First Sale Doctrine Applies To Imported Books

traverselegal - July 24, 2013 - Copyright Law

In March of 2013 the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Kirtsaeng v John Wiley and Sons Inc case. The issue in the case was over the geographic scope of the first sale doctrine under copyright law. The first sale doctrine protects the re-sellers of a work after the initial purchase. In other words, it allows purchasers of works after the first sale, to then resell them without violation of the author’s or creator’s copyright.

The Supreme Court held in a 6-3 decision that the physical importing of books purchased cheaply abroad, can be brought into the United States and resold at significant profits. The issue of this case in the first sale doctrine involved a creative student who purchased textbooks in bulk from overseas and then imported and resold them on Ebay to college students.

The case is a victory for those anticipating the protection of the first sale doctrine vs import laws. The court in the case urged an amendment to the copyright law to prevent the situation under the first sale doctrine from recurring on a mass scale where works are available overseas much cheaper than they are in the United States, and the decision is seen as encouraging the importation of cheap works into the United States to the detriment of copyright holders who can exact a better price for the works in the United States.

Do you need assistance with an issue concerning the first sale doctrine? Contact the lawyers at Traverse Legal to discuss your first sale doctrine issues.

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