The Supreme Court’s Kirtsaeng Ruling Is Good News for Consumers, but the First Sale Doctrine Is Still Doomed–Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley (Forbes Cross-Post)

26 11 2013

By Eric Goldman

Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, No. 11–697 (U.S. Supreme Court March 19, 2013).  Prior blog post of the Second Circuit ruling in the case.

In Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons ($JW-A), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that U.S. copyright law doesn’t restrict the importation of legitimate copyrighted works manufactured and sold overseas.  As a result, publishers cannot use U.S. copyright law to enforce their price discrimination schemes of pricing copyrighted works on a per-nation basis.

This ruling is a legal victory for U.S. consumers, who should see cheaper prices in the short run.  This ruling is also a win for museums, libraries and other institutional collectors of copyrighted works, who face less risk now when acquiring copyrighted works (especially those initially sold overseas).  Still, amidst the good news, it’s impossible to ignore the rapid and probably irreversible demise of copyright’s First Sale doctrine, meaning this legal victory is likely short-lived at best.


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