Skip to main content

Library-friendly decision in the Wiley v. Kirtsaeng case

(by Peter Hirtle)

Many of you will have seen the article in the Cornell Daily Sun last November on the Wiley v. Kirtsaeng case.  While a Cornell student, Supap Kirtsaeng bought legal copies of textbooks in Thailand and then sold them in the United States. The appeals court in New York found him guilty of copyright infringement after concluding that the “first sale” doctrine, which allows us to sell used books and allows libraries to lend materials, did not apply to materials manufactured abroad.

Today in an overwhelming victory for consumers and libraries, the Supreme Court decided that first sale does apply to foreign manufactured goods. In its decision, it cited the horrible impact that any other finding would have on the ability of libraries to acquire, lend, and even publicly display books.  You can read more in the press release from the Library Copyright Alliance.

While this decision represents a win for all who believe that if “you bought it, you own it,” the war may not yet be over.  The two decisions supporting Kirtsaeng also noted that Congress has the power to give copyright owners the ability to segment markets along geographic lines.  We will have to remain alert to possible legislative initiatives that could impact how we do our work.


Comments are closed.