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Posted by: Maricopa Lawyers on Mar 28, 2013

The ruling came via a 6-3 opinion in which the court dismissed a copyright infringement award to publisher John Wiley & Sons who sued Thai graduate student Supap Kirtsaeng who started an Ebay business selling copies of the publisher’s works that his family purchased for him at a discounted price overseas.

Justice Stephen Breyer, in his opinion, stated that once books are legally sold, in the U.S. or abroad, publishers and manufacturers lose the protection of U.S. copyright law. This is a great relief for online retailers and used goods companies like Ebay who would have to completely restructure their business operations to accommodate the decision had it gone in favor of the publisher.

Online retailers told the court that over $2.3 trillion worth of foreign goods were imported in 2011 alone. Additionally, many of these goods were bought after they were initially sold abroad. Dissenters of the decision like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said that the decision flew in the face of Congress’ aim to protect, “copyright owners against the unauthorized importation of low-priced, foreign-made copies of their copyrighted works.”

Kirstaeng profited $100,000 on the books published abroad by Wiley and others. Kirstaeng sold international editions which are essentially the same versions but with a much lower price tag than their American counterparts. Because the text books were not pirated copies the “first sale” doctrine applies to the this particular case and Kirstaeng was not out of his legal bounds.