Ligue Contre le Racisme et l'Antisémitisme v. Yahoo! Inc.

France, Cour de Cassation, No. 220, ILDC 777 (2003)

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Ligue Contre le Racisme et l'Antisémitisme v. Yahoo! Inc.

Superior Court of Paris
France, Cour de Cassation, No. 220, ILDC 777 (2003)

  • Written by Rose VanHofwegen, JD

Facts

French law prohibited displaying Nazi-related items for sale. Yahoo! Inc. (Yahoo) (defendant) did not display auctions of Nazi memorabilia on its French subsidiary site, Yahoo.fr; however, users could click a link and go to U.S.-based Yahoo.com to see such auctions. Two organizations, Ligue Contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme and Union des Étudiants Juifs de France (plaintiffs), sued Yahoo in French court. The court ordered Yahoo to implement screening technology to block users located in French territory from accessing the auctions. Yahoo challenged the court’s jurisdiction on the grounds that Yahoo’s services were destined primarily for users in the United States, where its servers were located, and where banning Nazi-related advertising would violate First Amendment protections. Yahoo also claimed it could not block users from accessing its websites based on their geographic locations. Specifically, Yahoo argued that users would lie about or object to providing that data. Yahoo’s expert testified that blocking French users would require Yahoo to either repeatedly request users’ locations or use cookies, which many users considered an invasion of privacy and configured their browsers to block. But other expert testimony showed it was possible to determine the locations of users’ IP addresses approximately 70 percent of the time, which neared 90 percent reliability when combined with requesting users to declare their nationalities when opening the web page or before processing searches containing the word Nazi. In addition, Yahoo evidently already identified French users’ geographic locations—because Yahoo systematically posted advertising banners in French when users connected from French territory. Finally, Yahoo could control where items purchased through its auctions were delivered, and Yahoo policy prohibited auctioning certain categories of items, such as drugs, human organs, pedophilic items, cigarettes, and live animals.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gomez C.J.)

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