Statements on Kirtsaeng Victory
Owners’ Rights Initiative Applauds Supreme Court Decision in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley Case
March 19, Washington, D.C. – The Owners’ Rights Initiative (ORI) issued the following statement today after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 opinion in favor of Kirtsaeng, reversing the Second Circuit Court decision. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Breyer, clearly affirmed that the Copyright Act was not intended and cannot be misconstrued to limit the distribution of authentic goods. Andrew Shore, Executive Director of ORI said:
“ORI is gratified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Supap Kirtsaeng in this important copyright case. This decision is a landmark win for consumers, small businesses, online marketplaces, retailers and libraries nationwide and an affirmation of the ORI motto, ‘you bought it, you own it, and you can resell it.’ This decision definitively affirms the first sale doctrine, cementing the right of consumers and organizations to sell, lend and give away any physical goods such as books, DVD’s, clothing and IT equipment to name just a few items that they bought and own, regardless of where those goods were made.
“While we are energized by this decision, we expect that some will continue attempts to eliminate owners’ rights, reduce competition in the marketplace and restrict the global trade of authentic goods. ORI will continue to be vigilant and diligent in protecting owners’ rights now and in the future and we expect policymakers to do the same.”
Library Copyright Alliance Statement:
Library Copyright Alliance Statement on the Supreme Court’s Decision in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley—Total Victory for Libraries and Their Users.
Washington, DC—Today the US Supreme Court announced its much-anticipated decision in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, a lawsuit regarding the bedrock principle of the “first sale doctrine.” The 6-3 opinion is a total victory for libraries and our users. It vindicates the foundational principle of the first sale doctrine—if you bought it, you own it. All who believe in that principle, and the certainty it provides to libraries and many other parts of our culture and economy, should join us in applauding the Court for correcting the legal ambiguity that led to this case in the first place. It is especially gratifying that Justice Breyer’s majority opinion focused on the considerable harm that the Second Circuit’s opinion would have caused libraries.
The case involves a US graduate student named Supap Kirtsaeng who coordinated with his family to buy less expensive foreign editions of textbooks abroad and resell them to college students in the US. These books were not pirated copies; they were genuine textbooks authorized by Wiley for manufacture and sale abroad. Nevertheless, Wiley brought suit, alleging that the purchase and resale of foreign-made copies in the US infringed copyright.
In his defense, Kirtsaeng invoked a principle known as the first sale doctrine: a lawful owner of a lawful copy of a copyrighted work can generally do whatever she wants with that copy—resell, lend, donate, and even destroy it—without asking permission from the copyright holder. To put it another way, the author’s right to control a particular copy of her work ends after the first sale. The first sale doctrine is especially important to libraries, whose primary activity throughout history has been to buy copies of works and make them available to their communities by lending.
The Court’s decision ensures that libraries can rely on the critically important principle of first sale to continue lending the estimated 200 million foreign-made volumes in our collections. Wiley and others who sought a right of perpetual control over these materials may turn to Congress to roll back the Court’s wise decision. Libraries and our allies remain vigilant in defense of first sale and all of the rights that make it possible to serve our communities.
For more information on first sale, download “First Sale Fast Facts for Libraries.
The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) consists of three major library associations—the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries. These three associations collectively represent over 300,000 information professionals and thousands of libraries of all kinds throughout the United States and Canada. Find us on the web at http://librarycopyrightalliance.org/.
CCIA Celebrates Supreme Court Copyright, Owners’ Rights Ruling Today
Washington – 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: http://www.project-disco.org/intellectual-property/031913supreme-court-decides-kirtsaeng-v-wiley-you-bought-it-you-own-it/#more-3449
eBay Inc. Statement:
“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for all American consumers and businesses. The decision protects your right to buy and sell authentic goods, regardless of where they were made. eBay strongly believes in open markets that encourage competition, create price transparency and give consumers real choice, value, and selection. That’s good for consumers and good for the economy. This decision affirms eBay’s position that if you bought it, you own it, and you have the right to sell it. We will continue to champion ownership rights around the world.”
“Many Etsy members support themselves and their families by selling vintage items or handmade goods that may contain components originating outside the U.S. As micro-entrepreneurs, they don’t have the time or money to pursue foreign copyright holders. We applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to protect our members’ right to source, re-purpose and sell goods without undue risk.”
American Free Trade Association Statement:
American Consumers Win Big with Today’s Supreme Court’s Decision in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley
Bellport, New York: This morning the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, confirming that owners of lawfully-made, copyrighted goods are able to sell, resell, import, distribute, lend or otherwise freely dispose of those products at their discretion, no matter where they were first produced.
In this particular case, the U.S. publisher, John Wiley & Sons, had sued Supak Kirtsaeng, an ebay reseller of used college textbooks manufactured overseas, alleging copyright infringement. The First Sale Doctrine, Section 109(a) of the U.S. Copyright Act, provides owners of lawfully made copyrighted products the right to resell or otherwise do whatever it is they want to do with that product after purchase. Wiley had tried to argue that this “first sale” protection only applies to owners of copyrighted goods originally manufactured in the United States. The Court disagreed.
Quality King Distributors had won an earlier first sale decision before the Supreme Court in 1998 (Quality King v. L’Anza Research) in which the Court had determined that the First Sale Doctrine permitted re-importation of U.S. made goods. Alfred Paliani, General Counsel of Quality King Distributors and President of the American Free Trade Association (“AFTA”) issued this statement earlier today: “It has been a long fight for all of us at Quality King. The first sale doctrine is the lifeblood of our business and industry. For the past 100 years, it has been what enables wholesalers and retailers to bring genuine, brand-name goods to the American consumer at competitive prices. We fought for its survival throughout the 1990’s and prevailed, culminating in the Supreme Court’s Quality King v. L’Anza decision. Today, in Kirtsaeng, the Supreme Court has put the icing on the cake, confirming finally that once a copyrighted article is sold — no matter where it was manufactured– it belongs to its buyer who is free to re-sell it, lend it or even give it away without any interference from the copyright holder.”
And, just a short while ago, Gilbert Lee Sandler, Esq., AFTA’s General Counsel offered the following commentary on today’s Supreme Court pronouncement: “This is a great decision for the US economy and its consumers, students and readers. The books in this case — and the watches and shampoos in earlier cases — are now freed from the high prices and restrictive distribution that would have been imposed on the US marketplace had the Court exempted foreign-made goods from the “first sale doctrine.” Now it is clear that goods made abroad and bearing a copyright can continue to be freely sold and imported into the US after their first, authorized sale. Any other decision would have been shocking to our common sense. US law should promote production in the US, not production abroad. Two years ago the Court could not decide whether the same rules should apply to goods made in the US and abroad, setting the stage for favoring goods made off shore as held by some lower courts.. That threat from the courts is now over.”
For more information about the case, the opinion or the American Free Trade Association, please visit www.aftaus.com or send an email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ORI Press Statements & Releases
- Owners’ Rights Initiative Applauds Supreme Court Decision in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley Case (March 2013)
- Owners’ Rights Initiative Launches to Protect Consumers’ Rights (October 2012)