Americans could lose the right to resell their own possessions

By on October 11, 2012, 9:30 AM

This fall, the Supreme Court will hear a case that could drastically affect your ability to resell everyday items like artwork, books, CDs / DVDs, electronics and even furniture. If a certain book publisher has their way, American consumers would be required to obtain permission to resell anything they own that was made overseas.

It all started when Supap Kirtsaenge, a native of Thailand, moved to the US to attend Cornell University. During his time there, he discovered that the same textbooks he was buying in America sold for significantly less in his home country.

The enterprising young man had friends and family buy books for him in Thailand and ship them abroad. From there, Kirtsaenge started an eBay business that brought in nearly $1.2 million, according to court documents.

Wiley, the book publisher in question, admits they sell textbooks for less outside of the US. Even so, they decided to sue Kirtsaenge for copyright infringement. The Thailand native countered with the first-sale doctrine in copyright law. The doctrine, recognized by the Supreme Court since 1908, states that the copyright holder only has controller over the first sale.

A change in the law could have a profound effect on the entire country. Sites like eBay and especially Craigslist would no doubt suffer. Trading in an old vehicle towards something new would be a nightmare. Manufacturers might even see overseas production as an incentive to cash in on resale later on in a product’s life. The list goes on and on but we’ll stop there for the sake of brevity.

Oral arguments in the case are expected to begin on October 29. A trip to Congress would be up next if the court upholds the appellate court ruling.




User Comments: 59

Got something to say? Post a comment
Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

China owns everything now...Happy?

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

Never knew it was a right. Thought people sold stuff on ebay and other places because they could get a little money out of it

ReederOnTheRun ReederOnTheRun said:

That's a pretty sick idea. So simple, yet so effective.

Guest said:

Tell me that this has nothing to related with music, videogames, movies and digital distribution??....another stupidity to tight bussiness profit on the US.

Blue Falcon said:

NTAPRO, are you serious? If reselling items was not a right, it would not be allowed. It's common sense, unless you thought everyone was reselling items illegally all this time.

2 people like this | Adhmuz Adhmuz, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This is the biggest problem with the US, it use to be a free market that you can buy and sell what you want to whom you want. However now, its run by corporations, then when things don't go their way they sue, and in this case will likely win. When in fact it's nothing more than competition, something that seems to be unexpected by Wiley because they hold a monopoly in the area. And they want to law changed in their favor, what a surprise... Honestly what Supap is doing is genius, and I know people who do the same thing with sites like deal extreme and Alibaba, can get anything for less than half what you pay around here, so very decent profit margins.

3 people like this | Divvet said:

This is the most retarded law I have ever seen. Thank god I live in the UK.

Tygerstrike said:

It doesnt matter where you live Divvet. Copyright Law is global. If they change the definitions and perameters fo that Law, it will affect everyone equaly. In the US, it may cause problems. But world wide, it may be disasterous. I can see the piles and piles of court filings. Corp Layers will be swarming swap meets and yard sales looking for items they can litigate on. Next thing you know they will be chasing ambulances......sarcasm off.

I simply use that anology there to point out that it may be more media hype. What the above gentleman in the article is doing, is no different then any other business out there. BUY LOW,SELL HI. I dont believe that the yard sale, garage sale, swap meet, corner swap meet, or any other PRIVATE monetary dealings will truly be impacted at all. It just wouldnt be profitable for any company to go after a private individual who resells his old GameBoy. However it is a warning for those ppl who make a business online following a similar business model as the above mentioned gentleman.

KakersUK KakersUK said:

I have to agree with Tygerstrike, this does affect the UK too. It would only be a matter of time, as much as it pains me to say everyone follows suit to the USA's grand scheme and you can see corporate influence getting stronger not just here but in Europe as well, all fuelled by the great patent war.

Guest said:

I could see this maybe applying to large amounts of a certain item but good luck taking away yard sales. I can tell you I'll sell the stuff I've already paid for regardless.

shamus087 said:

Heh, if this passes, might as well move to China and deal with their ways. At least they're not shy about it.

