Tucked into the U.S. Supreme Court’s busy agenda this fall is a little-known case that could upend your ability to resell everything from your grandmother’s antique furniture to your iPhone 4. At issue in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons is the first-sale doctrine in copyright law, which allows you to buy and then sell things like electronics, books, artwork and furniture as well as CDs and DVDs, without getting permission from the copyright holder of those products. Under the doctrine, which the Supreme Court has recognized since 1908, you can resell your stuff without worry because the copyright holder only had control over the first sale. Put simply, though Apple has the copyright on the iPhone and Mark Owen does on the book “No Easy Day,” you can still sell your copies to whomever you please whenever you want without retribution.

That’s being challenged now for products that are made abroad and if the Supreme Court upholds an appellate court ruling it would mean that the copyright holders of anything you own that has been made in China, Japan or Europe, for example, would have to give you permission to sell it.
Another likely result is that it would hit you financially because the copyright holder would now want a piece of that sale.

  1. jim g says:

    Good luck with enforcing that

  2. Dallas says:

    Corporations still don’t control the Supreme Court. Let’s keep it that way and vote for the negro guy and not the guy with the slick hair.

  3. noname says:

    Business first people last! Isn’t that the Republican trend of things.

    Courts are allowing Monsanto and Cargill patented crops to blow seeds onto adjacent properties, then suing inspecting farmer who’s field gets cross pollinated.

    And there a zillions of other examples of the New American golden rule (who every has the gold gets to rule).

    • dusanmal says:

      Attempt to blame Republicans for obvious Progressive controlling attempt. Learn the difference. Yes, there are Left and Right Progressives, currently in power Left Progressive administration. Yes, Right Progressive Bush would do the same. No, newly empowered Tea Party Republicans wouldn’t stand for this and they are taking the power.
      The only way to prevent any controlling legislation/court decision/… is to vote for the only people on ballot who profess right of individual as more important than any collective right. Collective right = BS like this. Any collective right. Health care, unions, …. same BS.
      Also, not Big Corporate power. This requires Government meddling. Big Government, controlling every aspect of industry and individual lives, also known as public-private partnership or historically as fascist economy. Exactly what current administration is hard at work creating.

      • bobbo, one true Liberal recognizing Obama is too far Right mostly because I view the world from the viewpoint of being a pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

        DoucheAnal–what pin are you trying to dance on?

        You are trying to differentiat “right Progressives” from the Republican Party from the Teabags?

        The problem/challenge with your dance is that all three of those characterizations are the Republican Party. One element you left out that you might want to focus your limited resources on is another faction of the Republican Party: the LIEberTARDS. I think they are much closer to what you are making up here than the phrase used by no one but you: “right Progressives.”

        Language is a wonderful thing. When you resort to making up your own secret language, you have taken more than a few turns on the road to crazy.

        Know what I mean?

        • Ken says:

          It sounds like you have already arrived at that destination. Perhaps you’d care to provide the GPS coordinates?

          • bobbo, one true Liberal recognizing Obama is too far Right mostly because I view the world from the viewpoint of being a pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

            Hey Ken–“..♫good early morining to you….”

            I say DoucheAnal is crazy because he makes up his own words not used by anyone else to make his arguments.

            What evidence do you have that I am crazy? How many turns do you think I have taken?

          • Pumpin' Ethyl says:

            Actually Slobomal speaks pretty good English for a non-native.

        • Van Go says:

          Why do you think EVERY issue divides itself neatly between REPs, DEMs, LIB’s, etc.?

          The world is full of colors, including red and blue. Learn to mix your paints (hint: the result will be brown).

          • Van Go says:

            (The above comment is for bobbo.)

          • bobbo, are we Men of Science, or Devo says:

            Yes, thats where you nested it quite correctly. Thematically, you could be responding to either DoucheAnal or myself with the inference being who you agree with or not.

            That said, it appears that you wish to argue that the term “right Progressives” is one of common usage. Care to provide an example of that outside of DoucheAnals leakage?

            What do YOU make of people who make up their own terms to advance an argument?

            since you won’t respond, I’ll forgo the pedanticism of supporting the personality types found within the party currently mislabeled as Republican. But that will be a treat for you should you.

