The nation's highest court voted 6-3 in the case of Supap Kirtsaeng, a former University of Southern California student from Thailand who found he could make a buck or two buying textbooks at lower prices in his home country and selling them in the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported.
John Wiley & Sons had sued the entrepreneur, charging he had violated its copyright protection, and a jury in New York awarded the publisher $600,000 in damages.
The Supreme Court reversed that judgment, deciding the copyright-holders' rights expire when their product is lawfully sold overseas. Under the "first sale" doctrine, a copyright holder has a right to profit from the first sale of a book, but not its resale, the Times said.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote since the textbooks at issue were lawfully made overseas with the copyright-holder's permission, they were not pirated copies. So, he said, the "first sale" doctrine applies and the buyer was free to resell them.