilde (Nerzhul), P. Girolami (Giro), F. Girolami (Giro’s wife), A. Johansson (avij), T. De Jonckheere (de-jo), B. Berken (Phaseolus)
Absent: P. Coels (Craco)
B. Berken welcomes everyone to Gennevilliers (France) and thanks the protagonists for coming together in order to find a common solution to the EBT-issue.
Tour de Table
Everybody agrees that, whatever this discussion will put on the table as problems, a solution need to be found to the BET-crisis.
M. Schilde opens the discussion stating that he felt sorry for his first reactions he wrote on the forum on December 25, 2007. These statements were written very shortly after the action by P. Girolami and M. Schilde had no intention to hurt the feelings of P. Girolami.
P. Girolami reads a statement that he has prepared; this statement will be attached to these minutes.
After having listened to the statement of P. Girolami, M. Schilde explains that he had the feeling that P. Girolami had been absent from the EuroBillTracker project for a very long time ; P.Girolami would be only showing up a few times since M. Schilde joined the project as an administrator. In addition to this feeling, A. Johansson gives various examples of issues that he had to handle in the absence of P. Girolami.
M. Schilde says at the end of the statement reading, that he fully agrees with the objectives and is looking forward to a solution tonight.
P. Girolami states that he had motivated some users as volunteers to participate to the EBT project (EBT admins, translators, hit moderators, etc…) and recognizes that these volunteers should be thanked for their contribution.
B. Berken reminds participants that legal issues should be addressed very carefully as legal actions could also lead to unexpected conclusions. He further testimonies that P. Girolami is considered by the Community as a “Half-God”, being the creator of the website; on the other hand, B. Berken thought, since he joined EBT in 2004, that A. Johansson and M. Schilde were handling the website alone. Also, to his belief, P. Girolami had been absent from the project.
T. De Jonckheere reminds the importance of the feeling of the EBT-users that felt taken into hostage by P. Girolami action on Christmas Day. Especially the fact that P. Girolami claims intellectual property on the database is creating a conflict with users. The conflict lies on the fact that users have the property on the individual data they entered on EuroBillTracker. B. Berken reminds that the website EuroBillTracker has been communicating since 2004 various messages presenting EuroBillTracker as a free community of volunteers; this moral contract appears in contradiction with the claims on intellectual property made by P. Girolami. P Girolami explains that some of the data is copyright of the users; but that the database itself belongs to someone because it was created (that “someone” is the creator). As example, one could suggest a similarity with storage facilities: the facility has an owner that does not own the contents.
Both B. Berken and T. De Jonckheere, remind the three administrators that they have been lacking communication skills. To their belief, this lack of communication between the three protagonists is the major reason for the actual crisis.
Furthermore, T. De Jonckheere disagrees with the statement made by P. Girolami on the number of users: The ways statistics are presented in the statement made by P. Girolami are misleading. B. Berken disagrees with the statement that A. Johansson and M. Schilde are only responsible for the split within the EBT Community; he considers that the split is generated by the quarrel between the three administrators.
A. Johansson thanks P. Girolami for creating EuroBillTracker. He reminds all participants that EuroBillTracker cannot be run without all users. He explains that he has taken away the forum because he did not know the intentions of P. Girolami for the forum. Both P. Girolami and A. Johansson agree that the current situation regarding the forum (independent address: www.eurobilltrackerforum.com
) is satisfactory. A. Johansson is strongly committed to EuroBillTracker and accepts the objectives written down in the statement by P. Girolami. P. Girolami uses the opportunity for thanking A. Johansson for his implication in EuroBillTracker.
P. Girolami states that the website should be run independently; for its safeguard, it should not be linked too much to any specific user. If P. Coels agrees, P. Girolami proposes that the forum and the website should be run by the same non-profit organization.
P. Girolami offers to transfer the ‘Eurobilltracker’ trademark to a not-for-profit organization provided the objectives in his statement are met. B. Berken requests a confirmation that it would actually include all Intellectual Property which P. Girolami confirms. Consequently, B. Berken announces that, in this case, there are no longer any obstacles to a solution being found tonight.
P. Girolami asks if the scope of IP could be transferred by M. Schilde and A. Johansson to the Non-Profit Association. A. Johansson confirms that all his IP will be transferred to the Non-Profit Association; this includes also the WAP site & changes made to the site over the years. M. Schilde confirms transferring all his work on the website but does not want to transfer the EBT-Tool to the Non-Profit Association.
M. Schilde would like to see the possibility for 3rd party to develop tools, around EBT, possibly through APIs. P. Girolami and B. Berken indicate that this will be the association’s decision.
