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Yahoo! loses Nazi auction case

Yahoo!

PARIS, France -- Internet giant Yahoo! has been ordered to bar French Internet shoppers from sites selling Nazi memorabilia in a landmark ruling that could set a precedent for web users around the world.

Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez, confirming a ruling he had issued in May, told Yahoo! on Monday to ban French users from English-language auction sites where Nazi books, daggers, SS badges and uniforms are sold by auction.

He gave Yahoo! until February to implement the ruling or face fines.

Gomez, acting on complaints from French anti-racist and Jewish groups, said Yahoo! had to respect French laws prohibiting the exhibit or sale of objects that incite racial hatred.

Yahoo's French-language portal yahoo.fr does not host auctions of the Nazi items, but French surfers can easily switch over to Yahoo.com services in English, and based in the U.S., with a click of the mouse.

Yahoo! had fought the case on the grounds that its Yahoo.com services are U.S.-governed and that auctions of Nazi material cannot be barred because of U.S. constitutional rights to freedom of speech.

It also argued that there was no failsafe way to identify French users and block access.

Yahoo! has previously been ordered to pay fines to the Union of Jewish Students and the Licra anti-racism organisation for breaching French law.

The judge in that case asked three experts to search for ways to prevent French users from accessing the site and all other sites deemed racist.

The three experts -- a Frenchman, an American and a Briton -- earlier said it would be possible to detect 70 percent of Web surfers who use an easily identifiable French Internet service provider to access the auction site.

But they added it would be more difficult to detect the remaining 30 percent who use an international provider.

The experts said that attempting to block every racist site from every French users would be impossible.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Judge to rule on French access to Nazi items
November 20, 2000
Nazi web site gag 'impossible'
November 6, 2000
Court delays ruling over Yahoo! Nazi memorabilia sales
August 11, 2000
Yahoo wins court reprieve in Nazi sales case
July 26, 2000

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