French court demands an end to online Nazi auctions

A French court has ruled against Yahoo! in its fight to auction Nazi memorabilia online.

A French court has ruled against Yahoo! in its fight to auction Nazi memorabilia online.

Judge Jean Jacques Gomez said French users must be stopped from participating in the auctions hosted by Yahoo! in the US. The judge has given Yahoo! three months to comply with the ruling or face fines. Last month court appointed experts - including internet guru and newly appointed chairman of Icann Vint Cerf - told the court it is possible to block 70 per cent of French internet users accessing the auction site. However, Ben Goodger, partner at Willoughby & Partners, doubted the effectiveness of the ruling. He said: "It will be interesting to see how the court will uphold this ruling. The complainants will have to go to California and make Yahoo! take the site down, but in the US there is a very strong freedom of speech law protected by the constitution and it will be hard to persuade Yahoo! to comply." Any future fines, he said, will have to be taken from the assets of Yahoo! France even though the French subsidiary does not carry any Nazi memorabilia on its site. The ruling also sets a legal precedent. Goodger said: "Here we have a situation where something is legal in one country but not in another. They have a technical solution but it does not solve the jurisdiction problem." Yahoo! found itself in the French law courts after the International League against Racism and anti-Semitism (LICRA) claimed the company was breaking French law by hosting an auction site that sold Neo-Nazi, Nazi and Ku Klux Klan objects. It is against French law to exhibit or sell objects with racist overtones.