Citing libel proceedings filed in the British courts by Northern Irish minister to Parliament David Trimble, Amazon.com's British subsidiary, Amazon.co.uk, has posted a notice online announcing that it will no longer sell copies of Sean McPhilemy's controversial book The Committee: Political Assassination in Northern Ireland. The book contains allegations that Trimble was associated with a conspiracy to murder Irish Republicans and Catholics in Northern Ireland.
The book has sold 40,000 copies in hardcover and more than 15,000 in trade paper in the U.S.. and remains on sale through Amazon.com. Trimble's action follows in the wake of a $100-million libel suit filed against the book's U.S. publisher, Roberts Rinehart, in 1998 by Albert and David Prentice, Northern Irish businessmen who are also named as part of the murder conspiracy (News, May 24). A statement issued by Amazon.co.uk noted that the online bookseller was withdrawing the book "with great reluctance." Amazon.co.uk said that although there are no court restrictions against the book, "under current UK defamation laws, we could be compelled to defend" any defamatory allegations the book makes.
In a report on BBC online news, Trimble's lawyer said that they would deal with Amazon.co.uk "like a bookshop on the corner, to take all the mystique out of the Internet." He also noted that Trimble is considering legal action in the U.S.
Russell Smith, attorney for Roberts Rinehart, told PW, "This is assaulting the whole idea of free distribution. He's saying that on the Web we have to default to the most restrictive laws around the world."