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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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  • Pointless laws (Score:5, Informative)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:09PM (#10062544) Homepage
    Yeah, those French anti-Nazi laws seem to be working [news.com.au] real [michnews.com] well [haaretz.com].
  • Re:Here's a link (Score:5, Informative)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:15PM (#10062593) Homepage Journal
    Why do most European countries insist on covering up any history of Hitler?
    They don't. Indeed, if you're German, a trip to a concentration camp is part of your schooling. Elsewhere in Europe, World War II, the roots of it, the rise of fascism and Nazism in Germany and elsewhere, the holocaust, etc, are required (compulsory) parts of your education.

    Don't confuse the sale and promotion of Nazism and icons thereof with trying to cover up what happened. Europeans do not want that regime glorified. That's why some countries have laws such as this French law.

  • Re:Here's a link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Izago909 (637084) * <tauisgod.gmail@com> on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:17PM (#10062608)
    They aren't covering up the history; they are trying to stem the popularity of neo-Nazi movements. Memorabilia can be used as icons for such things. Even European museums are relatively devoid of Nazi goods. Most exhibits consist of audio/video footage and are presented in a dry, factual manner.
  • Re:right... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mold (136317) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:17PM (#10062615)
    No, they're fighting the French in both countries.

    Personally, I think they should just keep it off of their French site (which they already took it off, although they said it wasn't because of the French court), and the French shouldn't try to enforce it on their main, US, site.
  • Venue issue... (Score:5, Informative)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:17PM (#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.
  • Re:Uhhh... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mold (136317) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:21PM (#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 LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:22PM (#10062663)
    They didn't surrender national sovereignty so much as they recognized that even the French have it too.

    The 9th Circuit overturned a ruling saying that thhe US First Amendment made the French verdict invalid. That's not a proper ruling at all, you can't appeal French verdicts in the US courts.

    However, if they want to collect on a French verdict here in the USA by using the help of the US legal system... that's when they've got to prove that they've French verdict doesn't contradict US public policy. No chance of that working, so there's really no need to get protection from the dumb French verdict from the US courts in the first place, thanks to our national sovereignty we won't accept that verdict here.
  • by cynic10508 (785816) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:33PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:35PM (#10062801)
    Why are the French complaining about copies of Mein Kampf being auctioned on Yahoo, when it is available [gutenberg.net.au] from mainstream on-line sources?

    Surely the availability of "Mein Kampf" serves as a historical record of how screwed up Hitler really was, thus strengthening human rights? I would like to think that more people will be repelled by the hatred in "Mein Kampf" than will be attracted by it. This majority will then keep the minority in check.

    Maybe the French being pissed off with Hitler's writings have more to do with revenge for the German army making them look like fools, when they walked around their Maginot Line, than any real concern for human rights?

    Banning books is what one does when one is too apathetic to put the effort into refuting them.

    It basically comes down to the French couldn't give a shit about human rights but want to look like they do.

  • by swissmonkey (535779) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:50PM (#10062938) Homepage
    Actually as a native french speaker living in Seattle, I read/watch US/Swiss/French/UK media and the US media is the least trustful media by far.

    If you actually read the french press, you'll find out that it is way more critical of the french government than any US media outlet is of the US government.

    Besides, your comment about communists controlling the unions is stupid, France has been under a right-wing government for a number of years now, not a government the communists would support. Moreover, the ELF scandal has been written about widely in the french press, at some point there wasn't a day without an article on TV or in the big newspapers(Le Monde, Liberation...)

    You'd better go check again your sources about French media, it's light years ahead of US media when it comes to being free of pressure groups.
  • by spiritraveller (641174) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @07:56PM (#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 metalpet (557056) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:06PM (#10063080) Journal
    The dispute is caused because the yahoo.com site hosted content that is apparently at odds with French laws.
    It is not specifically targetted at the French market. However, the judge on the case ruled that since French citizens were able to access it, it must comply with French laws.