All participants agree to create a non-profit association called “European Society of Eurobilltrackers” and to become members. (Giro’s wife will not be a founding member)
All participants agree about the following objectives for the European Society for EuroBillTrackers:
-To be in possession of all intellectual properties related to EuroBillTracker
-To be responsible for all issues related to Eurobiltracker
-To create and to manage the conditions for optimal Eurobilltracking
-To promote EuroBilltracking
-To promote communication between the users of Eurobilltracker (including the forum)
-To protect the EuroBillTracker database (such as to prevent the sale (of parts )of the EuroBillTracker database)
-To finance, when deemed necessary, the promotion and the tools of EuroBillTracker
-To ensure a free (=free of charge) use of Eurobilltracker on-line tools
All participants ask B. Berken to draft statutes for the European Society of EuroBillTrackers, and to circulate to the participants of the meeting for comments. The objective is to create the association by February 15, 2008. The date of General Assembly for the creation of the European Society of EuroBillTrackers is January 3, 2008.
All participants agree that the following points should be addressed in the statutes:
-The power of one interest group (e.g. one nationality) should be limited on the voting procedures
-possibility of having national EuroBillTracker association ; this possibility will maybe not appear in the first statutes.
-the possible sale (of parts) of database should be prohibited (possibility of veto rights by A. Johansson, P. Girolami and M. Schilde on this specific point)
-The access of individual user to their own data should be stressed, although this point is already covered by Law.
-The possibility for some users to ask for dedicated services (such as extra features, etc.) could be made possible ; in the sense that these specific demands generate a cost for the European Society of EuroBillTrackers, these “Premium accounts” could be charged
-Convocation to Annual Assembly could be sent by email. Eventual mandatory meetings (General Assembly, Board of Directors, Bureau etc…) could be held electronically. Preferably the General Assembly should be held together with the annual EBT-Meeting
-Decisions are taken by the Board of Directors.
-Members should pay a fee and get one vote at the General Assembly.
-Board Members are elected by the General Assembly. Their mandates should not last more than two years; a mandate is renewable. Half of the board should be renewed every year.
-The society should accept donations
-Technical helpers and other responsible persons, translator, administrators, moderators, Support Team, or any other person helping the management of the European Society of EuroBillTrackers, are to work for free.
-Modifications of the website must be approved by the Board of Directors prior to their implementation
-P. Girolami, A. Johansson and M. Schilde, in recollection of their dedication to the EuroBillTracker Project are Members by default of the Board of Directors.
-The Board of Directors of the European Society of EuroBilltrackers could appoint other “Honored Members” of the Board of Directors.
Off the record (= elements not fully discussed during the meeting, but are worth being considered whilst drafting the statutes):
-Member can vote for the election of one Board member for his country of residence
-A limit of 1 Board member per country. The Board Member must be an official resident of the country that he represents.
-the statutes must also address the possibility for the association to be disbanded : this point should address clearly what should happen to the IP, after the non-profit association is disbanded
Other Actions to be considered once the European Association of EuroBillTrackers is founded:
•A. Johansson, P. Girolami and M. Schilde to transfer all intellectual properties (website, INPI deposits of the name “EuroBillTracker”, database, domain name, WAP, etc…) to the European Society of EuroBillTrackers, once created.
•All translators, moderators, and other volunteers to transfer their intellectual rights to the European Society of EuroBillTrackers, once created.
As A. Johansson has bought very recently a new server for EuroBillTracker, he proposes to offer a free hosting on this server. He hopes that EuroBillTracker can make good use of it. This triggers a discussion where T. De Jonckheere and P. Girolami indicate that the point of putting in place the association is to become independent of specific people in the community, to prevent future hijacking and to, more generally, protect EBT from emotional responses. The association will make the final decision and one possibility would be for it to use A. Johansson server until it dies out as a backup.
P. Girolami proposes that EuroBillTracker.com will point to the server currently running EuroBillTracker.eu. The administrators will inform that newly joined users (since Christmas) might have difficulties in connecting to their accounts; Administrators ensure that their bills will be restored in the coming days. In the expectation of the coming necessary clean-up of the mutual databases, it is asked that users do keep registering their bills on either Eurobilltracker.com or on Eurobilltracker.eu. It is asked NOT to register bills on both sides. After this transitional period, only one website, one database and one EuroBillTracker will remain.
As a conclusion, all participants agree that B. Berken be the only person allowed for communicating officially about the meeting and their conclusions. This necessary communication will occur to the EuroBillTracker Community and to the External interested parties. It is decided that this communication will include a public statement refuting the lie about selling email addresses by P. Girolami and apologies for calling him a “greedy businessman”.
It has been agree to publish these minutes and its appendix on the Forum of EuroBillTracker.
Appendix to the Minutes :
Statement written by P. Girolami prior to the meeting :
I will start with a recollection of events.
In December 2001, I created a website and a database to offer a free note-tracking service at eurobilltracker.com. My purpose was to learn new things and to have an outlet for my creativity in what I do well: software development.
Over the next years, I spent hundreds of hours writing software to create the best bill tracking site, providing support to users, building tools to automate administration & translations, protecting the site from fakers, paying for hosting at OVH, checking if the site was running in the morning, etc.
Anssi offered to host the site in May 2003 for free on a server he could share and I agreed. In December 2003, I told him I planned on putting ads to generate some revenue that would have helped cover the costs for hosting we both incurred and he had no objection. Unfortunately, ads were off target then so they did not stay on the site.