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

"It just wouldnt be profitable for any company to go after a private individual who resells his old GameBoy"

Its not "profitable" for the RIAA and MPAA to go after illegal downloaders either..but yet they still do. In fact, MORE people sell items LEGALLY than there are illegal downloaders. Stupidity has never stood in the way of people trying to caplitalize and take advantage of others.

1 person liked this | Divvet said:

It doesnt matter where you live Divvet. Copyright Law is global. If they change the definitions and perameters fo that Law, it will affect everyone equaly. In the US, it may cause problems. But world wide, it may be disasterous. I can see the piles and piles of court filings. Corp Layers will be swarming swap meets and yard sales looking for items they can litigate on. Next thing you know they will be chasing ambulances......sarcasm off.

I simply use that anology there to point out that it may be more media hype. What the above gentleman in the article is doing, is no different then any other business out there. BUY LOW,SELL HI. I dont believe that the yard sale, garage sale, swap meet, corner swap meet, or any other PRIVATE monetary dealings will truly be impacted at all. It just wouldnt be profitable for any company to go after a private individual who resells his old GameBoy. However it is a warning for those ppl who make a business online following a similar business model as the above mentioned gentleman.

You have a very fair point, but I have to correct you, Copyright law is not global, hence all the different Apple vs Samsung law suits in different countries.

Divvet said:

But I can't see this law being passed, it would destroy so many second hand industries.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I can see people getting shot over trying to enforce this law. I find it funny at how they think such a law would even be considered. Everything in the super market shelves is made from overseas. There are hundreds/thousands of people in every town/city that resale their property when they no longer have a use for it.

If a certain book publisher has their way, American consumers would be required to obtain permission to resell anything they own that was made overseas.
This wouldn't even be a problem if they wasn't extorting specific countries for more money. If the books are sold for less elsewhere, obviously they can be sold for less everywhere. They had better start treating every country as equals before this law goes into effect.

Wiley, the book publisher in question, admits they sell textbooks for less outside of the US. Even so, they decided to sue Kirtsaenge for copyright infringement.
copyright infringement? A product is bought, transported, and then sold again. This is done with every product on the market. If he is guilty of anything it would be guilt of being a business man. Now if they were charging him with failure to pay import/export taxes, that is a different story.

On second thought, this would open new job opportunities. Can you imagine the number of people it would take to answer a phone call from people needing to resale a product and need permission first. I don't think this company is thinking clearly about what it is they are asking for. I personally do not think the company is willing to pay extra employees, for the sole purpose of giving resale permissions over a phone call. Besides how would they even police such a law, honestly this is a pathetic example of how companies think.

wiyosaya said:

Since this was already decided in 1908 by the Supreme Court and being a US citizen, I will hope that stare decisis is the rule in the Supreme Court. If not, perhaps all Supreme Court decisions are up for grabs by the first plaintiff with the deepest wallet.

4 people like this | Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

But I can't see this law being passed, it would destroy so many second hand industries.

Exactly. Say goodbye to EBAY and Craigslist. I can see the auto industry being flushed down the drain. Want to by a new car? Hope you didn't intend to trade in your old car as part of the payment. Want to use your old car as parts..sorry can't do that either. Many families depend on thrift stores to made ends meet. Say goodbye to them as well. Want to donate to Goodwill and get a tax deduction?..sorry that's gone now too.

All of this because one greedy bastard got owned by some smart kid.

2 people like this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

All of this because one greedy bastard got owned by some smart kid.
LOL, OMG ROTFLMAO

Whew, let me catch my breath.

Guest said:

Copyright law is not global. If it were then you would not have torrentsites and vpn servers and other such things hiding their information in other countries where the Yanks can not simply go enforce their laws.

