Last week, the Library Journal issued a challenge. Can you explain the concept of first sale using only the thousand most commonly used words (known as Up-Goer Five speak among fans of the comic xkcd). Our friends at the Association of Research Libraries got in on the fun and we decided to try it out for ourselves with the help of The Up-Goer Five Text Editor.
Here is how we would normally describe the first sale doctrine:

The ‘first sale doctrine’ establishes that once a copyrighted work is
lawfully sold or otherwise willingly placed into the stream of commerce,
the copyright owner exhausts its control of the distribution of the work
and the owner of the copy can then sell or dispose of it as he or she sees fit.

Now, here is our Up-Goer Five Speak translation:

This idea means if you buy something, you can give it away as you please — no matter where it was made. Now, people are trying to say that you are not allowed to give away things that you bought, if those things were made in another place. This will change what it really means to “own” things. In the past, you simply owned what you bought and could do what you wanted with it. Now you will have to ask the one who made the thing if you can give it away. And the one who made the thing can say, “No, you can not give it away.” This is not right. So, we will fight this because it does not make any sense.

Can you help us explain first sale using only the “ten-hundred” most common words? It is more difficult than you think!

And if you are looking for a great primer on the issue, please check out this helpful one pager developed by the Library Copyright Alliance about first sale and its importance for libraries.

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