April 14, 2006 | By Derek Slater

EFF Defends American's Free Speech Against Foreign Court

Your online speech may be perfectly legal under our laws, but when can a US court be made to enforce a foreign law against you? Can the First Amendment be undermined by court decisions from nations that are less protective of free speech? That's the issue addressed in an amicus brief filed by EFF on Monday, arguing that the First Amendment blocks two French fashion design companies from enforcing a French court judgment in the U.S.

In this case, Sarl Louis Feraud International v. Viewfinder Inc., the French companies had won a default judgment in France against Viewfinder Inc., an American company that maintains websites of photographs from fashion shows. The French designers claim that Viewfinder's posted photographs infringed rights in their dresses. The French companies then tried to enforce the judgment in New York federal court, which rightly found that the French court judgment was "repugnant" to U.S. law and public policy because it would stifle Viewfinder's speech.

Just because your online speech may be read in another country doesn't mean that country's law should bind you. Joined by ACLU and CDT, EFF supported the district court's decision and this week filed its brief opposing the French companies' appeal to the Second Circuit. Former EFF staff attorney Wendy Seltzer, now teaching at Brooklyn Law School, was counsel to EFF, ACLU and CDT on the brief.

The brief is available here.

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