Supreme Court to Consider Outlawing Resale of Foreign-Made Products

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reselling everything from books to iPhones made overseas could become illegal depending on a ruling soon from the U.S. Supreme Court.


Back in the 1990s, Supap Kirtsaeng of Thailand came to the U.S. to study for college. The high cost of textbooks prompted him to get relatives back home to ship him copies made outside the U.S.


Kirtsaeng later resold the books, which gave him the idea to start a business reselling other foreign-made textbooks in the U.S. through eBay. The venture earned Kirtsaeng more than a million dollars.


But then a publisher, John Wiley & Sons Inc., got wind of what he was doing and sued. Kirtsaeng argued that his sales were protected under a federal law that allows consumers to resell copyrighted material. A district judge disagreed, citing a provision in U.S. law that requires the permission of the copyright holder before a consumer can resell copies—whether it’s books, electronics or other items—made in another country.


Kirtsaeng was ordered to pay Wiley & Sons $75,000 per infringed work. The defendant appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decision. So Kirtsaeng petitioned the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to begin hearing the case on October 29.


David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, writes that “This vastly under-reported case has tremendous implications for millions of Americans and could undermine our ability to use sites like eBay and Craigslist—or even hold old-fashioned garage sales. Monday presents a key opportunity to make sure more people know about the case, and put pressure on Congress before Big Business and their brigade of lobbyists convince lawmakers to side against the interests of average Americans.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

A Supreme Court Case Over Textbooks Could Make Copyright Law Even More Restrictive (by John Villasenor, Slate)

Your Right to Resell Your Own Stuff Is in Peril (by Jennifer Waters, MarketWatch)

Supreme Court Weighing ‘First Sale’ Copyright Doctrine (by David Kravets, Wired)

Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (SCOTUS BloG)

Amicus Brief Submitted by Used Bookstores (pdf)


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