Supreme Court Passes on Yahoo Nazi Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a case in which Yahoo tried to fight a French court’s order banning the company’s sale of Nazi memorabilia.

Two French groups had brought the case to the Supreme Court, saying a lower court ruling could allow Yahoo to use U.S. courts to sue them. But the U.S. court denied their request to hear the case as part of a long list of denials issued Tuesday.

A Yahoo spokeswoman wasn’t immediately available for comment.

A lawyer for the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) and the League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) said he was "miffed" the Supreme Court didn’t take the case.

The Supreme Court’s denial of the case leaves open the possibility that Yahoo could file a "tit-for-tat countersuit" against the two groups in U.S. courts, said E. Randol Schoenberg, from the law firm Burris & Schoenberg in Los Angeles. It could also allow any defendants in lawsuits that cross national or state boundaries to file their own countersuits in their home jurisdictions, he said.

"It makes no sense," Schoenberg said of the Supreme Court’s decision. "It’s very complicated, and that’s probably why the court didn’t take it. They’re only taking easy cases this year."

In 2000, after UEJF and LICRA filed a lawsuit, a French court ruled that Yahoo had to make it impossible for residents of France to participate in Nazi memorabilia auctions. If it failed to comply, Yahoo would have to pay a fine of about US$15 million.

Yahoo at that time decided to remove the Nazi items from its website, saying it would be impossible to filter out users from a specific country to keep them from participating in such auctions and viewing such content. Yahoo later sued UEJF and LICRA in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to have the French court’s verdict declared unenforceable in the United States, arguing that it violates the right to free speech.

The district court sided with Yahoo, but the French parties filed an appeal with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. After the French groups won that appeal, Yahoo asked the appeals court to again hear the case with 11 judges. In January, the appeals court dismissed Yahoo’s appeal.

-Grant Gross, IDG News Service

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