Supreme Court: severe criticism of sales of Nazi symbols allowed
Supreme Court has dismissed a complaint in cassation brought by Allegro Group’s lawyers. The Court ruled that by adding Nazi SS bolts to the logotype of Allegro, an auction website, the Green Light Foundation and J.M. had expressed lawful criticism of the portal.
The case concerns the social campaign “No more Nazism on Allegro”, which used a drawing with the caption “No to Nazi gadgets. Stop Allegro”. The drawing showed the logo of the allegro.pl with the incorporated emblem of the SS. In January 2014, the Court of Appeal in Warsaw dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Allegro Group against the Green Light Foundation and J.M. (click here to find out more about the judgment).
Both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal held that the reputation of the Allegro Group had been undermined as the defendants had publicly disclosed that the site operated auctions of Nazi memorabilia, and especially that it made profit on such sales. The reputation of Allegro was also tarnished by modification of the site’s logotype. The Court ruled that such conduct depicts a negative image of the Allegro group and brings adverse publicity for the portal, which might diminish public trust in the portal’s owner.
However, the Supreme Court also ruled that the defendants had clearly pursued a socially justified interest. This means that their actions – a sarcastic expression of socially acceptable values – did go beyond the boundaries of acceptable criticism. The Supreme Court also noted the historical context of the case and pointed to the revival of neonazi ideology.
“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s judgment. This is a landmark ruling setting the limits of freedom of speech and legally permissible criticism in the public sphere”, says Irmina Pacho, a lawyer working for the HFHR.
“We should not forget that the social campaign was held in protest to online auctions of Nazi memorabilia. Another reason for launching the campaign was the absence of the portal’s response to previous interventions of the defendants. Allegro’s failure to respond to the repeated requests for the removal of Nazi symbols provided a reasonable basis for harsher and explicit criticism”, adds Ms Pacho.
The Green Light Foundation is represented pro bono by Mr Andrzej Tomaszek of Drzewiecki, Tomaszek & Wspólnicy. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has been observing the court proceedings in the case. The Human Rights Defender has joined the case.