Quoted: on ‘first sale’ copyright case before Supreme Court

“When an American purchases an authentic item, he shouldn’t have to ask permission from the manufacturer to do with it what he wants.”

Hillary Brill, legislative counsel for eBay, on the “first sale” case the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear starting today. First sale, a part of the Coypright Act, gives owners of a legally purchased copyrighted item the right to lend, sell or give it away without the copyright owner’s permission. The case, which involves publisher Wiley & Sons and Supap Kirtsaeng, a California man who built a business importing and selling cheaper textbooks from Thailand, could have broad implications on our ownership of goods. It could affect eBay, craigslist and other places where goods are resold, libraries and more. The publisher’s backers include other publishers, software companies, and the movie and music industries. Along with eBay, those on the side of the first sale doctrine include advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Demand Progress. “This vastly under-reported case has tremendous implications for millions of Americans and could undermine our ability to use sites like eBay and Craigslist — or even hold old-fashioned garage sales,” David Segal, Demand Progress executive director, told Wired. The EFF says “attempts to lock down works after you purchase them extend back at least 100 years,” and urges people to “let Congress know now that we want to see first sale alive and well and protecting our rights in the things we buy.”


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  • I’m OK with lending or whatever on things that aren’t easily copied for little or no cost. In other words, OK with physical books, not with digital files unless coded for lending purposes. Allowing borrowing of unsecured files makes no sense.

  • jobardu

    Eliminating “first sale” is illogical. Can a shoe manufacturer
    require you to get their permission before you wear shoes
    that you bought? Can a newspaper require you to get permission
    to read, store and dispose of newspapers? This is rentier
    behavior taken to the extreme and is a lawyers fantasy trip
    and not one that will help our economy or society.