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French Internet restrictions won't be enforced in America

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  1. Prior Restraint

    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Prior Restraints         Nov 13, 2001    

French Internet restrictions won’t be enforced in America

  • A federal judge determined that the First Amendment protects Yahoo!’s U.S.-based servers from interference from foreign and domestic governments.

A federal judge granted Yahoo!’s motion for summary judgment on Nov. 7, ruling that a French court order for the Internet company to remove Nazi-related memorabilia from its auction sites cannot be enforced in the United States.

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in response to a case filed in France last year. Two French activist groups sued Yahoo! in France, claiming that the company’s U.S.-based auction portal violated French law because it contained Nazi-related memorabilia.

A French court ruled in November 2000 that Yahoo! violated French law because the auction site could be accessed by French citizens. The French court ordered Yahoo! to restrict access to the site, even if it meant reconfiguring its servers located in California.

Yahoo! then filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Jose, California, asking the court to rule that the French order cannot be enforced in the United States because of First Amendment protections. Yahoo! filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the First Amendment clearly protects its speech within the United States.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel defined the issue as whether the French order was consistent with U.S. law and the First Amendment. The judge wrote that, in the United States, “it is preferable to permit the nonviolent expression of offensive viewpoints rather than impose viewpoint-based governmental regulation upon speech.”

Fogel said he recognized that France may make decisions for its own nation but found that it cannot impose those views on persons within the United States.

(Yahoo! v. La Ligue Contre le racisme et l’antisemitisme; media counsel: Robert Vanderet, O’Melveny & Myers, Los Angeles) AG

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