Sure they do enforce their rules, illegaly, coz thats America for you. But at the same time Divvet is wrong as the UK loves nothing more than following anything American. We used to have discos at schools, now we too have proms. We are trying to allow the right to kill intruders on our property, as long as we can prove we had the right to use such force.

You see its all about greed. Everything is outsourced to a cheaper country for better profits, human rights laws force wages to rise and rise to help the people, and then inflation comes along to make up for the new costs of running a company, which in turn lead to a fat tw@t at the top to think, I need to be making 50% more money than everyone, at least, I too shall take a pay rise, skim off the top. And should that Fat cat not be able to do so legally, or his company needs to make more money and need a lil help to bend rules, our politicians all over the world are more than happy to take that fat back hander, to see that certain things go their way.

As long as they have enough money to have money sit in the bank, property, vehicles, 2nd homes, holiday homes, then nothing else matters, they dont have a conscience and they dont give a crap about anyone else, no one these days do.

1 person liked this | Zilpha Zilpha said:

Copyright law is not global. If it were then you would not have torrentsites and vpn servers and other such things hiding their information in other countries where the Yanks can not simply go enforce their laws.

Sure they do enforce their rules, illegaly, coz thats America for you. But at the same time Divvet is wrong as the UK loves nothing more than following anything American. We used to have discos at schools, now we too have proms. We are trying to allow the right to kill intruders on our property, as long as we can prove we had the right to use such force.

You see its all about greed. Everything is outsourced to a cheaper country for better profits, human rights laws force wages to rise and rise to help the people, and then inflation comes along to make up for the new costs of running a company, which in turn lead to a fat tw@t at the top to think, I need to be making 50% more money than everyone, at least, I too shall take a pay rise, skim off the top. And should that Fat cat not be able to do so legally, or his company needs to make more money and need a lil help to bend rules, our politicians all over the world are more than happy to take that fat back hander, to see that certain things go their way.

As long as they have enough money to have money sit in the bank, property, vehicles, 2nd homes, holiday homes, then nothing else matters, they dont have a conscience and they dont give a crap about anyone else, no one these days do.

Yea, but "we, the people" sure as hell aren't doing anything about it. Back in the day, when a tyrant went too far, the people would overthrow him by force. Now? We live in a soft society of crybabies who would rather post on internet forums than actually do anything about it.

tonylukac said:

In China they allow selling of copied cds and dvds. This is democracy.

Win7Dev said:

You have a very fair point, but I have to correct you, Copyright law is not global, hence all the different Apple vs Samsung law suits in different countries.

Those a patent disputes, not copyright disputes. Two completely different things.

2 people like this | Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I, for one, can't wait to hear the oral arguments. It will be more than enlightening to listen to how Wiley justifies what is essentially price gouging of students in the US, all while every politician is chanting a mantra about making affordable secondary education a priority for America. Seems like quite a little dichotomy there...

The fact that it has gotten so far, and is wasting so much of everyone's time (up to the Supreme Court!), over a situation that their own arbitrary regional price fixing has created, just hammers home how fundamentally flawed our legal system can be at times.

1 person liked this | Wagan8r Wagan8r said:

The suit will not be upheld. There's no way that the Supreme Court, regardless of their political leanings, will side with Wiley. I'm predicting a 9-0 ruling on this.

tonylukac said:

It will make manufacturers not want to make ANYTHING in the us. No jobs whatsoever.

1 person liked this | Tygerstrike said:

Seems like sour grapes from Wiley more then anything else. Its supposed to be "a fair product at a fair price". But if he/they are selling the books cheaper somewhere else, they have no right to sue for someone taking advantage of the global market. The internet has changed how things are done. Perhaps this will help to steer the Laws of the Land to a more internet friendly basis. This case will more then likely be tossed so far out the door it wont even be funny. I can also see Wiley getting sued for price fixing on text books because of this.

