Shipping American Products to Europe

My friend Harek and I were recently discussing the obvious and not-so-obvious reasons why both Amazon’s Kindle and Amazon’s considerable repertoire of e-books are not available for sale outside of the U. S.. I noted that there are many legal hoops one must go through before selling a product in the countries of the European Union, and that these hoops were likely sufficient to explain Amazon’s choice of first entry markets.

While reading “Blown to Bits,” this suspicion of mine was reinforced by the following passage:

National and state borders still count, and count a lot. If a book is bought online in England, the publisher and author are subject to British libel laws rather than those of the homeland of the author or publisher. Under British law, defendants have to prove their innocence; in the U.S., plaintiffs have to prove the guilt of the defendants.1

This tidbit relating to the differences between American and British libel law is exemplary of a general pattern: American products are often not available in Europe because American businesses fear the unfamiliar and sometimes incomprehensible laws of European governments. If Europeans want freer access to American goods, they will need to make sure that they will not punish Americans for selling goods that they can sell without fear in the States. In the opposite direction, but following precisely the same pattern, American children will have access to Kinder Eggs and other wonderful European products just as soon as America repeals some of its excessive child safety laws.

  1. Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen and Harry Lewis : Blown to Bits : Preface

2 responses to “Shipping American Products to Europe”

  1. Harry Lewis

    Clifford May has a good column on libel tourism here, explaining that there is some pending federal legislation to fight back. It’s far from clear that it can pass and there may well be some side-effects that haven’t been thought through, but I’m glad someone in Washington recognizes the importance of the problem.