Appeal court judge Jean-Jacques Gomez made the ruling in Paris on August 11, as he asked the experts to conduct a feasibility study into blocking the sales, organised by the California-based Internet giant, in France.
The decision followed Yahoo’s appeal against a May 22 ruling by the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance, ordering Yahoo.com to take the “necessary measures to render impossible” access in France to such Web auctions.
Gomez ordered the three-man expert commission to comprise François Wallon, a computer specialist at the Paris appeal court, and two other experts – one American, one European – to be agreed on by Yahoo and the two French-based associations who originally brought the case, the International League Against Racism & Anti-Semitism (LICRA) and the Jewish Students’ Union of France (UEJF).
The commission will report to Gomez at the next hearing of the case on November 6.
Although Judge Gomez talked acidly about Yahoo’s “mock naivety” in asserting that their cyber auctions were purely American affairs, Yahoo are happy with his ruling. Yahoo’s French chief Philippe Guillanton said that “the judge is asking the various parties to get together around the same table, as we wished” and called for “a pedagogical approach”, rather than censorship, to “fight against racism” (Nazi memorabilia is not shown on Yahoo’s French site).
LICRA said they were “globally satisfied” with the ruling, adding “there is now a proper debate about the freedom of expression on-line, which should no longer be exploited to undermine human dignity”. But UEJF president Ygal El Harrar regretted that “until the experts publish their conclusions, objects of barbarism will still be on sale”.