This should be an interesting few months for this issue. I really cant wait to see this case implode on Wiley. They are going to have the same "Luck" that a cartoon character of a similar name always gets lol.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I don't see how Wiley can even claim copyright infringement unless Kirtsaenge sold them as Kirtsaenge Textbooks or another moniker that wasn't Wiley's. Simply reselling the books at a higher price than what he imported them for doesn't fall under copyright law (by my limited understanding of it), even if the company he imported them from wasn't the original country of publication/manufacture. I see a smart guy, trying to make an honest buck like any other good entrepreneur.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

I am sorry but nothing like this could ever be successfully implemented. It violates the most basic of human freedom and rights, nothing any government can give or take away if they choose to abuse thier power.

The people decide what is right and wrong, even though most of society and currency is designed and controlled, even then you can only take it so far.

There will be a backlash and all types controlling parties will be held accountable.

This has to be mostly associated with devices/electronics and other patented items.

If they are talking about people's clothes and furniture, then its absolutely ridiculous.

Maybe I am missing something here.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

If this passes it is truly insane how bad things are getting...soon we won't have a right to leave our houses.

Guest said:

New Zealand did something similar a while back. During the Rugby World Cup retailers in NZ were selling All Blacks jerseys for something like $250. People found they could order the exact same jersey from a retailer in the US, including shipping for like $100. The Government found out and blocked all imports from that Reseller. To react local sellers dropped there prices by like $20!

I brought an SSD from the US the other month. Cost me $200 but customs charged me 50% import tax! Even so it was still cheaper than the exact same item in NZ.

I say, if you can buy something cheaper abroad you should be able to. Free trade and all.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If "Supap Kirtsaenge" needs any supporters, I'm there. This suit against him is pathetic.

1 person liked this | Paulfree17 Paulfree17 said:

"Wiley, the book publisher in question, admits they sell textbooks for less outside of the US. Even so, they decided to sue Kirtsaenge for copyright infringement"

First of all, if they sell the item for the same price here that they sell overseas it would not be an issue.

That said, I am not sure how the copyright laws would apply to physical items like cars and furniture which is not covered by copyright. Copyright laws pertain to intellectual property. When you purchase a book or music you are paying far more for the content then your are for the physical material and labor used to produce each copy.

When you purchase a piece of furniture or a car the value is largely the material and labor that went into the manufacture. In effect title to the item in question passes to the purchaser. With things like software, or books it is more of a right to use, that transfers with sale to the purchaser. Making copies is violating the terms of the right to use. However, you can legally sell the software to someone but only if you are giving up your right to use it. It is only when you make a copy to sell (music, book, software) while maintaining personal use that you are in violation of the copyright laws.

Guest said:

This is not about creating a new law, this is a court case about the interpertation of an existing law. I don't believe the plaintifs will win the case but we will see.

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

Won't happen. Period.

*moving on..."

treetops treetops said:

Lol rich people are pissed because the common man can exploit the global economy through ebay so funny. No we don't have sweat shops but I can buy a extra battery for my high end RC car for half the price from some back water asian country. The only downside is you have to wait about a month for shipping.

Then there is this young lad who made a living off of it, NICE. Along side with wow gold farmers and all the super cheap 1 month shipping electronics all over ebay.

ramonsterns said:

I need to get around copywriting the english language.

Money, Money, Money...

UnknownSky said:

Sooooo still going to sell what I have bought to whomever I want and going to buy whatever I please from whomever I please. Please...dear God please try and stop me

Guest said:

@Zilpha -"Yea, but "we, the people" sure as hell aren't doing anything about it. Back in the day, when a tyrant went too far, the people would overthrow him by force. Now? We live in a soft society of crybabies who would rather post on internet forums than actually do anything about it."

As Fish once sung in "Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors":

And you sit there and talk revolution

But can you tell me just who's in command?

When you tell me the forces we're fighting

Then I'll join you and gladly make plans

But for now only our t-shirts cry freedom

And our voices are gagged by our greed

Our minds are harnessed by knowledge

By the hill and the will to succeed

p51d007 said:

The only "good" would be to reduce the number of weekly yard sales that bottle up traffic on roads I use to detour around the city I live in LOL.

