RealTime IT News

French Nazi Ban On Yahoo! Ruled Invalid

Yahoo! won a court battle Wednesday after a federal judge told the company that it did not have to abide by a request by French groups hoping to keep Nazi-related items off Yahoo!'s auction sites.

In a San Jose, Calif. courtroom, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled that the listings on Yahoo! Auctions are protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based media company was sued last April by two Parisian advocacy groups citing over 1000 pro-Nazi items on the portal's auctions.

A French court had ordered the auction site to pay fines of about $13,000 a day if it did not install technology that would shield French users from seeing Nazi-related memorabilia on its auction site. French law prohibits the display of such material.

"This has very broad implications for everyone, not only companies but also for individuals who operate Web pages here in the United States," says Yahoo! lawyer Mary Catherine Wirth. "Today the judge basically said it was not consistent with the laws of the United States for another nation to regulate speech for a U.S. resident within the United States."

The Internet community has kept its eye on the case because of its repercussions for any firm doing business outside the states: one issue is the technology.

From the get-go, Yahoo! repeatedly released statements claiming it would be technically impossible to block French Internet users from sites governed by America's "less restrictive" laws.

French prosecutors balked at the claims saying that they could identify some 60 percent of French Internet surfers through independent testing and tracking technology.

The other concern is a company's moral obligation to its sensitive global partners.

After complaints from the German government, Amazon.com blocked Hitler's book Mein Kampf from its German customers.

eBay removed Nazi weapons, clothes, coins and other memorabilia from its site after reconsidering its listing policy.

Since the initial lawsuit, Yahoo! says it has worked with its foreign partners and has policed itself removing the majority of the Nazi items off its auction site.