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Yahoo's free-speech appeal gets hearing

Company goes before appeals court Thursday in case to see whether foreign court can censor speech that originated in U.S.

Tech Industry
Yahoo is set to go before a U.S. appeals court in a case to determine whether a foreign court can censor speech that originated in the United States.

Yahoo, which is presenting the case Thursday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, has asked the court to find that orders issued in a French court are unenforceable and that the defendants cannot collect their multimillion-dollar claims.

Nearly five years ago, antihate groups in France sued Yahoo over Nazi paraphernalia posted for auction on its U.S. Web site. A French court ordered Yahoo to block all sales or display of such items that could be seen by citizens of France, based on that country's laws prohibiting racism.

Yahoo, however, filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., claiming the French court had no jurisdiction over content hosted by its U.S.-based servers. That court agreed with Yahoo, ruling that the French court could not enforce its order in the United States. The court went further, claiming that the case would also violate the Web portal's First Amendment rights.

But when the French antihate groups contested the decision in a U.S. appeals court, that court ruled in their favor because of a procedural issue. The ruling said that the district court made its decision before the groups had actually asked any U.S. court to enforce the French judgment.

Yahoo, which resubmitted the appeal to the 9th Circuit appeals court, will have its case heard again with the full panel of 11 judges.

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