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Yahoo! Not Protected From French Anti-Nazi Laws 914

Posted by timothy
from the they-must-hate-speech dept.
snoopsk writes "An appeals court ruled that Yahoo is not protected from French legal attacks due to Nazi-related items sold on Yahoo's auction site. Backed by the ACLU, Yahoo intends to defend its First Amendment rights should a French court try to enforce French anti-hate laws. This case could have huge implications for free speech online if the French courts are successful in forcing Yahoo to remove this content.
"
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Yahoo! Not Protected From French Anti-Nazi Laws

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  • too bad... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Izago909 (637084) * <tauisgod@BOYSENgmail.com minus berry> on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:04PM (#10062503)
    There's a simple solution: delete the Yahoo.fr site and shut down all French business units. If Yahoo has no presence in France, their laws won't apply. It's not like France is as imperialistic as America; they can't make their laws transcend their borders. Then the problem becomes the French governments' and how they might block Yahoo.
    • Re:too bad... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Saxton (34078) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:08PM (#10062535) Homepage
      Do you honestly think Yahoo would give up that easly? C'mon now. Do you think it would be cost-prohibitive to just shut down their french content? Why not try to figure out how we can diplomatically resolve this issue? I'm amazed the parent was modded to a 4.

      I'm personally interested in how this all shakes out with conflicting "freedom" laws.

      -Aaron
    • Re:too bad... (Score:3, Insightful)

      Ahh, but is that all that's required to evade French law? Some Internet-related laws extend (or try) to anyone that does business with residents of a particular country. Which means that the existence of French visitors (or customers) to Yahoo.com might be enough.
  • WHAT?!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:04PM (#10062505)
    Does this mean I have to buy all my Nazi gear on UBid now?

    *shucks*
  • Pointless laws (Score:5, Informative)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:09PM (#10062544) Homepage
    Yeah, those French anti-Nazi laws seem to be working [news.com.au] real [michnews.com] well [haaretz.com].
    • Re:Pointless laws (Score:3, Insightful)

      by goon america (536413)
      So, because part of the problem still exists, the solution must as a whole must not be worth it?

      Not that I necessarily agree with the laws, but this is a poor way to go about looking at the problem.

      Here's an analogy: murder is illegal. Yet there are still some murders! What a pointless law.

      Once again, I do not necessarily agree with the French laws.
  • Data Embargo... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:10PM (#10062555)
    I think the most logical course of action should be for Yahoo! to withdraw its entire business from France by firewalling out all IP space known to be from France from all of their products. If France continues to enforce its policies against the American-aimed .com version of American-based sites (rather than their .fr spinoffs which were already Nazi-free-zones) such as Google, they'll eventually be left with a rather useless Internet...
    • Re:Data Embargo... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swissmonkey (535779) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:37PM (#10062820) Homepage
      Good idea.

      And Yahoo will lose one of its biggest markets, what a great idea !

      BTW, you might not realize it, but most european countries have the same type of laws as France, so Yahoo would end up losing the whole european market, I'm quite sure they'd prefer to ban Nazi stuff instead of losing half of their market.

      Bad luck, the usual US bullying that work with small countries doesn't work with France and the EU, they're too big, you'll have to live with other people's opinions for a change
  • Uhhh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suwain_2 (260792) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:11PM (#10062570) Journal
    I know we Americans are criticized a lot for being ignorant of other cultures, but this one might just take the cake?

    Yahoo intends to defend its First Amendment rights should a French court try to enforce French anti-hate laws.

    IANAL, but I'm pretty sure France isn't bound by the United States Constitution.
    • Re:Uhhh... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mold (136317) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:21PM (#10062647)
      The problem is, they already removed it from their French website, and the French courts are trying to force them to remove it from their US website.

      It's a French court telling a US based company what to do in the US.
  • by Stevyn (691306) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:13PM (#10062581)
    Wow, slashdot has become waaay too liberal. I quit.

    Better yet, I surrender.
  • Venue issue... (Score:5, Informative)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:17PM (#10062618)
    Let's put this ruling in the proper context...

    The US 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Court said that Yahoo! cannot go running to the US courts to seek protection under the First Amendment from the ruling of a French court... go appeal your losses in France in France!