      • msbpodcast says:

        Dear asshole, you might make a valid point but I immediately stop reading at your misuse of the word progressive.

        I’ve written to you about this before.

        You are your own worst enemy.


        – someone who knows the English language.

      • tcc3 says:

        Yet another lame “progressive is what ever I don’t like” post.

        Misusing the word doesn’t redefine it, it just makes you look ignorant.

  4. bobbo, one true Liberal recognizing Obama is too far Right mostly because I view the world from the viewpoint of being a pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    From the link:

    “The case stems from Supap Kirtsaeng’s college experience. A native of Thailand, Kirtsaeng came to the U.S. in 1997 to study at Cornell University. When he discovered that his textbooks, produced by Wiley, were substantially cheaper to buy in Thailand than they were in Ithaca, N.Y., he rallied his Thai relatives to buy the books and ship them to him in the U.S.

    He then sold them on eBay, making upwards of $1.2 million, according to court documents.” /// Ha, ha. Does this case even raise the issue of “fairness” however loosely it may be undefined? The notion being that companies are not supposed to “dump” goods into foreign markets that being “unfair” to foreign local markets.

    SO—-…… this does all come down to various issues of fairness, commerce, foreigners, trade, enforcement and so forth. “Try to enforce it?”–easy with the onslaught of inbedded chips, wireless, and computers. Drop dead simple to do when there is profit to be made.

    Pros and Cons to everything, everything connected. Who’s ox gets gored for what purpose?

    I don’t suppose there is much chance for the entire concept of IP to be overturned. You know—free market capitalism?

    • deowll says:

      I guess they need something else for DHS to do.

      • deowll says:

        The chips in electronics would be safe but the chips in a most other items might not like a trip through a microwave or you could most likely just detect and trash them.

        • bobbo, one true Liberal recognizing Obama is too far Right mostly because I view the world from the viewpoint of being a pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

          Well, thats all true deowll–under current technology and motivations. What if both change?

          Ooooh… I think I just felt some dopamine.

    • ECA says:

      enforcing a throw away world??

      The main problem is all the MIDDLE men in the USA..HOW MUCH is TO MUCH..
      MAny people could live/SHOULD live very comfortably.. IF it was a balanced system.

      TO FEW have control of TO MUCH..
      do you think a Startup company has a chance?? or will they be bought up..
      we are At least 15 years behind in tech..IF’ they ever give it to us..

      Make things that DIE..not break..fail..DIE

      Think of it this way. the COST and PAYOUT to make a bike in the USA costs To much..Why? we think our metals are GOLD, and we THINk we should make MONEY(tons of money) on every sale…

      China makes 1billion Bikes and makes $0.10 each..
      we make 1 bike and want to make 3-5 times the cost.
      We import something and want 3-10 times the cost..

  5. MikeN says:

    Good luck reselling the books on your Ipad.

  6. sargasso_c says:

    Personally, I blame Microsoft.

    • bobbo, one true Liberal recognizing Obama is too far Right mostly because I view the world from the viewpoint of being a pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      Well, the issue here is importation of books made in the USA, sold in Thailand, and then imported and sold in the USA.

      I think Gutenberg is clearly on the hook for this, then Germany. I smell Deutschmarks!

  7. ECA says:

    know why??

    Its a case of OWNERSHIP..
    IF’ its made someplace else..
    IS it OWNED by the CORP in the USA??

    If’ so, then I have the RIGHT of buying and reselling..
    IF’ the company declares they are PART of that OTHER country…I suggest they MOVE THERE..and quit over pricing goods..

    I think there is SOMETHING about TAXING companies that SELL in the USA without a USA headquarters.. As toyota and others have Headquartered in the USA to get past the TAX LAWS, over pricing, and MANY middle men in the USA.

  8. Glenn E. says:

    This could kill the Antiques Road Show’s business. At least for anything that’s a contemporary collectible. Like Disney toys, or Lionel trains. And what’s Christies going to do, every time they want to auction off something. Ask permission of its maker?

