433 F.3d 1199 (9th Cir. 2006), 01-17424, Yahoo! Inc. v. La Ligue Contre Le Racisme Et L'Antisemitisme

Docket Nº:01-17424.
Citation:433 F.3d 1199
Party Name:YAHOO! INC., a Delaware corporation, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. LA LIGUE CONTRE LE RACISME ET L'ANTISEMITISME, a French association; L'Union Des Etudiants Juifs De France, a French association, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:January 12, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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433 F.3d 1199 (9th Cir. 2006)

YAHOO! INC., a Delaware corporation, Plaintiff-Appellee,


LA LIGUE CONTRE LE RACISME ET L'ANTISEMITISME, a French association; L'Union Des Etudiants Juifs De France, a French association, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 01-17424.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

January 12, 2006

Argued and Submitted March 24, 2005

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Randol Schoenberg, Burris & Schoenberg, Los Angeles, California; Robert A. Christopher, Coudert Brothers, Palo Alto, California; Mark D. Lebow, Sokolow Carreras, New York, New York, for the defendants-appellants.

Michael Traynor, Cooley, Godward, Castro, Huddelson & Tatum, San Francisco, California; Robert C. Vanderet, O'Melveney & Myers, Los Angeles, California, for the plaintiff-appellee.

Ann Brick, ACLU, San Francisco, California; John B. Morris, Jr., Alan B. Davidson, Center for Democracy & Technology, Washington , D.C., for amici American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, et al.

Jodie L. Kelley, Brian Hauck, Jenner & Block, Washington, D.C.; Stephen A. Bokat, Robin S. Conrad, Joshua A. Ulman, National Chamber Litigation Center, Washington,

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D.C., for amici Chamber of Commerce of the United States, et al., and for amicus Center for Democracy.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, CV-00-21275-JF, Jeremy Fogel, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Mary M. Schroeder, Chief Judge, and Warren J. Ferguson, Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Michael Daly Hawkins, A. Wallace Tashima, William A. Fletcher, Raymond C. Fisher, Ronald M. Gould, Richard A. Paez, Richard R. Clifton, and Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judges.


A majority of the en banc court (Judge W.A. Fletcher, joined by Chief Judge Schroeder and Judges Hawkins, Fisher, Gould, Paez, Clifton, and Bea) concludes that the district court had personal jurisdiction over the defendants. Of that majority, three judges (Chief Judge Schroeder, and Judges W.A. Fletcher and Gould) conclude that the action should be dismissed for lack of ripeness. Five judges (Judge Fisher, joined by Judges Hawkins, Paez, Clifton, and Bea) conclude that the case is ripe for adjudication. The three remaining judges (Judges Ferguson, O'Scannlain, and Tashima) conclude that the action should be dismissed because the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants.

A majority of the en banc court having voted therefor, the judgment of the district court is REVERSED and the case REMANDED with directions to dismiss the action without prejudice.

W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge, with whom SCHROEDER, Chief Circuit Judge, and GOULD, Circuit Judge, join as to the entire opinion, and with whom HAWKINS, FISHER, PAEZ, CLIFTON and BEA, Circuit Judges, join as to Parts I and II:


William A. Fletcher, Judge.

Yahoo!, an American Internet service provider, brought suit in federal district court in diversity against La Ligue Contre Le Racisme et L'Antisemitisme ("LICRA") and L'Union des Etudiants Juifs de France ("UEJF") seeking a declaratory judgment that two interim orders by a French court are unrecognizable and unenforceable. The district court held that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over LICRA and UEJF was proper, that the dispute was ripe, that abstention was unnecessary, and that the French orders are not enforceable in the United States because such enforcement would violate the First Amendment. The district court did not reach the question whether the orders are recognizable. LICRA and UEJF appeal only the personal jurisdiction, ripeness, and abstention holdings. A majority of the en banc panel holds, as explained in Part II of this opinion, that the district court properly exercised personal jurisdiction over LICRA and UEJF. A plurality of the panel concludes, as explained in Part III of this opinion, that the case is not ripe under the criteria of Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 149 (1967). We do not reach the abstention question.

I. Background

Yahoo! is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in California. Through its United States-based website yahoo.com, Yahoo! makes available a variety of Internet services, including a search engine, e-mail, web page hosting, instant messaging, auctions, and chat rooms. While some of these services rely on content created by Yahoo!, others are forums and platforms for user-generated content.

