Supreme Court Sidesteps International Yahoo, Nazi Case

POSTED: 2:51 pm PDT May 30, 2006
UPDATED: 3:19 pm PDT May 30, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court passed up a chance Tuesday to consider whether Yahoo Inc. could use American courts to resolve an overseas dispute over the Internet company's display of Nazi memorabilia.

A French judge had ordered the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company to take Nazi paraphernalia off its site, Yahoo.com. The judge proposed a fine of about $15 million for running an auction site in which French users could buy and sell the memorabilia banned in France.

Yahoo's lawyers contested the decision in federal court in California, not France, arguing that it violated the company's constitutional free speech rights. A U.S. appeals court dismissed the company's lawsuit earlier this year. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not resolve whether U.S.-based Internet companies are liable for damages in foreign courts for displaying content that is unlawful overseas but protected in the United States.

Although Yahoo lost in that ruling, it did not appeal. Instead, two French associations took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the ruling leaves the door open for Yahoo to try to use U.S. courts to avoid judgments by courts in other countries. Yahoo, which was not forced to pay the fine, filed no arguments at the high court.
The case is La Ligue Contre Le Racisme Et L'Antisemitisme, v. Yahoo! Inc., 05-1302.

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Supreme Court Passes on Yahoo Nazi Case
MAY 30, 2006 02:42:22 PMÊ|ÊAdd Comment (0)Ê|ÊPermalink
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a case in which Yahoo tried to fight a French courtÕs order banning the companyÕs sale of Nazi memorabilia.
Two French groups had brought the case to the Supreme Court, saying a lower court ruling could allow Yahoo to use U.S. courts to sue them. But the U.S. court denied their request to hear the case as part of a long list of denials issued Tuesday.
A Yahoo spokeswoman wasnÕt immediately available for comment.
A lawyer for the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) and the League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) said he was "miffed" the Supreme Court didnÕt take the case.
The Supreme CourtÕs denial of the case leaves open the possibility that Yahoo could file a "tit-for-tat countersuit" against the two groups in U.S. courts, said E. Randol Schoenberg, from the law firm Burris & Schoenberg in Los Angeles. It could also allow any defendants in lawsuits that cross national or state boundaries to file their own countersuits in their home jurisdictions, he said.
"It makes no sense," Schoenberg said of the Supreme CourtÕs decision. "ItÕs very complicated, and thatÕs probably why the court didnÕt take it. TheyÕre only taking easy cases this year."
In 2000, after UEJF and LICRA filed a lawsuit, a French court ruled that Yahoo had to make it impossible for residents of France to participate in Nazi memorabilia auctions. If it failed to comply, Yahoo would have to pay a fine of about US$15 million.
Yahoo at that time decided to remove the Nazi items from its website, saying it would be impossible to filter out users from a specific country to keep them from participating in such auctions and viewing such content. Yahoo later sued UEJF and LICRA in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to have the French courtÕs verdict declared unenforceable in the United States, arguing that it violates the right to free speech.
The district court sided with Yahoo, but the French parties filed an appeal with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. After the French groups won that appeal, Yahoo asked the appeals court to again hear the case with 11 judges. In January, the appeals court dismissed YahooÕs appeal.
-Grant Gross, IDG News Service