    The major airports have a huge collection of lost baggage and its contents. Which they also auction off. So this would require them to ask about selling everything on their shelves. So they’d either do that, or just destroy it. Which seems a waste in today’s economy.

    There’s going to need to be so many exemptions and wavers, that it would make the ruling a nightmare. Obviously geared for the benefit and convenience of the rich and corporate. So this sounds like just one more nail in the coffin of the middle class. Because they’re the only ones having garage and yard sales, on Saturdays. Are the cops going to be showing up at these, asking to see the permission forms? This will turn into a real big mess, really quickly. Not only will it virtually kill eBay. But also Greg’s List, Goodwill, Salvation Army. And many more.

    I’d just love to see the Supreme Court pass this one, and then reverse themselves almost overnight. Proving just how out of touch they are with the real world!!

  9. msbpodcast says:

    They just have to apply a fee or duty for foreign goods imported into the country for resale.

    There is already an existing mechanism for this.

    This is a non issue.

  10. orchidcup says:

    Even if the Supreme Court overturns the first-sale doctrine in copyright law, the fact remains it is the copyright holder that enforces copyrights via the civil courts.

    As the very first commenter noted, good luck with enforcing that!

    This would be as silly as making a law that forbids the cultivation of a plant such as marijuana and then trying to enforce the law.

    A very expensive proposition.

    No copyright holder would have the resources to monitor every estate sale, flea market, garage sale, and auction to detect copyright infringement and then pay attorneys to file a case in court.

    The idea is more ludicrous than prohibition of marijuana.

    That is why it will probably happen.

  11. Ah_Yea says:

    The best way to bring jobs back to the USA.

    Why would you buy a Toyota if you could not resell it? Why would a Toyota dealer buy a Toyota if they couldn’t sell them?

    This would create a marketplace where long term durable goods such as cars and dishwashers, pots and pans, will be made in the USA and all other lesser durable goods such as plastic containers would be made elsewhere.

    Is that so bad?

  12. anonymous coward says:

    From the link:

    “He then sold them on eBay, making upwards of $1.2 million, according to court documents.”

    From http://ebaymainstreet.com/news-events/citizens-for-ownership-rights-collecting-petition-signatures :

    “Yet, the publisher is trying to use U.S. copyright law to stop the book sales and make the seller pay $600,000 in damages – more than 15 times what he made from selling the books.”

    so eBay claims the Thai guy made a mere $40k. Publisher claims he made $1.2 million… Trumping charges eh?

  13. MikeN says:

    Both Michelle and Barack Obama would be taken to court by private citizens under the Deceptive Practices Act currently being proposed by Democrats.

    Michelle for saying that people should get their neighbor to vote on Nov 2, and Barack for claiming the AARP endorsement.

  14. MikeN says:

    How do people resell their Hope and Change posters?

    • Ah_Yea says:

      “How do people resell their Hope and Change posters?”

      1. Felt tip marker, change Obama to
      “ROMNEY 1012!”

      2. Give it away for FREE!

      It’s like recycling, very green. Get a tax credit for starting a green company.

      • Ah_Yea says:

        Oops, that 2012,

        I Can’t “Perform Flawlessly, Night After Night”!

        • MikeN says:

          He lost the debate only because he didn’t respond to Romney’s lies. So according to liberals, Obama has trouble telling the truth!
          Check out the looking spoon.

  15. spsffan says:

    Well, lots of problems here, but #1 is that the textbooks sold for either $40,000 or $1,200,000, depending on who you ask.

    But even at $40,000 (for used books!), it is obvious that the textbook publishers are causing their own problem.

    I hope the Supremes through it out on “patently silly” grounds.

  16. dcphill says:

    Practically everything I buy is made overseas. It’s now MINE to do with as I please. Give it away, Burn it or sell it. Nobody has any right to my bought and paidfor property. It appears that I couldn’t sell my used underwear made in China because of some assinine law.

    • MikeN says:

      No, you are the property of the government. They can and will tell you what you can and cannot do.

  17. Miss Peach says:

    too, throw, Craig. Find the posters who slept through 7th grade.

  18. Kent says:

    Wake me when the revolution starts.


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