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.