Enforcement of Foreign Judgments, The First Amendment, and Internet Speech: Notes for the Next Yahoo! v. LICRA

Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing, Internet and Media and Content

Article Snapshot


Molly S. Van Houweling


Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 24, pg. 697, 2003


The author argues that the enforcement of foreign speech laws could have detrimental chilling effects in the U.S.

Policy Relevance

Yahoo! v. LICRA oversimplified the analysis of enforcing foreign speech judgments and in the process missed other more convincing reasons for judicial refusal to enforce foreign judgments restricting speech.

Main Points

  • Yahoo! v. La Ligue Le Racisme et L’Antisemitisme (LICRA) demonstrates the issues that come up when plaintiffs try to enforce foreign judgments based on foreign laws restricting speech.
  • Generally, a civil money judgment can be enforced if the defendant has assets in the country of enforcement. However, this rule is limited because it only applies to civil money judgments and the courts have discretion not to enforce if the judgment is against public policy.
  • Since there is no domestic state actor element of animosity in foreign judgments, courts could view foreign enforcement judgments like the enforcement of contracts that only incidentally burden speech.
  • There is little support for judicial enforcement limiting speech that is directed abroad. Such speech is not necessarily within the scope of the First Amendment.
  • The Yahoo! case failed to explain why speech restrictive foreign judgments should be enforced in the United States when there are no state actors and the speech is directed abroad.
  • There are other reasons, not relied on in Yahoo!, for not enforcing foreign judgments to restrict speech. The reasons are the potential inadequacy and expense of geographic filtering.
  • Geographic filtering might chill U.S. Internet speakers to communicate only with U.S. audiences, which would lower communication with foreign audiences and thus diminish the value of open dialogue.
  • This realization of the potential chill to U.S. Internet speakers can improve analysis in future cases and may be the best policy argument put forth for preserving the benefits of the Internet as an inexpensive forum for speech.


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