Friday, October 26, 2012

You've Been Owned

(UPDATE: The banner's gone now, but I hope you will still visit and take action.)

What's that banner at top right, you ask?

I'm glad you asked.

There's a case, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, coming before the Supreme Court. It will be heard on Monday, October 29. The court will either agree with lower courts or disagree. If they agree, it will put an enormous crimp in the Doctrine of First Sale, the notion that once you've bought something, you can sell it, lend it, or give it to someone else if you wish.

Wiley & Sons is a book publisher. They publish cheap editions of their books for sale outside the US. Mr. Kirtsaeng noticed this, and set up a business in which he had relatives buy the cheap editions outside the US and send them to him in the US, where he could sell them for less than the expensive books Wiley publishes to sell in the US cost and turn a profit.

Wiley wants, and so far the lower courts have agreed, that Mr. Kirtsaeng shouldn't be able to do that, i.e. that the Doctrine of First Sale should not apply to copyrighted items made abroad.

That's quite a lot of stuff these days. Thinking about holding a garage sale and selling your used computer hardware, or your old iPod? (Or are you thinking of giving it to Goodwill to sell?) If Wiley & Sons get their way, you (or Goodwill) won't necessarily be able to. Remember Garth Brooks getting his knickers in a knot over people selling his CDs used? If the Supreme Court decides for Wiley & Sons, all musicians will have to do is get their work copyrighted and CDs pressed outside the US, and Garth can get his wish.

Please head over to and learn more about the case and its possible consequences.

No comments: