WASHINGTON — The Associated Press is reporting that the Supreme Court has sided with a Thai graduate student in the U.S. who sold cheap foreign versions of textbooks on eBay without the publisher’s permission.
The case of John Wiley & Sons vs. Kirtsaeng involved the application of the First Sale Doctrine to goods made outside the US. The First Sale Doctrine is a defense to copyright infringement wherein the Copyright Act allows a valid purchaser of copyrighted work to freely resell the work once it has been purchased. The US Circuit Courts of Appeal are split on whether the First Sale Doctrine applies to goods made outside the US. Oral argument in the case is scheduled for Monday October 29, 2012. This case is about copyright law and revolves around three issues; copyright, importation, and property rights.
The justices, in a 6-3 vote Tuesday, threw out a copyright infringement award to publisher John Wiley & Sons. Thai graduate student Supap Kirtsaeng used eBay to resell copies of the publisher’s copyrighted books that his relatives first bought abroad at cut-rate prices.
The Associated Press reports that Justice Stephen Breyer said in his opinion for the court that the publisher lost any ability to control what happens to its books after their first sale abroad.
The case has sweeping implications for owners of IT equipment, leasing companies and many other players in technology markets where the ability to sell off equipments coming out of use or off lease is a vital component of commerce. Read more about the case here