Upcoming Supreme Court case could affect Internet book sales

On the 29th, the Supreme Court will hear a case which could affect booksellers using Internet sites such as E-Bay and Amazon. In question is whether or not selling books printed in foreign countries can be sold through these outlets without the permission of the Copyright owner.

The Appeals Court for the 2nd Circuit in New York decided in John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Kirtsaeng, 654 F.3d 210, 99 U.S.P.Q.2d 1641, 2011 ILRC 2481 (2d Cir. 2011) that the first sale doctrine of the Copyright law does not include works made overseas. The first sale doctrine in effect since 1908 allows a person to purchase books for resale without limitations imposed by the Copyright owner.

The defendant in the 2nd Circuit court case, Supap Kirtsaeng moved to the U.S. from Thailand to attend college. The action alleges that Kirtsaeng then began to ship editions of textbooks printed by John Wiley & Sons in Asia and selling them on the Internet through E-Bay.

The Copyright holder, John Wiley and Sons, sued to stop the sales. The court decided that the first sale doctrine does not apply to works printed overseas.

Kirtsaeng is taking the case to the Supreme Court.

This could call into question whether or not you can sale books or other Copyrighted material that you purchased overseas while on vacation at a yard sale.