Free-speech scored a victory today with a U.S. judge declaring French laws to be unenforceable on U.S. soil.

The problems began in the summer of 2000 when the French government attempted penalize Yahoo to the tune of US$13,000 per day for allowing Nazi paraphernalia to be sold on their auction sites. Yahoo protested that French citizens had their own sections on the service and should not be penalized for what is sold in other sections.

The French disagreed but, as everyone now knows, the French don’t count.

Internet companies feared that the case would be a harbinger of the little known “Hague Convention” digital treaty being worked out in the UN. This treaty would favor oppressive regimes—like France—that want to muzzle US activities on the grounds that their Internet content violates local laws.

This is a particularly sensitive issue to small web operators because they aren’t CNN or the New York Times. Should France have been allowed to collect penalties from Yahoo, that would open the door to foreign aggressors to wage an international assault on US citizens and their political rights.

Agreeing to such nonsense as allowing France to collect penalties on US-based companies would lead to nonsense like the French penalizing Cyberista for saying that the French haven’t had an original idea since Cyrano and all their alleged “culture” is regurgitated garbage produced by the United States.

Maybe that scenario is unlikely but it is a plausible scenario. Political commentary gets published. Chinese demand gold bullion or the editor’s wheelchair, whichever is cheaper.

Putting the hypothetical aside, political freedoms exist in the US that don’t exist anywhere else. To allow any nation to impose their civil law on another is a complete abdication of freedom. There are a million ways that a country can block US content before taking punitive extrajudicial action.

Freedom comes at a price. That price is vigilance.

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