Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Sellers’ Rights

eBay Inc. Staff

This is an edited version of a post from eBay Inc.’s Main Street blog.

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in an important copyright case, Kirtsaeng v. Wiley. The 6-3 opinion ensures that books and other copyright goods that are made overseas can be sold in the United States without the permission of the copyright holder. The decision is gratifying to eBay Inc. and a variety of organizations that could have been impacted if the court had ruled a different way.

“It’s a great victory for eBay’s many buyers and sellers,” said Tod Cohen, eBay Inc.’s deputy general counsel. “Consumers benefit from open markets, and we are glad that the Supreme Court agreed with that.”

Our Main Street blog, run by the eBay Inc. Government Relations team, has discussed this case and the issue of ownership rights before, but here’s the synopsis:

A graduate student named Supap Kirtsaeng bought fully authentic textbooks through friends and family in Thailand and sold them in the U.S. on eBay. He was sued by the book publisher, who claimed that copyright law barred his sales because the books were made in Thailand and he didn’t have the publisher’s permission to sell them. Kirtsaeng claimed that he was the lawful owner of those books since he had paid full price for them in Thailand, and he could now do with them what he wished.  The lower courts ruled against Kirtsaeng, and the case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruling supported the 100-year old legal doctrine that if you bought something, you could resell it, a right protected by a statute in the Copyright Act referred to as the “first sale doctrine.”

Failing to extend first sale protection to goods made abroad could have created a legal minefield for businesses, libraries, donation stories and others that sell and lend things that were made overseas. Could you imagine if you had to get permission from a manufacturer to sell certain items on eBay?

“The decision protects consumers’ right to buy and sell authentic goods, regardless of where they were made,” said eBay Inc. spokeswoman Amanda Christine Miller. “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.”

To read the full post, go to the Main Street blog.