Great news for libraries: SCOTUS rules in favor of Kirtsaeng in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley & Sons, Inc.
6-3 in favor of first sale.
- Opinion (pdf full text)
Kirtsaeng v. Wiley: WTF?
I think I will be watching this one.
“How do Section 602(a)(1) of the Copyright Act, which prohibits the importation of a work without the authority of the copyright’s owner, and Section 109(a) of the Copyright Act, which allows the owner of a copy “lawfully made under this title” to sell or otherwise dispose of the copy without the copyright owner’s permission, apply to a copy that was made and legally acquired abroad and then imported into the United States?”
This is what’s called the first-sale doctrine: once you buy a physical thing you own it and cannot reproduce it, but can resell it. The argument is that things bought overseas and then imported do not fall under first-sale doctrine, and that a copyright owner must permit sale of that object. (What happened is a publisher wants to make sure they can keep charging high prices in the US as opposed to overseas.)
Why this matters:
-A lot of things people buy at anime conventions are made overseas, and sold in Japan, then imported by vendors. You would probably like those vendors to be legally able to sell things (and usually Japanese companies don’t really care about overseas sales, so they wouldn’t be selling to the US themselves).
-Museums publicly display art made overseas and originally bought a long time ago overseas. Do you have to license the work that you already own from the artist’s estate before you can show it in an American museum? Apparently this also edges in on the legality of libraries and used product stores of any kind. (What if your library wants to lend (exhibit) a Tolkien book published in Europe? Or if you want to sell your used English Harry Potter editions?)
-As a crafter, I buy components from manufacturers who are in Asia (nobody really cares about magatama this side of the world, so there’s no other source), and would like to legally own the things I bought, so that I may run my crafting business. As a vendor, if I purchase jewelry online from a maker who is probably foreign, I would have to have their permission to sell it in my business, or I would be in violation of their copyright (despite individual product being un-copyable.) Which is all very weird.
“But Juno”, you may ask, “What’s wrong with keeping paperwork?”
…Among the questions under consideration are the concept that most everything you use is produced overseas, and a lot of products aren’t imported by the maker, but bought from foreign producers and then shipped here—or include things bought overseas. Car components bought and then incorporated into a car, phone parts, whatever.
I guess that companies envy the DVD region way of selling things—sure it was legal to buy a DVD overseas, but that DVD wouldn’t work in a regioned player. Allowed different price thresholds and multiple license sales in different countries, and probably made people a lot more money. Sony’s working on much the same for the PS4 from the sound of it—digital stuff requires file transferring, which tends to fall under ‘copying’ (even if you can’t use it without authorization anyway). But physical objects, when sold, are much harder to put such caveats and conditions on.
Where the line falls on whether or not you own what you have bought, that makes a big difference (a toy bought in China? A used toy bought in a used stuff store with parts contracted in China? A new toy bought at Wal-mart with the same?). It’s unlikely this will result in a decision against first-sale doctrine, but at the same time…