French court issues blocking order to 10 ISPs
A Paris court (Tribunal de grande instance) has ordered 10 French ISPs to block access to a website in the US with revisionist/anti-semitic content. They have until 23 June 2005 to make it impossible for their customers to visit the website. The case was instigated by eight anti-racist French organisations, after the US provider (ThePlanet.com) ignored an earlier French court order (from 20 April 2005) to take down the website. The US provider was supposed to accept French jurisdiction over his activities and pay a fine of 5.000 euro per day for not removing the site as well as a fine of 2.000 euro per day for not handing over identifying data about their customer to the French court.
Originally, the anti-racist organisations demanded filtering by the French ISPs of three websites, but were told by the judge to first complain directly at the producers of the content and hosting providers in the US. They convinced two hosting providers to voluntarily remove 2 websites, but couldn’t convince the third one. On 30 May 2005 the court evaluated the effects of the take down order to this third US hosting provider. Obviously the judge came to the conclusion that ISP filtering was the only solution left.
The verdict explicitly refers to the French implementation of the e-commerce directive. Under the LCEN (loi pour la confiance dans l’économie numérique) hosting providers can be held liable for content. Access providers, while they cannot be held liable for content they give access to, should comply with a legal order to “take all necessary measures to block the access from the French territory to the content of the on-line communication service hosted at (the foreign) address”, as ruled by the judge in this case. This legal order may be issued either in an emergency procedure (référé) or following a reasonably motivated request (ordonnance sur requête), though not involving a contradictory procedure. Despite strong concerns and actions from French civil liberties groups, as well as the Parliamentary opposition, the LCEN was found constitutional (see EDRI-gram Number 2.11).
La justice ordonne aux FAI de couper l’accès à un site Internet (13.06.2005)
Affaire AAARGH: les hébergeurs américains sommés de bloquer le site (22.04.2005)
EDRI-gram: French E-commerce law tested in constitutional court (02.06.2004)
EDRI-member IRIS file on the LCEN