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.   Here is a copy of the opinion: supreme court opinion in kirtsaeng v wiley  

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 afta@aftaus.com