Guest said:

Crap, that means I can't sell under ware that I grow out of....sheesh!!

Goodbye E-Commerce....

waterytowers said:

End price discrimination and this case goes away Greedy companies like to make every penny so this will of course never happen.

The only way to get fair pricing for all is by using legislation, a lot of markets do not have competition to help reduce prices. Set a price and everyone in all countries have to pay the same amount, before taxes and charges set by the relevant country of course. This keeps consumers happy and means the company does not have to maintain pricing structures for every country, as it is a single price for all. In a global economy, the price should be global.

America is built on the idea of capitalism and capitalists love their right to price discriminate, their policy is whatever the local market will accept. Capitalists will pay handsomely to maintain their rights and their profits. Government policy setters are happy to take that money.

Since this is an American company suing a non-american in America, I see Wiley winning by a landslide....

Guest said:

I just read the Writ of Certiorari in the case ( [link] ). The case is not that earth-shattering. It simply calls for clarification of a conflict in the wording of the copyright laws. Kirtsaeng was selling new textbooks purchased in Thailand on eBay. This circumvented the textbook copyright owners the right of first sale in the U.S. Mr. Kirtsaeng is correct that there is a conflict in the wording of different parts of the law. But he has generally been getting his butt kicked from the first jury trial on up. Don't worry, this will not affect your garage sale.

Guest said:

I don't think that this specific case is that clear. Textbooks, which admittedly sometimes are quite expensive when you buy them in a 1st world-country, are indeed often sold for much less in development countries.

But I think the publishers do some mixed calculation here; selling the book for the lower price in the entire world wouldn't be cost-covering, especially for elaborately made books , e. g. with many figures. However, to print some more and sell it for a lesser price in 3rd world countries makes those books affordable for students there and probably reduces printing costs per book, and therefore perhaps also makes books cheaper that are sold in the USA or Europe.

At least with books frome the UK there are sometimes even special versions, eg with paperback instead of hard cover, that are subsidised by the british government as a development aid (maybe there is some equivalent subsidy from the USA too, I don't know),. On most books on sale in 3rd world bookstores I saw, it is explicitly stated on the frontispiece or inside, that those books are "only to be sold outside the USA," or "not to be sold in UK".

Hence, I think the situation is different here from selling a used car on ebay, and I cannot fully approve this business model, especially in case it involved reselling of subsidised books.

I must admit that I myself took advantage of those cheap offers when, as a medical student, I was abroad several times for practical training and internships in Egypt, Sudan and Kenya, where you could get e.g. "Cecil's Textbook of Medicine" for merely 20% of the US price.. However, I only bought those books for personal use, not for resale.

Guest said:

Actually, the law prohibits reselling an item outside the country of origin. If the suit is upheld, maybe people will start buying stuff made in the country in which they live.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Actually, the law prohibits reselling an item outside the country of origin.
I want to see proof. Where are you coming from with this claim?

Guest said:

It's all right. Manufactures will actually rent their products to the customers (ie $ 1000 laptop) getting hard cash and when the product is obsolete the manufacturer will get it back, so HE will sell it again as used! After all, what is a 60% profit for the first sale and another 40% for the second etr. And, in any case, courts and congress will always be "available" to assist poor companies in getting more and more and more and more and more profit. Mind you, the air we breath will be ruled "copyrighted" and we all have to pay for it!

Guest said:

Companies wouldn't have to worry about this if they would just sell stuff at the same cost as overseas instead of gauging us here in the US.

Guest said:

Umm, so the Wittner German hand-made Black Forest wood metronome I bought in 1985 from a pawn shop I can't resell? wanna bet? You can't prevent swapping though!!! Straight-across barter with no money changing hands!!

Guest said:

I don't see this as copyright infringement unless someone were copying the book and shipping it here.

buckfush buckfush said:

In the UK you pay a VAT of 17%? Thank God I don't live in the UK.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.