Yahoo! users can, for example, design their own web pages, share opinions on social and political message boards, play fantasy baseball games, and post items to be auctioned for sale. Yahoo! does not monitor such user-created content before

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it is posted on the web through Yahoo! sites.

Yahoo! 's United States website is written in English. It targets users in the United States and relies on servers located in California. Yahoo! 's foreign subsidiaries, such as Yahoo! France, Yahoo! U.K., and Yahoo! India, have comparable websites for their respective countries. The Internet addresses of these foreign-based websites contain their two-letter country designations, such as fr.yahoo.com, uk.yahoo.com, and in.yahoo.com. Yahoo! 's foreign subsidiaries' sites provide content in the local language, target local citizens, and adopt policies that comply with local law and customs. In actual practice, however, national boundaries are highly permeable. For example, any user in the United States can type www.fr.yahoo.com into his or her web browser and thereby reach Yahoo! France's website. Conversely, any user in France can type www.yahoo.com into his or her browser, or click the link to Yahoo.com on the Yahoo! France home page, and thereby reach yahoo.com.

Sometime in early April 2000, LICRA's chairman sent by mail and fax a cease and desist letter, dated April 5, 2000, to Yahoo!'s headquarters in Santa Clara, California. The letter, written in English, stated in part:

[W]e are particularly choked [sic] to see that your Company keeps on presenting every day hundreds of nazi symbols or objects for sale on the Web.

This practice is illegal according to French legislation and it is incumbent upon you to stop it, at least on the French Territory.

Unless you cease presenting nazi objects for sale within 8 days, we shall size [sic] the competent jurisdiction to force your company to abide by the law.

On April 10, five (rather than eight) days after the date on the letter, LICRA filed suit against Yahoo! and Yahoo! France in the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris. On April 20, UEJF joined LICRA's suit in the French court. LICRA and UEJF used United States Marshals to serve process on Yahoo! in California.

After a hearing on May 15, 2000, the French court issued an "interim" order on May 22 requiring Yahoo! to "take all necessary measures to dissuade and render impossible any access [from French territory] via Yahoo.com to the Nazi artifact auction service and to any other site or service that may be construed as constituting an apology for Nazism or a contesting of Nazi crimes" (emphasis added).1 Among other things, the French court required Yahoo! to take particular specified actions "[b]y way of interim precautionary measures." Yahoo! was required "to cease all hosting and availability in the territory of [France] from the 'Yahoo.com'site . . . of messages, images and text relating to Nazi objects, relics, insignia, emblems and flags, or which evoke Nazism," and of "Web pages displaying text, extracts, or quotes from 'Mein Kampf' and the '[Protocols of the Elders of Zion]' " at two specified Internet addresses. Yahoo! was further required to remove from "all browser directories accessible in the territory of the French Republic" the "index heading

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entitled 'negationists' " and any link "bringing together, equating, or presenting directly or indirectly as equivalent" sites about the Holocaust and sites by Holocaust deniers.

The May 22 interim order required Yahoo! France (as distinct from Yahoo!) to remove the "negationists" index heading and the link to negationist sites, described above, from fr.yahoo.com. The order further required Yahoo! France to post a warning on fr.yahoo.com stating to any user of that website that, in the event the user accessed prohibited material through a search on Yahoo.com, he or she must "desist from viewing the site concerned[,] subject to imposition of the penalties provided in French legislation or the bringing of legal action against him."

The order stated that both Yahoo! and Yahoo! France were subject to a penalty of 100,000 Euros per day of delay or per confirmed violation, and stated that the "possibility of liquidation of the penalties thus pronounced" was "reserve[d]." The order also awarded 1 Franc in "provisional damages," payable by Yahoo! and Yahoo! France to UEJF, and awarded an additional 1 Franc against Yahoo! and Yahoo! France for expenses under Article 700 of the New Code of Civil Procedure. The French court also awarded 10,000 Francs against Yahoo! for expenses under Article 700, payable to LICRA, and 10,000 Francs each against Yahoo! and Yahoo! France under Article 700 (a total of 20,000 Francs), payable to UEJF.

Yahoo! objected to the May 22 order. It contended, among other things, that "there was no technical solution which would enable it to comply fully with the terms of the court order." (Emphasis added.) In response, the French court obtained a written report from three experts. The report concluded that under current conditions approximately 70% of Yahoo! users operating from computer sites in France could be identified. The report specifically noted that Yahoo! already used such identification of French users to display advertising banners in French. The 70%...

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