Court orders Yahoo to block French access to Nazi memorabilia.
May 23, 2000 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Court orders Yahoo to block French access to Nazi memorabilia. Does it bother anyone else that the French courts think they can regulate an American business? I dislike Nazis as much as the next guy but this seems to be a bit much on the part of the French.
posted by darainwa (15 comments total)
Hell, it makes sense to me.

Internet companies want to play on an International playground, they have to follow International rules.

It's the same thing that's shut down iCraveTV.Com for now. They aren't doing anything illegal by showing the stuff to Canadians, they just need to restrict it to Canadians only.

Either companies intending to do business internationally follow the rules for doing business in each of those nations, or those nations' governments take control of the portals, and do it themselves.

Personally I'd prefer Yahoo! to take the higher ground, and maybe fight some fights in the courthouse. They've got a good deal of legal representation, put it to some use fighting the good fight, but in the meantime they should also set an example by following the laws that are out there.

Granted, like pretty much everyone else here I'd prefer it completely if governments just butted out of the Internet, but it ain't going to happen.

Actually, what I'd REALLY like Yahoo to do is just bounce every IP registered to French ISPs to a page that says "Your government refuses to let us offer you our services, so we're not offering you any. Problems? Talk to <mailto:someoneimportant@french.government>important governmental entity</a> about it. It's your country, not ours.
posted by cCranium at 11:44 AM on May 23, 2000

Well hopefully it's not brand new Nazi memorabilia, it's also illegal in France to sell new goods in an auction.

Also, iCraveTV is supposedly working on a system to verify the location of visitors along with a few other companies.
posted by tomalak at 12:44 PM on May 23, 2000

Yeah, and I honestly can't quite understand what's taking them so long. I mean, getting a list of IPs registered to Canadian ISPs, Universities, whatever, shouldn't be all that difficult, although it will leave blocks of Canadians unable to view, and leave them open to spoofing, it's something that would take much of the legal onus off of them.

I wonder how protective of their IP registrations companies are? Considering it's public domain anyway..

I'm mildly interested to see what this fancy new technology they're working on is, and how it works.
posted by cCranium at 12:51 PM on May 23, 2000

i'd like to see yahoo implement cCranium's solution of sending the French users to the error page suggested above. unfortunately, i don't suppose that will happen any time soon.

i can just see this will extending to all books discussing the nazi regime and then move on to other things the french government doesn't like. will the french start to say that anything anti france cannot be bid on by anyoen in france?

i guess i am scared by the precident it sets. i'd rather see france just stay out of it all together.
posted by darainwa at 1:19 PM on May 23, 2000

"Internet companies want to play on an International playground, they have to follow International rules."
Isn't that pretty much impossible? seeing as every country in the world has different laws? what exactly are "International rules"?
I see it cost Yahoo over a whopping $1000. But does that meant they have to take down the items too?
posted by Doomsday at 1:23 PM on May 23, 2000

I have a question, can France do anything if Yahoo doesn't block access?
Outside of the possiblity of a DOS attack on Yahoo's auctions pages the French seem to be holding no cards in this situation.

posted by darainwa at 1:37 PM on May 23, 2000

Remember that the US tries to apply its laws extraterritorially all the time. Think of Helms-Burton, the copyright fights going on with the EU, Panama, etc. If US companies want it to go both ways they should lobby the gov't to quit trying to enforce its laws in other country's jurisdictions. That will happen when hell freezes over, though.
posted by mikel at 1:37 PM on May 23, 2000

Doomsday: "Isn't that pretty much impossible? "

Yeah, so you don't do anything until the various companies complain, then you get the country to give you a list of the various restrictions that need to be in place and the money to make those changes, or you block the country out completely.

Whether or not a site uses the global market is the site's business. Quite frankly, there's enough business in North America or Europe or any other country of group of countries with liberal trading to sustain a web-based company of almost any size. And if it's not enough to support a bloated Yahoo! or an Amazon-alike, then the site should scale itself down to meet it's market. Supply and Demand.

I don't like that solution, but that's why there's NATO, or the WTO (I know, I know, here come the worms...) or any other trade organization exists. Whether or not they work properly, that's the point of them being in place, to attempt to faciliate international trade.

There's treaties and laws in place. Unfortunately cyberspace isn't it's own unique realm. And even if it were, as soon as something physical comes of it (ie an old Nazi uniform being shipped via FedEx because of an eBay auction) that physical item is bound by the laws of whatever nation it's in or passes through.
posted by cCranium at 1:51 PM on May 23, 2000

What bothers me most about this is that France is continuing to try to rewrite its history of collaboration during WWII: "Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez told the firm that the auctions were 'an offense to the collective memory of the country'." If the collective memory doesn't include the memory of the Vichy government and the deportation of Jewish children to concentration camps, then nobody has learned anything. If you haven't seen Marcel Ophuls' documentary "The Sorrow and the Pity" about the rewriting of French collective memory after the war, it's more than worth the effort to find. If there's a market for Nazi memorabilia in France, it only goes to prove once again that not everyone was in La Resistance. Yahoo! is just getting beat up for reminding them of this again.
posted by elgoose at 2:16 PM on May 23, 2000

where are you from, elgoose?

