Some unfortunate news, everybody. Ghyslain, aka the "Star Wars Kid," and his family may be pursuing legal action against the individual(s) who originally posted his video on the Internet. Their legal counsel, Mr. François Vigeant, conducted an interview with Radio Canada which was just posted to their website. (French transcript, or the fundraiser excerpt translated to English. I've added an unofficial translation of the entire interview below, courtesy of Dana Tierney.)
During the 12-minute interview, Mr. Vigeant states that he heard about the fundraiser, but that his client has not received any gifts yet. Be aware that we've attempted to contact Ghyslain and his parents numerous times since the fundraiser was closed, to find out how Ghyslain wanted the money spent. After many unsuccessful e-mails and phone calls, we finally spoke to Ghyslain last night. He informed us that he was advised by his lawyer not to discuss the case, but mentioned that he was not pursuing legal action against the two of us.
The fundraiser money sits untouched in a Paypal account. If this matter is not resolved by June 10, or if Ghyslain and his family decide to refuse the fundraiser gifts entirely, we'll refund all of donations through Paypal immediately. A sincere apology to all the kind-hearted people who tried to help. We'll post more news as we're able to.
Update: We spoke to Ghyslain's lawyer this morning, and he assured us that any gifts we could send from our fundraising efforts are appreciated and welcomed. As a result, we'll buy the 30GB iPod (shipped direct from apple.ca) this weekend and spend the remainder of the funds on a FutureShop.ca (a Canadian electronics store) gift certificate in Ghyslain's name. These two gifts will be shipped to the lawyer's office in Ghyslain's name. For the items in the "Gift Bin", we will contact the contributors and ask that they ship the items directly.
Update #2: In light of the recent events, several people have inquired about refunds. We will be e-mailing everyone that donated shortly to inform them about the recent events and give them the opportunity to request a refund. Any refund request made by midnight PST on Monday, June 2, 2003 will be honored. The remainder of the funds will be used as detailed in the update above.
Update #3: Out of 421 donations, 44 people requested refunds, including our anonymous $500 contributor. The new total is $3,475.44, which totals to $3,254.09 after Paypal fees. View the updated spreadsheet (in CSV format). We'll buy the iPod and gift certificate this week.
Radio Canada Interview with Maitre Vigeant
Transcribed and translated by Dana Tierney
Radio Canada: First of all, Counselor Vigeant, how is your client doing?
Maitre Vigeant: He is recovering with difficulty from these events of the last few days.
Can you clarify for me, because there have been several versions on this subject, the videotape for a start, it was produced in what context?
I do not know exactly the circumstances in which it was produced, but what we do know at this moment is that it wasn't, it had not been prepared to be used, to be used by the public or persons other than my client himself.
But it was a presentation done in the context of a school assignment?
That detail is not to my knowledge.
Okay. Am I mistaken, or has the media excitement stopped a bit in this story?
It stopped after we sent... We have contacted the media, as you know, through the means of a letter to the various bureau chiefs, and we have had as a result of this, different conversations with almost all or in any case with a large part of the media, to let them know that the media coverage given to this event was of a nature that would increase the harm done to our client, which was unorthodox.
Exactly, now it was May 22nd when you sent this letter. What did you have in mind exactly?
It was to free the family and their son from the attention of the media and, if possible, turn it towards ourselves so that we could manage it in the family's stead. In other words, the family has lived with great difficulty through these events. There is not to my knowledge -- and I have been a lawyer for seventeen years -- to have seen an event which personally seems to me at its foundation relatively trivial, which has taken so gigantic a turn. Now, the media coverage, and I don't claim it was unjustified or that it was done in a way that was deliberately mean, but it was a weight, it consituted a considerable weight on the shoulders of this family. You know, when it is people who have a public life, I believe that public personalities must by the nature of their activities have an extremely high tolerance, let's say, for the presence of the media or for the attention of the media. But when it is citizens who lead perfectly normal lives outside of the public spotlight, and especially for a story which had nothing to do with the public interest, our preoccupation as lawyers is to handle things in such a way that the media gets away as fast as possible, physically speaking, from the members of this family. You have to understand that members of the media have come to the residence, and some have been more insistent. This is not... I don't say this to brag about you, but this is not how Radio Canada does things, but some media have been, shall we say, more persistent, in looking for a follow-up to the story.
Counselor Vigeant, it is always a delicate matter in the media when one talks about a matter where a minor is involved, but here it was the central thread of the story, for one thing because one must not necessarily identify the minor, hasn't there been carelessness in this story on the part of some media?
Yes, first of all, there was carelessness in the following fact, in that we have the unauthorized use of the picture of a person, for a start, which as a general rule -- I am not going to give a lecture on law, that's not the goal of the interview -- but this is something something which is generally illegal. The Supreme Court in a case known as Aubry v. Editions Vice Versa, Inc. (?), you have perhaps heard of it, in that case it was a matter of a young girl whose photo was taken on the steps of a school or a university, a photo which by the way did not show her in a bad light at all, we should mention in passing [laughs] but who had pleaded, you know, this is my picture and you cannot use it in a commercial manner or other manner without my permission. And if you do this with a minor, obviously there is a question of consent as well, this is something even more upsetting. And a third aspect that makes this even worse is that this was done with a goal to harm. In other words, in the case of Aubry v. Editions Vice Versa (?), the Supreme Court said you can't take a picture of a member of the public and use it for personal ends. It was not even mean, it was just a student, if I recall correctly, who was sitting on the steps of her school and who was reading a book. Okay.
