Monday, January 23, 2006

Yahoo and France

Michael Geist writes about the recent US court of appeal decision in the case Yahoo pursued against French anti racism groups.

"The initial French case concluded several years ago when a judge sided with the anti-racism groups and ordered Yahoo! to do what it reasonably could to ensure that French users could not access content that was unlawful in France. The judge was persuaded at that time that Yahoo! was capable of identifying when French users accessed its site (it provided targeted ads to such users) and that his order would be limited to Yahoo!' s activities in France.

To support his opinion, the judge commissioned a three-member expert panel, which included Vint Cerf, one of the Internet' s founders, to advise him on the technological capability of identifying the geographic location of Internet users. The panel responded that the technology at the time allowed for geographic identification at a 70 – 90 percent accuracy rate.

Yahoo!, supported by several U.S. civil liberties groups, was highly critical of the decision, arguing that complying with the order would force it to remove content that was protected under the First Amendment and was therefore lawful. Rather than appealing the French decision, however, the company chose to let the decision stand and to launch a lawsuit of its own in the U.S. courts instead, seeking an order that the French decision could not be enforced on its home turf...

9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a U.S. appellate court, issued a 99-page split decision that asserted jurisdiction over the dispute but declined to provide Yahoo! with its much-desired order...

The Yahoo! France case resulted in nearly six years of litigation, numerous legal briefs, and much hand wringing from the Internet community. Despite its notoriety, it would appear that the courts remains as conflicted as ever as they seek to reconcile the challenges of law, borders and the Internet."

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