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May 22, 2000

UEJF and Licra v. Yahoo! Inc. and Yahoo France

>Summary of the whole case
>The Judge's Decision of November 20, 2000
>An international discussion of the implications of the Yahoo! Inc. nazi memorabilia dispute

The Judge's Decision (May 22, 2000):

(Translated into English by Richard Salis)

Whereas it was not contested that surfers in French territory who logged onto Yahoo.com directly, or via  the link Yahoo.fr, can see on their computer screens the pages, services and sites to which Yahoo.com provides access to, in particular the Auction services hosted  on Geocities.com, the web hosting service of Yahoo! Inc., particularly in its declension relative to nazi objects;

Whereas the exposition considering its sale of nazi objects, constitutes a violation of  French law (article R. 645-2 of the penal code) but moreover an offense to the collective memory of a nation profoundly murdered by atrocities committed by, and in the name of the Nazi criminal enterprise against its citizens, especially against its citizens belonging to the Jewish faith;

Whereas while permitting the visualization in France of these objects and the eventual participation of surfers of France to such an exposition/sale, Yahoo! Inc. has therefore committed a fault  on French territory,  a fault which its non-intentional character is apparent, but which is the source of damage to the LICRA as well as the UEJF which both  have a right  to pursue  in France all forms of Nazism banalization, regardless that the character of the litigious activity is  marginal with relation  with the entire auction sale services offered on its site Yahoo.com;

Whereas the damage was suffered in France, our jurisdiction is therefore competent over the present dispute in application of article 46 of the New Code of Civil Procedure;

Whereas Yahoo! Inc. asserts that it is technically impossible to control access to its auction service or any of its other services, and in consequence, to prohibit a surfer logging on in France  from visualizing these services on his screen;

Whereas it wishes nevertheless to emphasize that it warns all visitors against all use of its services for the purposes that are “worthy of reprobation for whatsoever reason”, notably for the purposes of racial or ethnic discrimination (Cf. Its users charter);

But whereas Yahoo! Inc. is capable of identifying the geographical origin of the site which is visited, as from the IP address of  the caller, which  therefore should provide them with the means to prohibit surfers calling from France,  by whatever means are appropriate, from accessing the services and sites to be viewed on screens in France, and  in some cases tele-discharging and reproduction of the contents,  or of any other initiative justified by  the  nature of the site visited, will be susceptible of receiving in France, a criminal qualification and/or constitute a manifestly illegal nuisance within the meaning of article 808 and  809 of the New Code of Civil Procedure, which is manifestly the case of the exhibition of uniforms, insignia, emblems reminiscent of those which worn or  exhibited by the Nazis;

Whereas with regard to surfers who browse through sites which guarantee them anonymity, Yahoo! Inc. has fewer possibilities of control except, for example, those which refuse to systematically provide access to such sites to all visitors who  do not reveal their geographical origin;

Whereas the real difficulties encountered by Yahoo does not constitute insurmountable obstacles;

That it will therefore be ordered to take all the measures of their disposition, to dissuade and to render it impossible any consultation by surfers calling from France, the illegal sites and services  where the title and/or the content causes harm to internal public order, especially the site which sells Nazi objects;

Whereas there must be helpful to debate about  the nature of these measures within the framework of the present proceedings; That Yahoo will be given a  delay of two months to formulate proposals of technical measures, able to carry forth a settlement in this dispute;    

Whereas in regards to Yahoo France, it bears mentioning that its site Yahoo.fr does not personally offer surfers calling from France, access to its sites and service, such as the site and/or the content which constituted an infraction to French law; that therefore it does not permit access to  auction sites or services which sell Nazi objects;

But whereas it offers to surfers a link to Yahoo.com entitled “further research on Yahoo.com”, without any particular precaution.

Or whereas, knowing the content of services offered by Yahoo.com, and in this case  the service of auction sales including in one of its declensions, the sale of Nazi objects, it is required to warn its surfers, by a banner, prior to their entry onto Yahoo.com; that should as the result of their research  on Yahoo.com, either by arborescence or through the use of key words, leads them towards sites, pages  or forums of the title and/or content which constitutes an infraction of French law, such as is the case of sites which directly or indirectly, voluntarily or involuntarily , make the apology of Nazism, it must interrupt the visitation onto the site in  question, otherwise it will incur the sanctions stipulated  by the French legislation or  answer to the legal actions which  can be initiated against it;

Whereas these measures appear to sufficiently be in state; That whereas on the other hand, it  is justified to apply the provisions of article 700 of the New Code of Civil Procedure in favor of the plaintiffs;


Rendering its judgment publicly in first instance, after hearing all the parties, the Court joins the proceedings bearing the numbers 00/0308 and 00/05309;

Rejecting the arguments raised  in defence;

Order Yahoo! Inc. to take all measures at their availability, to dissuade and render impossible all visitation on Yahoo.com to participate in the  auction service of nazi objects, as well as to render impossible any other site or service which makes apologies of  Nazism or that contests Nazi crimes;

Orders Yahoo France to warn all surfers visiting Yahoo.fr, and prior to making available the usage of the link which permits them to pursue their research on Yahoo.com, where the result of their search, whether by arborescence or through the use of key words, leads them towards sites, pages  or forums of the title and/or content which constitutes an infraction of French law, as well for visitation of sites which make the apology of Nazism and/or exhibit uniforms, insignia, emblems reminiscent of those which were worn or exhibited by nazis, or offering the sale of objects and works where the sale is strictly prohibited in France, it must interrupt the visitation  onto the site in question, otherwise it will incur the sanctions stipulated  by the French legislation or  answer to the legal actions which  can be initiated against it;

Orders the pursuit of this proceeding at the hearing of Monday July 24, 200 at 14:00 (Chambers of Deputy Chief Justice  Gomez), during to which Yahoo! Inc. shall submit to the measures that they shall take to put an end  to the damage and the nuisance suffered by the plaintiffs and to prevent any new  incidences of nuisance.

Condemns Yahoo! Inc. to pay to LICRA the amount of 10,000 Francs on the basis of article 700 of the New \code of Civil Procedure;

Condemns Yahoo! Inc. and Yahoo France  to pay to UEJF an amount  of 10,000 Francs on the basis of article 700 of the New Code of Civil Procedure;

Declares that no further measures are appropriate at this juncture;

Awards the costs of LICRA's action to be borne by Yahoo! Inc. and those of the UEJF by Yahoo! Inc. and Yahoo France.

Done at Paris on May 22, 2000

The Clerk The Chief Justice

Christine BENSOAM Jean-Jacques GOMEZ


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