Do Consumers Have a Right to Re-Sell Copies of Movies, Songs and Books?

From The Hollywood Reporter:

What does it mean to “own” something in an age where goods and information travel beyond borders, often in 1’s and 0’s?

In the next few weeks and months, two important cases will address the “First-Sale Doctrine,” the part of copyright law allowing those who have purchased copies of movies, songs and other creative works to re-sell these goods without the authority of the original copyright owner. On October 29, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a dispute over whether copyrighted books manufactured outside of the United States can be imported domestically and then re-sold. And in a separate case, a federal district court judge will soon hand down a decision in Capitol Records v. ReDigi, a fight over an upstart digital service that allows its users to buy and sell “used” digital music.

Both battles have the potential of impacting what people think they know about the meaning of ownership.

At the Supreme Court, a spotlight will soon shine upon Supap Kirtsaeng, an immigrant from Thailand who came to the United States to study mathematics and attempted to save money by asking his friends and family back home to purchase textbooks and ship them to the United States.

After reading up on the first-sale doctrine, codified in USC §109(a), Kirtsaeng began to sell these textbooks to others on eBay. After making $37,000, he was sued by John Wiley, a textbook publisher. A jury found his copyright infringement to be willful. He was ordered to pay $75,000 per work for a total penalty of $600,000. He appealed, and lost at the 2nd Circuit, and is now about to press his arguments to the high court.

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