French court sides with Yahoo in Nazi memorabilia case

A Paris court threw out accusations Tuesday that Yahoo and its former chief executive Tim Koogle should be legally responsible for the auction of Nazi paraphernalia that took place on its Web sites, a company representative said.

The ruling could spell the end of a three-year legal battle that tested to what extent regional restrictions can curtail global Internet use.

The case arose in 2000 when the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism and the Union of French Jewish Students took Yahoo and Koogle to court in France, asking that the Internet company block French Internet users to bid on Nazi memorabilia that was being auctioned from a Web site it hosts. The groups took the Santa Clara, California, company to court citing a French law that makes it illegal to exhibit or sell items with racist undertones.

In November 2000, the French court ordered Yahoo to block Internet users in France from auctions selling the memorabilia. In turn, Yahoo asked a California federal court for a summary judgement against the order and the judgment was granted.

Shortly after the verdict, the French parties filed an appeal, arguing that the California court did not have jurisdiction in the case.

The Paris court's decision Tuesday to throw out the accusations spells a victory for Yahoo, which has been arguing that a global company cannot be held to regional laws, and that it was protected by the U.S.'s First Amendment right to free speech.

It was not immediately clear, however, whether the French groups planned to appeal.

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