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French Court: Facebook Can Be Sued in Nude Painting Case

Facebook lost a crucial legal battle Friday as a Paris court ruled the social network can be sued in France over its decision to remove the account of a French user who posted a photo of a famous 19th-century nude painting.

The ruling by the Paris appeals court could set a legal precedent in France, where Facebook has more than 30 million regular users. It can be appealed to France's highest court.

It means a French court will now be entitled to hear the case of Frederic Durand-Baissas, a 57-year-old Parisian teacher and art lover whose Facebook account was suspended five years ago without prior notice. That was the day he posted a photo of Gustave Courbet's 1866 "The Origin of the World," which depicts female genitalia.

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He wants his account reactivated and is asking for 20,000 euros ($22,550) in damages.

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Facebook, which has not given an explanation for the suspended account, could not immediately be reached for comment after the ruling.

Its current "Community Standards" page says: "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."

It also says, "We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures."

However, Durand-Baissas' lawyer said that Facebook has changed its language on this subject in recent years.

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Its lawyers had argued that such lawsuits could only be heard by a specific court in California where it has its headquarters, and that French consumer rights law can't apply to its users in France because its worldwide service is free.

A Paris appeals court dismissed those arguments and upheld a lower court's decision that ruled French courts can hear cases involving users in France.