Monday, February 11, 2002
The more I read about the wacky French, the more I think that President Bush should have gone further in his State of the Union speech. He should have named an Axis of Stupid -- topped by the French. (I'll take nominations for what other countries should be named to the Axis.)
The latest stupidity is a French court's ruling on free speech. While I hold no love for anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi racist propoganda, I do worry about the tack that the French courts are taking.
A little more than a year ago, the judge in the French case, Licra v. Yahoo (news/quote), shook the mahogany desks of lawyers around the world when he reaffirmed an earlier ruling that Yahoo, based in Santa Clara, Calif., had violated French law by allowing French citizens to view auction sites displaying Nazi memorabilia.
The case has jumped the Atlantic and is making its way through the courts in the United States, where a federal judge has ruled that French sanctions against Yahoo — including $13,000 a day in fines — cannot be enforced in the United States. The two groups that sued the company in France, the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (known as Licra) and the Union of French Jewish Students, are appealing the federal judge's decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco.
Regardless of the appeal's outcome, nations seeking to control potentially harmful speech that arrives from offshore are seen as almost certain to use the French precedent to bolster their efforts.
While the French effort may be noble, I would hate to see a country like China try to chart a similar court against people who run Web sites exposing the truth of that tyrannical regime.