SW Legal studies in Business

French Court Order to Quash Free Speech Not Enforceable in United States
Description A federal district court held that the order of a French court that Yahoo! must block access of all French citizens to its web sites, so they could not see Nazi materials, was not enforceable in the U.S. and so would not be recognized because it violates the First Amendment rights of Yahoo!
Topic International Law
Key Words First Amendment; French Law; Internet Service Provider
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Two French non-profit organizations sued Yahoo!, a United States corporation, for violating French law by allowing the sale of various Nazi objects, including Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf." The French court concluded that French citizens could access the Yahoo.com auction site and so Yahoo! violated French criminal law. The court ordered Yahoo! to block access by French citizens to Yahoo.com's auction site and to block access of French citizens to text containing any Nazi material. Yahoo! was subject to a fine of 100,000 Euros for each day it failed to comply with the order. Yahoo!'s appeal failed as the court reaffirmed the order. Yahoo! posted warnings to French citizens but there is no technology to block French citizens from accessing Yahoo.com. The company filed a complaint in U.S. district court seeking declaratory judgment that the French order is not enforceable in the U.S.

Motion granted. The French court order presents a real and immediate threat to Yahoo!'s First Amendment rights. The order of the French court would not be recognized in the U.S. and could not be enforced in the U.S. The argument of the French party that it might be possible to devise technology to block French citizens access to Yahoo is irrelevant to the outcome of this matter. U.S. courts generally recognize foreign court judgments and decrees, except when enforcement would be prejudicial or contrary to the country's interest. While the French government can restrict free speech in France, its order violates constitutional rights in the U.S. and so is not enforceable within the U.S.

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

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