Supreme Court Ruling Will Result in Lower Prices
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Yesterday the US Supreme Court ruled that individuals and companies that buy books and other goods abroad have the right to resell those products in the US even if the manufacturer explicitly marks the goods for sale only in specific regions outside of America.
In a 6-3 decision, not split along party lines, the Court ruled that Supap Kirtsaeng, a former Thai PhD student who bought lower priced but equivalent medical text books overseas in developing countries then resold these books in the US, did not infringe on the copyrights of John Wiley & Sons, the publisher, despite the fact that Wiley had marked the textbooks for sale only in regions outside the US.
The ruling is seen as a big win not only for Mr. Kirtsaeng but also for eBay, libraries and high-tech resellers and maintenance providers who may now sell, rent or loan goods not originally destined for the US market into the US market without fear of reprisals from manufacturers.
In its decision the High Court upheld the “First Sale Doctrine” the basic right of an individual or company to resell a product it had purchased legally without regard for where the product came from. In essence saying if you bought it legally you own it and have the right to resell it. The brouhaha over the First Sale Doctrine had been percolating for three years with publishing, entertainment, manufacturing and software industries lining up for restrictions that would limit how and where goods could be resold and libraries, museums, eBay, Google and equipment resellers lining up on the side of the eventual decision.
To consumers and tech users the decision will lead to lower pricing as US based publishers and manufacturers will be forced to lower prices to compete with their own products that they in-explicably sell more cheaply abroad. Maintenance companies will be able to buy parts overseas at lower costs and the savings will be passed on to users. And, the vast threat of legal action by content developers will hopefully now be curtailed.
The fight over the First Sale Doctrine drew national attention as can be seen in these clips from The O’Reilly Factor and The Colbert Report, each bringing its own sense of humor to this important and significant national public debate.
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