A US court has ruled Yahoo! did not have to comply with French laws governing the sale of Nazi memorabilia through its internet site.
The judgement is good news for ecommerce companies based in the US, which are concerned about the practical implications of complying with every local law in countries where their site can be accessed.
US District Judge Jeremy Fogel said in the ruling that many internet users in the US often make postings or create content that would violate laws in other countries, such as China.
A French court ruled last November that Yahoo! had three months to install technology to prevent French citizens accessing auctions selling material likely to incite racial hatred, in compliance with French law.
Yahoo! originally said its French auction site complied with those laws, but it could not effectively block French citizens from accessing the material on US sites.
Yahoo! eventually backed down and removed Nazi memorabilia from all its auction sites, but stood firm against the legal precedent of a French court enforcing French law on a company based in the US.
This led to the application last December for the US courts to rule on the issue of whether one country's law can be applied to the activities of an ecommerce company based in another.
"It means that the ability of people in the United States to make information available on the internet is ultimately going to be governed by the First Amendment, regardless of where it's accessed, not the lowest common denominator of accepted content in all countries," said Greg Wrenn, deputy general counsel for Yahoo!.
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