French Judge Forms Panel to Review Yahoo Nazi Case

A French judge has decided he needs more technical advice to decide whether to order Yahoo to prevent French Internet users from accessing Web pages on its U.S. site featuring auctions of Nazi memorabilia.

The decision has already been delayed once to receive technical advice. [See "Yahoo Wins Court Reprieve in Nazi Sales Case," July 24.]"I think the judge decided it wasn't as simple as all that to block access," Yahoo spokesperson Nathalie Drey said.

Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez has ordered the creation of a three-person working party, to contain one French member, one American and one European, to study the technical issues involved in identifying the geographic origin of Internet users and the means restricting their access to materials based on their location.

Yahoo has proposed that the responsibility be put on the Internet users themselves, perhaps by requiring them to install filtering software on their computers, said Drey.

Another hearing will be held on November 6 to receive the findings of the working party and make a final decision, but in the meantime, Gomez said, Yahoo will not be fined for its failure to prevent French Internet users from seeing racist content on its U.S. Web site.

On July 24, the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris, France's highest court, heard expert testimonies from both Yahoo and the French Union of Jewish Students (UEFJ), which is one of the plaintiffs in the case.

New York-based Infosplit Inc., which advised the UEFJ, said its software is the technical solution to the problem. But Edelweb SA, the expert witness for Yahoo, contends Infosplit's software does not meet the strict criteria set by the judge. [See "Court in the Net: Jurisdiction in Cyberspace," July 27.]The software, called One to One, is capable of locating a user' s IP (Internet protocol) address and relocating to an alternate page, and Edelweb said the margin of error is about 20 percent. Also, it does not take in consideration the 600,000 America Online Inc. (AOL) customers in France whose requests for access to Web pages are handled by AOL's U.S. servers.

Regardless of the technical problems, the case also brings into question how a court in one country can make decisions over the content of Web sites operated in other countries. Thus far, there have only been a few cases of cross-jurisdiction problems, but there is no existing law defining the guidelines for global electronic commerce.

(Additional reporting by Sarah Deveaux.)Yahoo, based in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-731-3300 or via the Internet at http://www.yahoo.com/.

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