Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1092383
Author translation - Kritisk Juss, No. 1-2/2001 p. 63-67
The contents of a website can be read by any person having a computer or mobilphone with Internet access,unless the first webpage requires a password. Websites being a new media imply previous unknowninternational problems, e.g. the question which courts in the world should be allowed to decide a disputeover a certain website - unless every court in the world should be permitted.There are no international agreements or treaties dealing with this issue, thus every country and its courtscan freely determine the vital and fundamental political question, where a non-resident can be sued, becausehe has made or hosted a website.
France versus Yahoo! Inc. (U.S.)
December 21, 2000 Yahoo Inc.! asked the federal district court in San Jose, California [FN 1], for aninjunction that would hinder the execution of a court decisions of May 22nd and November 20th 2000 fromthe Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance, [FN 2] France, which had ordered Californian Yahoo to continuouslyto remove all nazistic material from American websites at "www.yahoo.com", [FN 3]because people inFrance was able to se the American websites and Frenchmen thus could suffer mentally.Yahoo! Inc. became subject to penalty of 100.000 Francs per day if it did not comply with the French order within 3 month.Yahoos claim in the American court was, that the French court's orders exercise an unreasonableexterritorial jurisdiction over the operations and content of a U.S.-based webservice belonging to a U.S.citizen. Amongst other Yahoo further claimed that the French court's decisions violated public policy infavor of freedom of expression recognized by:
First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution
§ 230 in 47th Title of the U.S.Code that immunizes Internet Service Providers such as Yahoo fromresponsibility and liability for the content of postings by third parties
Three rules in Human Rights Instruments that France has signed: article 19 of the InternationalCovenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of HumanRights and Fundamental Freedoms, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.The dispute is an excellent example of the chaos that is initiated by the invention of the Internet. AmericanYahoo has subsidiaries in twenty countries. Each subsidiary corporation uses the local language on itswebsites, which is operated under local laws. France has a law requiring all text on every website that isintended for Frenchmen has to use the French language. Further, France a law that forbids sale of andexhibiting nazistic material.
Facts from the case
Yahoo-France removes all nazistic material from its webservice, except e.g. Anne Frank's diary. For example will searching with words such as "nazi" or derivates hereof not make any hits on Yahoo-France'swebsites. However, the problem is that Frenchmen can get access to Yahoo-US by writing"www.yahoo.com" in a browsers URL address field or click a hyperlink at Yahoo-France's website andchoose the American auctionsite. By searching with words like "nazi" the Frenchman will get many hitsreferring to nazistic material and stuff offered for sale by third persons.