    As other posts mentioned, try to read the post above, replacing "French" with "Chinese" or "Saoudi", to get a feel for what this implies.
  • by zemoo (582445) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:13PM (#10063129) Homepage
    This is not about a global website, but the viewing of Yahoo.fr in France! France is not trying to change Yahoo for anyone but the French. They are not trying to "shove this down the throats of the rest of the Internet". (In fact, when the initial case came up, the French government would have been satisfied with Yahoo blocking this off to French citizens only)
    Since Yahoo.fr specifically does business in France, it therefore has to follow the law, just like any other classic company doing business in France would! If Toyota (or even an online company such as Lycos) were to put up a website calling for physical harm to the president, that would be against American laws, and the US court system would act accordingly.
  • Re:Here's a link (Score:3, Informative)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:17PM (#10063163) Journal
    The french capitulated with Hitler more or less 100%.

    That's not *quite* fair. The Free French Army fielded 10 battalions or so on D-Day, and Eisenhower said that the French Resistance was worth ten divisions.

    Yes, Petain turned out to be a traitor, but he's far from the only traitor in history. It's an American, Benedict Arnold, and a Norwegian, Vidkun Quisling, whose names are synonymous with "traitor".

    they are taught they are the pinnacle of humanity. ..and they're certainly not the only country that's induged in that conceit.

    -jcr
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:24PM (#10063202)
    See "The Sorrow and the Pity, chronicle of a French city under the occupation" (Rottentomatoes) [rottentomatoes.com].
  • Re:Uhhh... (Score:4, Informative)

    by geoffspear (692508) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:27PM (#10063224) Homepage
    The First Amendment does not guarantee that Americans have the right to free speech. RTFC. It forbids Congress from making laws that abridge various rights. It doesn't say that anyone has any rights to speech in another country.

    The French position may be unenforceable, and even wrong, but it sure as hell has nothing to do with the 1st amendment.

  • by useosx (693652) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:27PM (#10063229)
    at this rate, france may actually do something about the anti-jewish hatred that runs rampant in france.

    I'll quote from the following article [counterpunch.org] by Uri Avnery [avnery-news.co.il]. The last sentence is the relevant statement.


    A quite different phenomenon is the North-African war conducted on European soil. Young Muslims from North Africa are battling young Jews from North Africa. That started back home, when the Jews supported the French regime against the freedom fighters. In the last phase, the Jewish underground organization was the mainstay of the opposition to the liberation of Algeria. (The organization was set up by Israeli agents to defend the Jews, but the leaders gradually migrated to Israel and the organization was left in the hands of the most rabid Arab-haters.)

    Now this confrontation has become a local offshoot of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Muslims are enflamed by TV pictures of the oppression and humiliation enforced by our soldiers in the occupied territories, while the Jewish organizations support the Sharon government. Most Jews in France are emigrants from North Africa. This causes many incidents and creates the impression that anti-Semitism is on the rise.
  • by Bushcat (615449) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:38PM (#10063288)
    Yes, an outstanding documentary. Commissioned by a French TV station in 1969 that then refused to broadcast it because it didn't convey the expected imagery, so released in theaters in 1971. The DVD is released by Milestone and has new English subtitling.
  • Re:Bravo (Score:2, Informative)

    by Loki_1929 (550940) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:42PM (#10063314) Journal
    "Its not like they were ever, you know, invaded and occupied by Nazis or anything, right?
    I'm surprised that years of deprivation under Nazi occupation could leave any stigma like that...who'd have thought?"


    Considering the fact that southern France was collaberating with the Nazis, I should think that they'd have not been that much more deprived than citizens of Germany during the war.

    Aside from that, you seem to be supportive of France's attempt at purging "bad thoughts" from the minds of everyone on planet Earth via legislation and jail. State-sponsored reprogramming isn't the answer to any problem. Prosecution of thoughtcrime used to be something free peoples fought against.

    Yahoo cannot possibly block all French citizens from accessing their other sites. Thus, if they can't fight this off with the help of the ACLU, they're going to have problems regardless of what they do with the .fr site. With any luck, American courts and lawmakers will come to Yahoo's rescue and put the pompous French beaurocrats right back on their socialist asses. Otherwise, we may well see the content of the internet reduced to the lowest common denominator of PC-filtered non-offensive non-confrontational child-safe mind-numbing drool.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @08:45PM (#10063345)
    The original post was unfortunately vague about what's actually going on here so here's my summary (IANAL) seeing as I've actually read the article.

