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For those who have not heard of the case of Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, the legal dispute boils down to whether Americans truly own what they buy.

Specifically, Sudap Kirtsaeng legally bought Wiley & Sons textbooks being manufactured & sold in Thailand for less than the US branch of Wiley & Sons was selling them, then re-sold them in the US for a profit — a type of business based upon the "first-sale" doctrine — but Wiley sought to sue Kirtsaeng for copyright infringement, claiming in essence that first-sale only applies to books first sold in the United States.

First sale doctrine, as described in section 109 of the Copyright Act, states that the copyright holder's right over the distribution of a work extends only to the initial sale to a customer. Public libraries, used bookstores, even yard sales make use of this basic right — & all were potentially in peril from a bad ruling in this case. (Imagine having to buy permission from Honda to sell your used car...)

Today, in a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court found for Kirtsaeng. Justice Breyer, writing for the majority, agreed that the first-sale principle applies to anything sold here regardless of where it is made — & Congress couldn't possibly have intended otherwise when writing the law (nor would they have intended to drive publishing jobs overseas).

EFF gives a general summary here, & Techdirt provides a nice, detailed article here.

Looks like we won a round.

(Supreme Court vote breakdown below the Kos Wingding...)

Interestingly, this case showed a split between the "liberals" on the court; Breyer wrote the majority opinion, while Ginsberg wrote the dissent.

Thus, based on the Techdirt article above, it looks something like this:

MAJORITY (finding for Kirtsaeng)


Originally posted to Brown Thrasher on Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 07:09 PM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

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