Yahoo may after all find itself having to answer to the French courts for its failure to block French users' access to information about the sale of Nazi memorabilia on its US Web sites.
In 2000, a French court gave Yahoo three months to install filters that would prevent Web surfers in France from accessing content relating to the sale of Nazi paraphernalia, or pay a fine, following a complaint by the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) and the League Against Racism and anti-Semitism (LICRA). The publication of such content is illegal in France, but Yahoo obtained summary judgement from the US District Court for the Northern District of California that the French court's ruling was not enforceable in the US.
On Monday, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgement on the procedural grounds that it did not have jurisdiction, opening up once again the question of whether Yahoo is responsible under French law for information published on its yahoo.com portal.
LICRA spokesman Richard Serero was satisfied with the ruling, saying that it showed that if Yahoo wants to make money from its Web site in other countries, it must play by their rules. The group is still studying the court's ruling, and will issue a longer statement in due course, he said.
The French court's original determination that Yahoo violated French law may not be reviewed by any US court, Judge Warren J. Ferguson wrote in a 10-page opinion for the court.
At stake is Yahoo's claim that enforcement of the French court's judgment in the US violates Yahoo's First Amendment rights. This claim can be reviewed by any US court able to assert jurisdiction over French plaintiffs the UEJF and LICRA, he wrote. Jurisdiction can be obtained if LICRA and the UEJF ask a US district court to enforce the French judgment, but they have not yet done so, Ferguson wrote.
The US District Court for the Northern District of California's summary judgment was therefore invalid, because the court did not have personal jurisdiction over the UEJF and LICRA, he wrote.