    A French court has demanded that Yahoo stop selling pro-Nazi materials and memorabilia *in France* in accordance with French anti-hate laws.

    On the point that this is only regarding Yahoo's activities in France a quote from the article:

    "In 2000, a French court sided with the groups [suing Yahoo] and found that Yahoo had violated French anti-hate laws when it allowed online auction listings of about 1,000 Nazi-related items. The court ordered Yahoo to face a $13,000-per-day fine if it didn't block access to Nazi objects [*]within[*] France"

    And NB: "Later, Yahoo removed a variety of the disputed items only from its French subsidiary, saying it was responding to customers, not the French court orders."

    Given that the French democracy voted in these laws it probably makes good business sense to obey them.

    Now, Yahoo is based in the US and holds to US values of free-speech as expressed in the 1st amendment.

    Presumably the US courts are involved because France is seeking the corporate equivalent of extradition - they want to sue an American company over it's actions in France and they therefore need to go through American channels. This bit is not made very clear in the article.

    So by way of analogy if an American company went to France and sold goods that did not meet French safety laws and French courts found that company guilty of disobeying French law I suspect no-one would deny that they had a right to do this even if those standards did not hold in the US.

    However, a lot of people - myself included - think those French anti-hate laws are stupid (just like the laws against wearing Muslim shrouds to school).

    Because the laws are stupid, and in the website case, unlike the imported goods analogy, it is possible to go on breaking the law as long as the US government backs Yahoo, it is easy to conclude that the US should back Yahoo and the 1st amendment even in a foreign country.

    However, this is effectively forcing US laws on other countries and carries the implication that the US (or anyone else) need not respect the sovereignty of another nation if they can get away with it.

    This is a very difficult call because on the one hand it means that US websites on democracy etc. could be banned from activity in China because they violate sovereign Chinese laws - though we may not like those laws. On the other hand it means that the US is playing fair with other nations and not forcing it's values on them over the internet.

    In the end there is a choice between a situation in which 'lowest common denominator' standards result with a freedom that exists in one country being extended to all over the internet - which is good for free speech and democracy but bad for victim of child-porn rings, slander and so on. On the other hand nations could all agree to present a united front and support foreign rulings for local websites where those websites are made available to foreign customers - this way the law would pretty much stay the same, national sovereignty would be respected and the worst excesses (eg. child porn) could be restrained. But those countries we would like to see a bit free-er wouldn't be.

    It's a choice between anarchism and sovereignty which will depend on your politics, but sovereignty is probably where the US courts want to stand so the decision is consistent with what they represent. And at the end of the day, seeing as a united front with the UN lasts about as long as a snowflake in hell it'll probably end up closer to democracy with whatever the majority* of nations can agree on being the case.

    *'majority' and therefore 'democracy' must be understood to be adjusted by factors such as the possession of overwhelming military and economic force (and a lunatic Texan in control of them and damn willing to use them).
  • Re:Here's a link (Score:2, Informative)

    by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @09:10PM (#10063542) Journal
    American Indians consider it to be a racial slur, and that's all you need. They don't consider it to be a tribute, and they find the term very offensive.

    Over the years, they've campaigned for the name and the mascot to be changed, just as they've campaigned against the name of the Kansas City Chiefs and the mascot of the Cleveland Indians.

    These attempts by the Native American people (some of whom find the term "American Indian", which you choose to use, also offensive) to stop what they see as racist abuse and characaturisation aren't led by "troublemaking, ignorant caucasians", they're led by Native Americans themselves.
  • by nasor (690345) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @09:18PM (#10063610)
    "Example: refusal to extradite criminals who might be subject to a death penalty in the US. Moral indignation is the reason why."

    Actually, it's nearly impossible to get France to extradite ANYONE to ANYWHERE. The death penalty has little to do with it.
  • Re:Here's a link (Score:3, Informative)

    by commodoresloat (172735) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @09:36PM (#10063747)
    This link suggests otherwise [aics.org]. And this discussion [uoregon.edu] refers to a different court case that clearly supports the notion of "redskin" as a derogatory term referring to the scalps of Indian victims. And in the Kotelly case you mention, the judge plainly states that her ruling is not a ruling on whether the term is offensive to Indians in general or not. Whether or not Dietz put paint on his face, it's pretty clear that this term is widely considered an insult based on the history cited in these links.
  • by mjbkinx (800231) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @09:40PM (#10063775)
    The death penalty has little to do with it.

    as a member of the EU, france must not extradite anyone who could become a subject of capital punishment.