    However, in the same breath they also warned the French that should they ever try to take their French verdict to a US court for help in getting collection, don't bother. You can't get protection from bad French verdicts from the US courts in part because, well, French verdicts don't work here in the first place! So long as Yahoo keeps all of its physical assets out of France, there wouldn't be much the French can do to them.
  • The courts actually said that Yahoo does retain it's first-amendment rights, but that France has to at least be allowed to bring it's complaint to court. (at which point Yahoo would be allowed to raise it's first amendment defence).

    If we were to protect Yahoo from any foreign complaint, then we'd have the opposite effecte where someone could just pick someplace where there was no laws to speak of to put up stuff like kiddie porn and 419 scams. (er, uhm, right).

    If we want the right to go after illegalities in other countries, then we have to allow the reciprocal right.

  • by cynic10508 (785816) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:33PM (#10062778) Journal

    Yahoo!, Inc. v. La Ligue Contre Le Racisme et L'Antisemitisme
    169 F. Supp. 2d 1181 (N.D. Cal. 2001)

    Comity: ...the principle of comity [law.com] is outweighed by the Court's obligation to uphold the First Amendment...
    Accordingly, [Yahoo!'s] motion for summary judgment will be granted. Clerk shall enter judgment and close the file.

    So the French lost already. Why are they trying again?

    (Taken from CyberLaw: Text and Cases, 2nd Ed. by Ferrera et.al.)

  • by thecampbeln (457432) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:46PM (#10062896) Homepage
    Shouldn't this be a job for their customs service?

    Something is happening in another country that is considered illegal activity within France (or where ever). Pot is sold in Holland, there are probably even places that accept phone or fax orders for said pot. But it's still happening in Holland! So if you as a country have a problem with this activity, you have two alternatives in my opinion: block all telephone traffic to said telephone numbers (or, in this case, all traffic to http://auctions.yahoo.com) and/or stop the pot at the border with your own customs service (or, blocking all traffic from http://auctions.yahoo.com).

    In either case, it's not a problem for the pot house in Holland. It's not (shouldn't be) their job to enforce the laws of every other country in the world, that is what the police and customs services for each country are for.

    You don't like something going on over there? Fine, make sure it can't get in here. Don't expect the people over there to give a flying #$% about your beliefs/laws/whatever (let alone take on the financial responsibility to ensure that your beliefs/laws/whatever aren't broken). It's up to your own government to enforce your own laws. If something is "skirting" the law and making its way into your country, simply cut off it's route into your country and everything is fine. You can't blame the pot shop or the government of Holland if Dutch pot makes its way past your customs service! It's their job to stop it from entering your country in the first place, else what is a customs service paid to do?

    On an aside, if I were a decision maker within Yahoo, I'd find it abhorrent that Nazi stuff was being peddled by my company by proxy. I would do my best to make sure it was no longer peddled due to my own personal beliefs. Only governments can censor, private companies can decide what they will and will not profit from. Of course, this has no bearing on the case from a precedent point of view, I just felt it should be said.

  • by spiritraveller (641174) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:56PM (#10062988)
    An appeals court ruled that Yahoo is not protected from French legal attacks due to Nazi-related items sold on Yahoo's auction site.

    That's not what the court held at all. They simply ruled that Yahoo can't sue a Frenchman in the US for suing him in France. Any other result would be absurd and an affront to French sovereignty.

    The French plaintiff still cannot enforce his judgment in American courts, so American sovereignty is not affected.

    The First Amendment is a shield, not a sword.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @09:15PM (#10063143)
    was that the US courts ruled that basically since even Yahoo.com (as opposed to .fr) was accessible from France, French courts could indeed prosecute Yahoo (.com) if it broke French law, but that Yahoo would have to be prosecuted in France, not in the US. French courts have asked Yahoo to at least geo-filter the "nazi" parts of Yahoo auctions .

    The press also remarks that Yahoo was quite happy to sign-up to the Chinese government's rules even while battling French ones, and attributed that to the larger potential of the Chinese market.

