L'Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World)
Artist: Gustave Courbet
Date of Action: 2011
Confronting Bodies: Facebook
Description of Artwork: Gustave Courbet's l'Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World), which is on display at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, depicts a woman's torso, vagina, and legs emerging from bedding which largely covers the figure's breasts. The figure's sprawling position is angled directly at the viewer.
The Incident: In 2011, a French schoolteacher named Frédéric Durand-Baïssas was suspended from Facebook after he posted a photo of l'Origine du Monde to the social media site. His account banned, Frédéric Durand-Baïssas filed a complaint against the social network in a French court, arguing that his rights to free speech were compromised since the company did not properly distinguish pornography from art.
Facebook argued French courts had no jurisdiction since the site's terms specify that legal complaints against the company can only be heard in California. Paris' high court disagreed, calling that clause in the terms and conditions "abusive" in a ruling that set an important precedent for the international regulation of social media companies based in the United States.
Results of Incident: In 2019, eight years after Durand initially filed, Facebook reached a settlement agreement upon which Facebook agreed to donate an undisclosed amount to French street art association Le MUR, according to the Durand's lawyer. In the early 2010s, when he first filed his lawsuit, Durand had initially fought for €20,000 in damages in a Paris civil court. The Paris high court's 2018 ruling declared Facebook was wrong to shut down Durand’s account, but that he wasn’t entitled to damages since he was able to set up a new profile on the site.