French Court Rules It Has Jurisdiction In Gustave Courbet Facebook Case

L'Origine du Monde

In January of this year a French Facebook user took the social media giant to court after his account was closed down after he posted an image of Courbet’s controversial painting ‘L’Origine du Monde’ 1866. According to Le Figaro, the world-famous oil-on-canvas was part of a promo for an art history video about the artwork, broadcast by the highbrow TV channel Arte. Now a Paris court ruled on Thursday that it has jurisdiction to judge a case against the US social networking site.

The case has been ongoing since 2011, with the plaintiff, a Parisian schoolteacher has been described by his solicitor Stéphane Cottineau as “a decent man, cultivated, and attached to the transmission of knowledge,” is seeking the reactivation of his Facebook account as well as €20,000, or £149,000 in damages.

Facebook had asked Paris’s civil court to declare that it lacks jurisdiction over the case. The American giant’s argument is that, by opening an account, every Facebook user agrees any dispute will be taken to court in California, home to the company’s headquarters. Facebook’s solicitor Caroline Lyannaz has argued that that French consumer laws don’t apply to Facebook as the service is free of charge and use of the social network is voluntary.

Facebook has a strict no-nudity policy, as with many social media sites. The painting was originally commissioned by an Ottoman diplomat, Khalil Bey, and once owned by psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, Courbet’s painting appears as controversial as it was a century and a half ago. In February of last year, a group of philatelists was denied the request to have it printed on postal stamps.

The teacher’s solicitor Stephane Cottineau has hailed the court ruling as a “first victory won by David against Goliath.”

Cottineau added: “This decision will create jurisprudence for other social media and other Internet giants who use their being headquartered abroad, mainly in the United States, to attempt to evade French law.” The lawyer said this was an “abusive clause” because none of the 22 million Facebook users in France “can ever take recourse to French legal jurisdiction in the event of a dispute.”

Facebook said it noted the judgement and was now considering its response. The court will hear the case on May 21.

See Artlyst’s Top Ten Erotic Works Of Art – to see where we place Gustave Courbet’s ‘The Origin of the World’ – here


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