I Bought It, It’s MINE

Or it used to be

Your right to resell your own stuff is in peril
It could become illegal to resell your iPhone 4, car or family antiques

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — Tucked into the U.S. Supreme Court’s 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 Inc. /quotes/zigman/68270/quotes/nls/aapl AAPL -2.13% has the copyright on the iPhone and Mark Owen has it 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.

…The case stems from Supap Kirtsaeng’s college experience. A native of Thailand, Kirtsaeng came to America 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 United States.

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

Wiley, which admitted that it charged less for books sold abroad than it did in the United States, sued him for copyright infringement. Kirtsaeng countered with the first-sale doctrine.

He sounds like an all American entrepreneur to me and too bad for the book publisher!

WHAT is this world coming to?

9 Responses to “I Bought It, It’s MINE”

  1. JeffS says:

    Shakespeare was right about lawyers. We have too many damn laws.

  2. Gary from Jersey says:

    Swell. Now who’s gonna buy my vintage Soviet propaganda posters?

  3. Dr Alice says:

    Goodbye to used book stores, EBay, etc. This is nuts.

  4. JeffS says:

    Dr. Alice, the on-line stuff will suffer, but I expect that there will be a thriving black market for second hand sales. This sort of law is simply unenforceable, and would make any goobermint agency look insane for trying to do so. Obama tried this with yard sales a couple years ago, and that was shut down (AFAIK) because of the gales of derisive laughter from all quarters.

    While I don’t care to count on SCOTUS, it’s in their interests not to look like the partisan hacks they mostly are, and shut this down. I expect that the weasel wording in the final opinion write up, however this goes, will be epic.

  5. Crusader says:

    What about Goodwill and the Salvation Army? That is all they sell. We indeed have been educated into imbecility.

  6. mojo says:


    Doesn’t matter WHERE I bought it, either. Copyright extends only until the first sale. Then it’s somebody else’s property.

    He’s not printing new copies, he’s selling HIS property.

  7. JeffS says:

    Wiley is pissed only because someone beat them at their own game.

  8. tree hugging sister says:

    Exactly ~ while simultaneously exposing that they charge significantly less elsewhere. Someone might even consider that price GOUGING American students and figure they had it coming to them.

  9. Kathy Kinsley says:

    THS – you GO girl. Spot on, as the Brits say.

    And if SCOTUS rules otherwise, we need to do somthing about SCOTUS. (And I wouldn’t say Shakespeare was wrong about lawyers in general – I might exempt Insty and a few others…).

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