Indiana News

Supreme Court Could Make Reselling Difficult

10/13/2012

A Supreme Court case may put your ability to re-sell your own stuff may be in jeopardy.

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IU Associate Law Professor Lea Shaver says the First Sale Doctrine says anyone that owns a physical copy of a copyrightable work has the right to re-sell the item. The First Sale Doctrine has stood since 1908, but the court's recent ruling has sent the doctrine to the Supreme Court.

The case stems from Supap Kirtsaeng's days at Cornell in 1997 when he found textbooks were much less expensive to buy in Thailand, so he had his family by the textbooks and sold them for a profit in the U.S. Professor Shaver says Kirstaeng's efforts made him 1.2-million dollars. The company that made the textbooks stated they charged less for books overseas, and sued Kirstaeng, he countered with the First Sale Doctrine.

The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals uphelda lower court’s ruling that items manufactured overseas are not subject to the first-sale doctrine.  The court ruled that only American-made products were subject to the doctrine.

Shaver says if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, you'll have to get permission from the manufacturer if you want to re-sell a copyrightable item. The case is before the Supreme Court on October 29th.

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