The site never sold any information to anyone: neither email addresses, serial numbers or anything. I have shown great consistency over the years on this subject: I created the site with legitimate intentions, I never intended to sell any data to anyone and no emails or conversations of mine could ever have let anyone believe otherwise. Those who claim the contrary are defaming me and it is a very troubling tactic.
In 2004, the functionality that makes Eurobilltracker unique today were completed and light-years ahead of similar sites including Where’s George : the current look & feel including tabs and 90% of “static” pages, the list of moderated hits, hit email notifications, multi-language banners, note reports with travel maps, lists of last users & notes, advanced note entry forms, statistics both general and per country, information about users in the same city as you, translations in all euro languages, etc. I had motivated & coordinated people to which I had delegated tasks : moderation, support & translation. Not everything was rosy of course : support emails were always behind, translations were incomplete for a long time, moderators were sometimes trigger-happy, a major crash on Anssi’s server lost 4 days of notes and there were multiple issues with his ISP but all in all, the site was running well, everything was under control and the site no longer depended on me alone.
So, in 2004, the site went into maintenance until I had new ideas.
Mid-2005, Anssi asked me if a user could add more statistics and I agreed. Unlike me, Marko worked with distant releases and his work only started to appear on the site in May 2006.
In January 2006, I again discussed the issue of money with Anssi. We had agreed on adding ads to support the site so it wouldn’t depend on him. A few weeks later, Marko, who had yet to release substantive features, refused the ads only as a last resort, claimed to have garnered the support of Anssi and denied my authority on the site.
I took this opportunity to remind Anssi & Marko that I claimed ownership of Eurobilltracker. I supposed this would be enough to set things straight and I chose to ignore him.
2007 gave me several new ideas for the site. I first worked tens of hours on the redesign of the web pages. Unfortunately, my emails went unanswered (completely or partially) and my exchanges with Marko turned hostile to a point where I became disgusted and simply stopped working on it.
When my upgrade to Babel was revoked without prior notice, I finally understood how I was being disowned of my creation and how Marko & Anssi had identified themselves with the site.
Our communication was lacking and I was being excluded from the site I had created so I sought legal counsel to find a way to end my relationship with Anssi & Marko. A lawyer, who is an active member of the site, confirmed that the database was my intellectual property since I had taken the initiative to create it with substantial human & financial investment. Eurobilltracker is the same type of site as Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Blogspot, etc : their only value lies in what content users generate but they are independent from these users because they are the property of their creators.
I could rewrite parts of the site that were not my IP and were used by many users in a couple days. I worked again tens of hours to setup the server and test it. On December 24th, I changed the server hosting eurobilltracker.com, ensured continuity of service and waited for Anssi & Marko’s intellectual property claims on the site’s code to sort that issue out. There was never any threat to the WAP site, the forum or the EBT-tool as my email to Anssi shows. I still wonder, to this day, why the forum had to change URL.
On Dec. 25th, eurobilltracker.eu was running with the same data as eurobilltracker.com up to Dec. 24th, a call to switch sites was made by Marko on the forum presenting me as a “greedy businessman”. Under French law, these actions are illegal and precedents show that they are punished: trademark infringement (“Eurobilltracker” is a registered trademark I own), servile copy (taking the site & database as-is) and defamation (someone said that I was going to “sell users’ email addresses” which has caused users to request their accounts to be removed). Furthermore, this created a split in the community.
End of recollection.
I felt obliged to go back in time to make it clear that Anssi and Marko had ample information about my standing and that, although I recognize the work of Marko, Anssi and everyone involved, the huge amount of work & energy I spent in the early years cannot simply be brushed aside on the basis that I do not enter notes or participate in the forum daily. Anyone who thinks like this shows considerable disregard for the 95% of users that have entered fewer notes than I have and are not part of the forum community (forum users total about 3% of EBT users).
Furthermore, I have always taken great care not to mix & confuse the site and the community. I believe this is fundamental for the community to get together.
Finally, between 2003 and 2005, the number of new users per year increased 200%. Between 2005 and 2007, the number of new users per year decreased 25%. I believe this is because new features cater to the 1 or 2% top users rather than the typical user that discovers the site and joins it : I want a Eurobilltracker that interests everyone, not just a fringe of users.
My objectives are to obtain:
a.my work, creativity and my rights are recognized
b.history is not rewritten : Euro bill tracking is associated with eurobilltracker.com & me in the future
c.a public statement in an upcoming newsletter refuting the lie concerning me selling the email addresses and being a “greedy businessman”
2.protection for the site and its freeness
a.safeguards are in place to prevent the technical team from acting unilaterally in the future & technical power is not concentrated in the hands of 1 or 2 people
b.the technical team provides its time & service for free through a contract and does not embody or represent the community
c.Changes to the site are not made unilaterally by the technical team : they are directed by the site’s governing body
3.a united growing community
a.single site, single forum and a single database
b.a structured community and a governing body for the site
c.Eurobilltracker growing outside its core community
d.safeguards to prevent a group of countries from serving their own interest in the community