Posted Tuesday, May 23, 2000

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Melbourne, Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Yahoo! to pay damages on anti-Semitic charges


PARIS, May 22 - A French judge ruled today that Yahoo! Inc had broken French law and committed 'an offence to the collective memory' of the country by hosting an online auction selling neo-Nazi objects in cyberspace.

Judge Jean-Jaques Gomez ordered the California-based portal to pay 10,000 francs $A2,438 each to the Union of Jewish Students and an anti-racism group. He also gave Yahoo two months to find a way to make the site inaccessible to France-based Internet users. Both sides were told to return to court July 24.

Yahoo was brought to court last week by the Jewish group and the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, known by its French initials LICRA. They asked that Yahoo shut down its Auctions site and asked that the company be fined $US91,000 ($A159,600) for each day it did not comply with French law.

Existing French laws prohibit selling or displaying anything that incites racism.

Nazi-related items are not available on Yahoo's French site (

However, between 500 and 1,000 items, including pictures, coins and flags, can be found by using Yahoo's American site ( - which is accessible from France.

Yahoo responded to the court's decision today by saying it 'condemned all forms of racism' but the case raised other significant questions.

"The real question put before this court is whether a French jurisdiction can make a decision on the English content of an American site, run by an American company ... for the sole reason that French users have access via the Internet," Yahoo attorney Christophe Pecnard said in a statement faxed by Yahoo in Paris.

Lawyers for Yahoo had previously argued that the portal could not guarantee respect for laws in every country in which it is accessed.

Judge Gomez ruled today that 'the exhibition, in view of its sale of Nazi objects, is contrary to French law.' He said the American company, by hosting the site, had committed a mistake on French territory.

Marc Levy, a lawyer for LICRA expressed 'great satisfaction' with the ruling, saying the judge had 'rendered a service to the Internet,' which ran the risk of becoming a 'no-law zone'


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