Nazi tchotchkes must die

Rather a long time ago, we bravely argued that nations did indeed have the right to regulate Web content according to their own laws, whether Yahoo liked it or not. The portal juggernaut had been hauled before French courts for permitting the sale of Nazi “memorabilia” on its auction site. In effect, we advanced a cake-and-eat-it-too argument, stating that if, say, Yahoo desired protection under the copyright laws of France, it must also submit to other French laws.

Now, such laws are probably always going to be asinine and will absolutely always be unenforceable, but to the extent that they can be enforced, they should, and if you’re stuck complying with the law, then that’s what you’re stuck doing.

Meanwhile, Carolyn Penfold writes a lengthy discussion of the Yahoo case and a conceptually related Australian law governing Internet content. Her article ends abruptly with no particular conclusion (no guts, no glory, Carolyn), but offers a few useful points.

National content laws, then, are almost entirely futile but are quite entirely within various nations’ rights. Such laws are symbols of national intent rather than promises of international enforcement. A small conundrum, hardly worth very much sturm und drang.

Posted on 2001-09-01