    This is indeed a free speech issue, and we in France restrict it :
    - one may not "promote hate", such as anti-jew, homophobic , anti-immigrants discourse
    - one may not divulge the private life of someone else (movie stars, politicians...)
    - one may not advocate substance abuse, or any other law-breaking behaviour

    On the other end, nudity and sex in particular are very much less frowned upon. We are bemused be the drama in the US over prime time tits, especially since prime time murders are so common.

    I think the "private life" part does make sense, and we were quite bemused by Monicagate, both by the fact that Americans made such a fuss about something so private and personal, and that they thought it such a public scandal. We for example learned a few years before his death (couple of years after Monicagate ?) that our previous president (Miterrand) had an illegitimate teenage daughter by a regular lover. The main debate was on whether the newspapers shouldn't have held their tongues.

    The "hate speech" and "law breaking" aspects are more debatable. The law aims to avoid the promotion of hate and such, but the net result is that these issues can barely be discussed publicly, ie rationally. It does give a weapon to sue neo-nazis and far-right groups though.
  • by markbo (313122) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @11:00PM (#10063910)
    This is all pretty funny. If the argument is that Yahoo is a US company, and the French laws shouldn't apply, think about the effects of the rest of the countries' e-commerce firms on the US.

    Should Dutch companies be allowed to ship pot to the US because in Holland that's allowed?

    Should Canadian e-commerce pharmacies be allowed to ship cheaper medical drugs to the US? The US isn't very happy about that right now...
  • Ahh, the USA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linuxhansl (764171) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @11:48PM (#10064264)
    Happily banning "bad" language and sexual content from everywhere, but fighting hard for Nazi hate propaganda to be protected by freedom of speech.
    The same is seen on US TV. It seems to be ok to slaughter dozens of people, but be "Oh God" if you can see a nipple.

    I, personally, do not believe that Nazi propaganda deserves this protection.

    That said, of course it is rediculous to subject internet sites to all laws of every country that can access them. That would make almost every site illegal as you probably can always find a country in which the content is illegal.

    If the french do not like the content, why don't *they* block it, or enforce it through *their* internet providers?!
  • This is news??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadmos (793363) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @02:04AM (#10065142)
    To a typical slashdotter this news reads:
    Beware! French governement revokes freedom of speech of USA citizens.

    To people who use their brain:
    French government enforces local laws on companies conducting commerce in France.

    If Yahoo markets itself to french citizens and conducts commerce with french citizens (to buy nazi related material), yahoo, *by choice* is subjecting itself to the law of France.

    What would you have otherwise? Yahoo be immune from litigation in all countries bar the USA just because their HQ is in the US? Wake up, if you choose to do business in a country you are subject to the law of that country (having a website end in .com means *nothing*).

    But hey if you are too stupid to think, I have a large tower with great views situated in prime real-estate in the middle of Paris for sale...
  • Good! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @03:14AM (#10065478) Homepage Journal
    An enlightened court. The reasoning really is simple: If they claim that US law can hit you everywhere, like in the DVD case, where dozens of non-americans were sued, then quid pro quo and french laws apply to the US.

    Of course, the other solution (every country's laws apply in that country and nowhere else) would make more sense, but there are these darn precedents and the US desire to rule the world...
  • Man.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @04:12AM (#10065697) Homepage
    ...how much crap which basicly can be summed up as "The French laws are stupid and they shouldn't enforce them".

    The US is certainly not against prosecuting international companies with an US presence or even those without an US presence. For example De Beers, convicted in an US anti-trust suit despite having no US presence. Thus, no funds to cease which is really the difference here.

    Let us, for the sake of argument say I was running a drug company, headquartered in a foreign nation. In the .us site, I sold nothing but FDA-approved drugs. In the .com (not US specific) site, I was selling everything and anything legal under the laws of my HQ country. Shipping to the destination of your choice. You think my US presence wouldn't get sued? You think my US assets wouldn't get ceased? The US is perfectly able and willing to do just what France is doing. Except that it is the French doing it to you, not the other way around.

    Appealing a French case in US court? If you think that's a good idea, just wait until the French court appeals the US case. If you find that to be a "violation of your sovereignty", maybe you'll understand why the French would think the same.

    Following the same principles as the De Beers case, yahoo.com could be sued in France even if there was no yahoo.fr. It's just that the French courts actually have something to collect. Don't like it? Well they're behaving like US courts. We don't like that either.

    Kjella

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