Supreme Court shakes up copyright law

March 19, 2013 at 6:51 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court Tuesday ruled foreign buyers of books, movies and other products can resell them in the United States over the copyright owners' objections.

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.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy dissented, the newspaper said.

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