So imagine, if this is illegal, imagine at what stratospheric distance we are at if we use a person's picture without his consent with the goal of harming him. Because these pictures, you no doubt know, obviously these pictures were not used in a manner that would ultimately serve to the advantage of our client. And that goal, added to the fact that he is a minor, added to the fact that this was without authorization and added to the fact that this was definitely with the intent of harming him, adds up in the end to a substantial accumulation of illegalities.
What was more harmful, the fact that this file was downloaded more than two million times on the Internet, or the fact that this televised and was picked up in the newpapers here?
I would say to you that the use by the Quebec media probably had more consequences than if the file was just downloaded. Because it was difficult to judge of the importance of the matter by the downloads alone, in this sense. If someone does harm to your name, your image, your reputation, for example in Indonesia, that probably wouldn't bother you that much. But if he does it in your neighborhood or in your street where you live, it will probably affect you a lot more. To take an example, I think it was the New York Times that had a story on the matter. That, you know... I think you know that not many people read the New York Times here, eh. But that the newspapers with higher circulation picked up the story, that there, let's say, it's a little harder to accept.
The factor of proximity makes all the difference in this story, is what you are saying.
Yes, because he is not a public personality, If he was a public personality then the the fact that it was in the outside media would matter more. Here, it is less so. Because Trois-Rivieres is not very well-known in New York, or at least it wasn't before this. [both laugh]
But from the moment where it is picked up here, it's because it creates a snowball effect. To come back to a question you asked me earlier, you asked me earlier about the press release we put out, I think it was on the night of the 23rd to the 24th of May. Our preoccupation was to limit the harm done to this family, to try to take away all of the media attention that had been turned on them, to relieve them of this and to act as rapidly as possible in the short term to manage this for them and free them of this burden. Because, you know, people tend to underestimate the teasing and the jeering and say, yeah, well, it's kids. You know, when it's your kid you don't have quite the same opinion.
What happened, Mister Vigeant, to his classmate who took this video and put it online? Have you identified him and has he apologized to your client?
I am... I don't know. The measures that have been taken by the persons involved have not been conveyed to me with certainty at this moment, in that to my knowledge there are several kids involved. The contacts we have had with the prosecutor or the social workers do not refer to this type of gesture. There have been no such gestures yet, to my knowlege. In other words, there are persons that we believe are involved who have not expressed any remorse in the communications transmitted to us. Whether anyone has expressed any, I can't be positive one way or the other. What I can say is that the prosecutor has heard some comments from the representatives of these two young people, and we seem to be very far from apologies.
But are there discussions now, or these have stopped and this will happen later?
At the moment, I would say that at the moment there are no discussions, there are only monologues.
On each side or on their side?
In other words, I am counting on the judgement of the parents of the young people who are implicated to take the necessary measures so that what has been done does not continue. As far as I know, appropriate apologies have not been made to my client, but if they have, this is not to my knowledge at the moment.
Counselor Vigeant, I want to turn your focus to a subject, or an aspect of the problem, which is a lot more optimistic than that one... Has your clent had any news or even any gifts from American web surfers who wanted to give him a hand with this?
[laughs] I have heard a lot of stories about these funds and these gifts and so on, but I have never... Nobody has been able to substantiate... no one can prove this help or these funds. I hear talk of them, but I am not familiar with their real existence or other than virtual existence.
There has been a parallel story about a financial campaign of four thousand dollars, this was never given to your client?
Well, what I am saying is that to my knowledge....
Well, you are in touch with your client, you talk to him?
Yes, uh, in effect we talk to him. Now all I can tell you is that no one has seen, to my personal knowledge, no one has seen this money.
What is your reaction to this generosity, if it does come through?
We and our client react with a lot of suspicion to the various transactions, well-intentioned as they may be, given what has been done over the last few weeks, and although we are sure that some of these people are well-intentioned, eh, we are being careful in the interactions that are going back and forth.
You were sayng that there was a conversation, or some monologues that were taking place with the parties who were responsible the problem, for distributing this videotape, but apart from these monologues what is happening in the case, is recourse being sought against the media?
No recourse is currently being contemplated against any media whatsoever as we are speaking here right now.
Long-term, is some recourse being considered?
We are preparing opinions for our clients on the array of judicial options which are available to them, the judicial means which are open to them to seek damages for what was done to them, and our clients, in a few days or in a few weeks, will reach a decision the means by which they will come before the court, if in fact they do, to seek damages.
Thank you very much for the interview. Francois Vigeant represents the family of the young Quebecois who played a Jedi in a videotape which has circulated worldwide and is still circulating worldwide, more or less everywhere on the Internet.