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Supreme Court won't hear Yahoo! Nazi auctions case

The US Supreme Court has refused to consider the latest leg of the legal battle between Yahoo! and French associations over the sale of Nazi memorabilia on its sites. The Supreme Court has denied the case more court time without explanation.31 May 2006

The denial was just one of a just-issued list of orders in pending cases from the Supreme Court. In January a US Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld a lower court's decision that the US courts had no jurisdiction to rule in the case.

The legal tussle extends back to 2000 when two French groups, L'Union des Etudiants Juifs de France (Union of Jewish Students in France ) and La Ligue Contre le Racisme et l'Antisemitisme (League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism), took Yahoo! to court over the sale of Nazi memorabilia on Yahoo.com. The sale of Nazi-related items is illegal in France and though Yahoo! had ensured that no items were for sale on French site Yahoo.fr, the case was brought because French citizens could still access the Yahoo.com site.

Yahoo!'s central claim is that US courts should be able to uphold its First Amendment rights to free speech in resisting any ban on Nazi-related items. It argued, from a California federal court upwards, that the French court order to remove all items from the yahoo.com domain undermined its right to free speech. That deserved US constitutional protection because it would affect the company's US operations and users, it argued.

That claim was at first upheld, but two successive appeals courts ruled that the courts had no jurisdiction to hear the case. Some of the judges involved argued that the US would only have jurisdiction if France attempted to enforce its court order on US soil.

The denial of court time means that the core issue of whether or not the French court order affects Yahoo!'s rights to free speech under the US Constitution has only been considered by the first court to hear the case, the US District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose. The subsequent courts did not consider that issue, ruling first that they did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.