  • Pro saddam? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @09:59PM (#10063897)
    That's typical Right wing bullshit.

    The french press was pro-Iraqi, not pro-Saddam. No one in their right mind would be pro-Saddam. But look at what's going on now. Honestly ask yourself: which is better?

    Before Iraqis were living in a sort of limbo state (partially as a result of U.N. sanctions and of Saddam's brutal regime). Maybe eventually, over a few decades, with U.S. and other assistance, they would have been able to overthrow Saddam's repressive regime and institute their own form of government. (Though this is rather strange to consider; how can a generation of peoples who have been exposed to U.S. backed dictators (yes we did indeed support Saddam during the 80's, against Iran) suddenly create a form of government that wasn't a dictatorship? Here we see the need for the U.N.....) At any rate. That is all possibilities in the past. We have shattered that.

    Now their life is a literal hell. It's sad, but not everything in the world can have a pretty flowery and springtime happy ending.

  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @11:19PM (#10064485)
    I've never been in a real war, but I've worn the uniform, tossed grenades, been gassed and fired a machine gun. How about you?

    I can also read. Here's what William Manchester says about it in The Glory and The Dream:

    "Paris disturbed some Americans. It didn't look at all like an enslaved capital. Compared to London, it was prospering. Ed Murrow was surprised at the number of well-dressed women on the streets. Not only had the French textile industry flourished throughout the war; the French had developed the first practical television transmitters and sets. All the famous couturiers were in business-Molyneux, Lanvin, Schiaparelli-and their French customers were wearing full skirts and mutton-legged sleeves, which had long been out of the question for American and Britich women limited by clothes rationing.

    So you see, all you have to do is read a little history instead of spouting righteous indignation.

    That's what I like about slashdot. Get a little edgy in the wrong way and you're a troll or immature or whatnot.

    And screw your comment about my attitude starting wars. I'm the one that's quoting history, asshole.
  • Re:Here's a link (Score:4, Informative)

    by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @11:51PM (#10064719) Journal
    Sorry to interrupt, but I'd like to inform you that the Washington Redskins are located in the state of Washington, not in Washington D.C. which is where the nation's capital is located. It's not like they are close either... they are on opposite coasts.

    OMFG. I don't even live in North America and I can tell you that the Washington Redskins play in Washington DC (well, just outside it, if I remember correctly) and not Washington state. The only NFL franchise in Washington state is the Seattle Seahawks.

    This is what I just love about Slashdot, and Slashdot ACs in particular: lots of people who don't know shit about a single thing but are willing to open their mouths and remove all doubt that they are indeed idiots.
  • Re:Bravo (Score:3, Informative)

    by Loki_1929 (550940) on Tuesday August 24, 2004 @11:58PM (#10064765) Journal
    "You have no idea what you are talking right? France has actually a very right wing government."

    UDP and UMP lost majority this year to the collectively left-wing Socialist Party, Communist Party, and the Greens and Radicals Party. Chirac's party, the UMP, formed in 2002 to unite the right-wing factions, couldn't get more than 1/6th of the vote in the March '04 elections; which had a ~65% voter turnout.

    But you're right, I have no idea what I'm talking about.

  • Re:Pointless laws (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:20AM (#10064899)
    A few posters seems to have misunderstood the french laws in question.

    These laws are not here to hide past history.
    Quite the contrary (at least they try to).

    They just force you to tell the truth about that period. It is considered too important to be allowed to lie about it.
    You have to remember that some people around the world (like Mel Gibson's father, here in the US) do not really believe that the concentration camps are responsible for "that many deaths among the Jews".

    For instance, in France, it is illegal to state publicly that the gas chambers did not exist.

    The French consider that such lies about history should not be allowed. These laws are here to protect history, and to ensure that nobody forgets or remembers a "fainted" version of what really happened.

