The Supreme Court has issued a ruling in a crucial case that resolves whether people can resell or donate copyrighted property they own like books, CDs, DvDs and other physical goods. In a 6-3 decision, the Justices reversed a Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and supported a position by the tech industry, libraries, nonprofits and retailers that the first sale doctrine does apply to copyrighted works made abroad.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association had filed an amicus brief in the case arguing that the appeals court ruling should be reversed. The brief stated: “Regardless of the place of manufacturing, once a copyright owner has sold his property, he has exhausted his exclusive statutory right to control its distribution. The Second Circuit’s holding is to the contrary, does not comply with the Copyright Act and will precipitate a host of adverse policy results.”

The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“The court’s ruling upholds a key balance in U.S. law known as the first sale doctrine, which covers copyrighted material like books, movies, music and other physical media. This means once you buy it, you own it.

“This is an important victory for consumers and the nonprofits and companies involved in the resale market. The Court has agreed that once the object is lawfully sold – or even given away – the new owners are entitled do whatever they want with the property they now own — including reselling, lending or gifting that item.

The following can be attributed to CCIA Vice President Matt Schruers:

“This Supreme Court decision upholds a key component of copyright law – the first sale doctrine — which is an exception that balances the rights of copyright owners and consumers.

“This was a case in which personal property rights had come into conflict with intellectual property rights. Until now lower courts had been applying the ‘first sale’ rule only to copyrighted goods manufactured inside the United States.  The consequence of this interpretation was that the domestic resale, lending, or even gifting or donating of any copyrighted good made abroad would put owners in danger of legal consequences.  This posed a substantial threat to a substantial amount of lawful e-commerce.”

For more detailed analysis, please see Matt Schruers’ DisCo blog post here or: http://www.project-disco.org/intellectual-property/031913supreme-court-decides-kirtsaeng-v-wiley-you-bought-it-you-own-it/#more-3449

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