May 20, 1999 8:25 PM PDT

Amazon to restore Scientology title

Responding to customer criticism, Amazon.com today said it will restore a book critical of Scientology to its list of available titles.

Amazon spokesman Bill Curry said Amazon removed Jon Atack's A Piece of Blue Sky from its virtual bookshelves in February after being advised that sales of the book were subject to a cease-and-desist order in the United Kingdom. Curry said the order stemmed from a ruling barring distribution of the book in that country because of defamatory language.

Amazon has since reevaluated that policy and will again list the book within the next several days, Curry said. However, he said the company will block sales of A Piece of Blue Sky to customers in the United Kingdom.

The work turns a critical eye on the history of the Church of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Scientology critics on the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup were among the first to notice that Amazon was no longer carrying the book.

Like many Internet and technology companies, Amazon faces a problem in trying to comply with different laws around the world, according to Rich Gray, an attorney with San Jose firm Bergeson, Eliopoulos, Grady & Gray. Amazon might have been "reacting to an administrative headache," figuring that removing the listing for A Piece of Blue Sky would be easier than trying to track where book orders were being shipped, he said.

Curry said that Amazon has the capability of restricting shipment of individual items to specific areas. However, he said that the company in February determined that it would be best to completely remove the book from the site.

"It seemed like the right decision at the time," Curry said.

"Our policy is to offer every book from every publisher and comply with the law," Curry said. "We found a way in this instance to continue to do that."

Gray said that defamation issues, like those with A Piece of Blue Sky, happen infrequently.

"Are there going to be issues? Yes," Gray said. "Are they more difficult that issues faced by computer sellers or encryption providers? I think they're far more modest."

Curry said he didn't know who advised Amazon that it was violating the court order by offering A Piece of Blue Sky.

Representatives of the Church of Scientology were unavailable for comment.

 

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