    You may disagree with this strategy, but you may at least agree with their goal.
    It is a bit like forcing people to fasten their seat belt in a plane or a car. You protect someone (and the people around: hitting the driver from behind in a car accident may kill him, it has happened) against his own choices.

    But there is also another dimension: you want to protect the memory of those who died, since they are not here to defend themselves anymore.
  • by dago (25724) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @02:16AM (#10065486)
    Even if there's the law, during the last presidential campaign, that didn't stop a very popular caricatural (?) show to design the actual president as "SuperMenteur" ("SuperLiar"). Try to do that now in the states ;)

    And it didn't stop either all the scandals that led to that. In fact, especially for the Elf bribery, at least one past influent member of the government got judged.

  • Re:too bad... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Eunuchswear (210685) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @04:09AM (#10065866) Journal
    Although, the biggest obstacle is probably the cost of a computer compared to the average salaries of the French (the majority of the population are in rural locations).
    Huh?
    • Price of a PC (e.g. Dell): ~ 600 EUR
    • Monthly minimum wage: 1 154,18 EUR
  • by Jesrad (716567) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @04:24AM (#10065903) Journal
    act, thre's a law in France making it a crime to "attack the character of the French President."

    AFAIR, this law was repelled years ago.

    That, combined with communist control of many of the French journalist's unions, means that many stories (such as all the members of the French government, past and present, who had their hands in the ELF bribery scandal, or, for that matter, the UN Oil-for-food scandel) never get adequately reported in the French press.

    That, unfortunately, is completely true, and in fact communist workers unions have a lot more power than most people think. They hold an active minority in virtually every public service, including the Police and power distribution. They even had one of their men as Prime Minister not that long ago ! [alsapresse.com] I half-jokingly call France "The Sovietic Republic of France" because of this. Sometimes that's "Ex-Sovietic Republic of France", though, because more and more people realize what's happening behind the political scene.

    There is no real consensus between ALL french journalists, though, as proven by the existence of such publications [les4verites.com].
  • by Jesrad (716567) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @05:00AM (#10066043) Journal
    According to the RSF organization [rsf.org], France is ranking 26th on the world's classment of freedom of press, while the US are 31st.
  • NO NO NO NO NO ! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Thomas Miconi (85282) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @05:05AM (#10066058)
    The French court is now trying to force them to take it down on their other sites as well

    The French court doesn't want Yahoo to "take down" anything.

    The French court simply wants Yahoo to block French users from their auction sites, or at least
    make a credible attempt at that. That's controversial enough, no need to make it look even worse.

    Look here. [wired.com]

    Thomas Miconi
  • by rxmd (205533) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @07:37AM (#10066751) Homepage
    Pretty much, although there are a few differences:
    • skylarov's company was using prices in dollars
    In Russia, it's quite common to have prices in dollars. Has been like this since the inflation (which lasted until '98 when they had a currency reform). You regularly hear prices quoted in dollars, then people convert them to roubles and pay in roubles).
    • the credit card processing company used was located in the US
    Not uncommon at all in e-commerce. Guess where your VISA and MasterCard payments are being processed, regardless of where you live or where your bank is.
    • the pages to sell those items were available in english, instead of russian only.
    WW2 Nazi paraphernalia aren't generally available in French, either. Most of the stuff is in German, actually.
    In contrast, the yahoo auction site didn't have prices in francs nor euros, didn't use a french company to process payments and didn't offer a french version of those pages.
    I guess if I put up an auction for World Trade Center debris or Al-Qa'ida paraphernalia from Europe, but on an international site, with prices listed in Euro, without mentioning that I'd ship to America, I could still get into legal trouble in the USA. Probably the auction would be removed more quickly than you can say "first amendment".
  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @09:37AM (#10067904) Homepage Journal
    As far as I know, Dutch companies are allowed to ship pot to the US - or, at least, there's no barrier on their side of the pond keeping them from trying to do so.

    However, you can bet that the American who orders pot from a Dutch company is going to have some explaining to do when they arrive to pick up their package.

    I believe it's the job of the destination country to restrict their own borders as they see fit. Nothing you said would seem to contradict that.

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