I'm from the US. freedom of speech is one of our fundamental rights, and I've been indoctrinated to believe that's the way things should be.

we also didn't have those horrors in our country. slavery is so far behind us that none of alive has a memory of it.

and we've pretty much just tried to pretend that slavery didn't happen. or that if it did happen, it was not nice, but not horrific, and none of us would ever do the same thing now.

but there is currently a fight over whether the Confederate flag can fly over the SC statehouse (no) and whether flying it over the Confederate cemetery is also too visible. so we're still working to manage our collective memories about slavery.

so it looks to me like the French taken a stand. like child pornography, these materials are so reprehensible to them, that it's illegal to buy and sell them.

is this the best approach? I don't know. I suspect that allowing a free flow of ideas is a better...but I've been indoctrinated (and I don't hold that view about child pornography).

and I've never lived next to a concentration camp.

posted by rebeccablood at 2:59 PM on May 23, 2000

"freedom of speech is one of our fundamental rights, and I've been indoctrinated to believe that's the way things should be."At first read, I thought that statement belonged in my megalist of Oxymorons, but as I pondered it further (Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?), it dawned on me what's been bugging me about the American Bill of Rights for years: It recognizes "Freedom of Speech", but not "Freedom of Thought". Hmmmm.... wanders off-topic and into the woods
posted by wendell at 5:39 PM on May 23, 2000

I live in the US. And I'm actually from here, too.

And I must be dense or really tired, because I didn't understand your point about freedom of speech.

What I was complaining about was the ongoing suppression of history that happens in France (and other countries, too, to be fair). Sure, you can claim that the State has the right to regulate imports and exports, but when it's happening in the name of thought control (which I do believe the banning of Nazi memorabilia is about), then the State has overstepped its bounds.

During WWII many many French were Nazi collaborators and even Nazis. It ticks them off to be reminded of it. That was all I was trying to say initially. To me, if there's any freedom of speech issue here, it's the judge trying to suppress the reality of (historical) French Nazism.

As ever, too, there will be a black market in the memorabilia, and the scary folks will get their hands on it anyway. So the problem I see is with a representative of the State trying to define what "collective memory" is.
posted by elgoose at 6:22 PM on May 23, 2000

I think elgoose has hit the nail on the head, the French get a great deal of mileage from 'La Resistance' but in fact the vast majority of the population in the war, while not actively collaborating, did nothing to actually hinder the Nazis.
The reaction of the French Government to this is entirely in character with my experiences with the French attitude towards what happened all those years ago.
If you look at the issue, the auctioning of Nazi memerobilia (sp.?) is rather distasteful at best and the French seem once again to be grabbing the opportunity to take the moral high ground, probably (and yes, this is only speculation, I'm English not French) due to the knowledge that they were to a greater or lesser extent knowing collaborators.
posted by Markb at 5:19 AM on May 24, 2000

Without rehashing the whole damned war, there were French who were in La Resistance and who fought in uniform on our side, and these are the folks who formed the postwar government. elgoose's assumption that the quote indicated an attempt to erase the memory of Nazism is a crass jumping to conclusion. I didn't read that comment in the same way at all.

Now, I do disagree with the French and German approaches to the problem, like censoring anything with the swastika. But I don't live in Germany, so I figure that's their business.

What I do disagree with is attempts to censor us, and I am very disturbed that these things are starting to happen. cCranium, it's not Yahoo's fault that the internet goes to France. What you're suggesting is that Yahoo must live with the lowest common denominator. Maybe you can accept that because this is "commerce", but can you accept that with speech? What if you want to run a page examining the history of the Nazi movement, and France came to your ISP and said it had to come down? That's what this threatens to lead to. What if you posted the Coca-Cola logo upside down on your blog mentioning that seeing it this way makes the calligraphy resemble the Arabic script for something offensive to Islam ... and Saudi Arabia had a little chat with your ISP? That's the next step.
posted by dhartung at 8:54 AM on May 24, 2000

"cCranium, it's not Yahoo's fault that the internet goes to France. What you're suggesting is that Yahoo must live with the lowest common denominator. "

No I'm not. Your point about commerce or free speech is, however quite valid.

What I'm suggesting is Yahoo! cut france off from everything they offer. In essence, put an embargo on France, redirecting page hits to to a page that says "Because of your government's intervention in not allowing one facet of our services, we are unable to provide ANY services." and then do the same to any other country that tries to copycat France.

As for free speech, the French, or Saudi Arabia, or any other country wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on asking my ISP to take something that was speech-based. I'm not offering it up for sale, and the servers and anything physical about my site is not in their country, and therefore not in their jurisdiction.

However, if they were to notify me that something I did was indeed offensive to their country, I'd hide it behind warnings out of respect for their wishes.

For Yahoo! to offer sale of these goods to France is to violate the laws of their country, which IS within their jurisdiction. As soon as something physical comes into play, jurisdiction does as well.
posted by cCranium at 10:36 AM on May 24, 2000

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