A French Facebook user who took the social media giant to court after his account was closed down for posting an image of Courbet’s controversial painting ‘L’Origine du Monde,’ 1866, has won the case on appeal in France’s high courts. The decision was upheld and now Facebook faces court costs worth millions. The French teacher argued that Facebook should not have suspended his account because of an erotic image on his page. Facebook appealed against the ruling but the appeal court has now upheld the criticism of Facebook’s user terms. Facebook can now be sued under French – not Californian law. About 22 million French people are on Facebook.
The teacher, Frederic Durand-Baissas, argued that he had a right to post a link on Facebook to an image of the famous Gustave Courbet painting. The original 19th-Century work hangs in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The teacher had accused Facebook of censorship and said the social network should reinstate his account and pay him €20,000 (£15,521; $22,567) in damages. He sued the company in 2011.
This highly charged test case will potentially pave the way for other lawsuits against Facebook outside US jurisdiction. By ticking the box, Facebook users have to agree to the tech giant’s stringent terms of service, which state that its jurisdiction is California. The Paris high court decided that the company’s argument was “abusive” and violated French consumer law, by making it difficult for people in France to sue. Facebook replied by stating community standards say “we restrict the display of nudity because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content – particularly because of their cultural background or age”.
The teacher’s solicitor Stephane Cottineau has hailed the court ruling as a “victory won by David against Goliath.”