via Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments today (October 28, 2012) in a case called Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, and their final decision could help shape the future of “first sale,” a legal doctrine that underpins the right to sell, lend, or give away the things you buy, even if those things contain copyrighted elements.
First sale provides the legal framework for marketplaces like used bookstores, flea markets, garage sales, and eBay. It’s crucial to making sure U.S. copyright holders can’t dictate, for decades, what you do with the books, CDs, DVDs, games, etc., that you buy. But book publisher Wiley says it doesn’t apply if the copyright holder is clever enough to ensure the product in question is manufactured outside of the United States.
The Kirtsaeng case specifically deals with textbooks, but the Court’s decision is likely to affect a range of markets and consumers. First, many of the goods that people purchase every day are manufactured overseas and have some components or logos on the packaging that are subject to copyright law. In fact, the Swiss watchmaker Omega successfully sued Costco for copyright infringement because the retailer was reselling genuine Omega watches, purchased abroad, that happened to have the Omega logo on them. Second, if the Supreme Court rules in Wiley’s favor, U.S. copyright holders will likely ensure that as many of their works as possible are manufactured outside the United States, so that they, too, can escape that pesky first sale doctrine.
This dispute, however, is still just a skirmish in a larger battle to protect your right to actually own the things you buy.
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First Sale, Why It Matters, Why We’re Fighting for It
By Fred von Lohmann via Electronic Frontier Foundation
The “first sale” doctrine expresses one of the most important limitations on the reach of copyright law. The idea, set out in Section 109 of the Copyright Act, is simple: once you’ve acquired a lawfully-made CD or book or DVD, you can lend, sell, or give it away without having to get permission from the copyright owner. In simpler terms, “you bought it, you own it” (and because first sale also applies to gifts, “they gave it to you, you own it” is also true).
Seems obvious, right? After all, without the “first sale” doctrine, libraries would be illegal, as would used bookstores, used record stores, and video rental shops (and their modern variants, like LaLa and other CD-swapping communities).
But the copyright industries have never liked first sale, since it creates competition for their titles (you could borrow it from a friend, pick it up at a library, or buy it from a used book seller on Amazon).
It also reduces their ability to impose restrictions on how you use the work after it is sold.
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