French activists will fight Yahoo appeal to U.S. court

www.computerworld.com |  Business

PARIS -- French antiracism activists said today they are unimpressed by Yahoo Inc.'s latest attempt to have a decision of the French supreme court set aside, and will continue to fight the company.

In November, Yahoo lost its final appeal in the French courts against a decision requiring it to prevent Internet users in France from accessing pages of its auction Web site where Nazi memorabilia is offered for sale. The promotion of Nazism is illegal in France.

With no place else to go in the French legal system, Yahoo has turned to what it clearly sees as a higher authority: the U.S. District Court of San Jose, Calif., where yesterday it filed for a declaratory judgment asking for a ruling that the French government has no jurisdiction over the Santa Clara, Calif.-based online services company.

The declaratory judgment request challenges the enforceability of the fines, Greg Wrenn, an associate general counsel at Yahoo, told Computerworld online. The case "has never been about content on a French site," he said. "The problem with the order of the judge in France is that it recognizes no borders on France's ability to regulate [Web site] content in the U.S."

This remark was flatly contradicted by Marc Knobel, a spokesman for the French Union of Jewish Students and the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, which together filed suit against Yahoo in the French courts in June.

"It's not a question of cutting access to the pages from American soil," Knobel said. The French court ordered Yahoo to filter access to its pages so that French citizens could not access the pages in question. It did not order Yahoo to block access by anyone else.

"[Yahoo's appeal] is the height of demagoguery and arrogance," he said.

"Their case is self-contradictory," he said, referring to the fact that Yahoo has asked a U.S. court to overrule a judgment by the French supreme court against a U.S. company on the grounds that it is not within its jurisdiction.

"They seem to think that they can publish anything, that there are no morals. I can't accept that. We'll go to the end of the line on this one. We'll fight them at every turn -- including through the American legal system. The fact that this case is in California doesn't scare us, and it doesn't impress us either."

The French campaigners will engage legal counsel in the U.S. to contest Yahoo's request, and to explain clearly to the judge exactly what the French court had ordered Yahoo to do. In France, he said, the two groups will soon be joined by other organizations in their campaign.

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