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Books Education The Courts United States

Supreme Court Upholds First Sale Doctrine 648

Posted by timothy
from the stopped-clock-right-twice-a-day dept.
langelgjm writes "In a closely-watched case, the U.S. Supreme Court today vindicated the first-sale doctrine, declaring that it "applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad." The case involved a Thai graduate student in the U.S. who sold cheap foreign versions of textbooks on eBay without the publisher's permission. The 6-3 decision has important implications for goods sold online and in discount stores. Justice Stephen Breyer said in his opinion (PDF) that the publisher lost any ability to control what happens to its books after their first sale abroad."
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Supreme Court Upholds First Sale Doctrine

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  • by jkrise (535370) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:14AM (#43213427) Journal

    Now lots of online businesses peddling second hand goods will spring up in no time.

    What about pdf books and eBooks? Can they be traded online or offered free by the legitimate purchaser?

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:16AM (#43213449) Homepage Journal

    Seriously? Reselling a physical product you bought legally needed the highest court in the land to adjudicate?

    I'm not surprised to see Justices "Whatever helps big corporations the most is best for the country" Kennedy, and "Whatever the republican party says today is the founder's original intent" Scalia writing a dissent, though. I don't know what could have made Ginsberg side with them though.

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:20AM (#43213499) Homepage Journal
    may be found at this link [supremecourt.gov]. Surprisingly, Scalia was the only justice from the conservative wing to dissent.
  • Re:Broad Application (Score:3, Interesting)

    by a_big_favor (2550262) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:24AM (#43213525)
    Since when is it against the law to modify an Xbox?
  • by roccomaglio (520780) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:29AM (#43213583)
    The majority opinion was written by Justice Stephen Breyer and he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas. The majority opinion was that you loose control when you sell something. Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Samuel Alito said that congress was free to change the law if they wanted, but sided with the majority. The dissenting opinion was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia.
  • by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:31AM (#43213605) Homepage Journal

    Many here do not understand event the definition of capitalism:
    private ownership and operation of property
    that's all it is.

    Denying people's right to private ownership and operation of property is denying capitalism. It's a good thing that this judge went in the right direction, but what is troubling is that this was ever even a question: can people own property?

    Can people own and operate private property? Can you sell your own stuff that you made or bought? Isn't that a strange thing to ask in a society that is supposedly capitalist? But of-course it is not a strange thing to ask, because the society is no longer capitalist. Capitalism really exists as a concept in a free market economy, because capitalism in fact requires individual freedom. Denying freedom to the individuals will automatically deny capitalism and what do you have when you do not have capitalism because you do not have freedom?

    Well, you may still end up with some people owning and operating private property but not all people being able to do it, because the governing principles changed to deny all people equal protection against government intervention by law.

    It is when you do not have equal treatment of people in the context of their relationship with their government by law when you really no longer have free market but you also lose the principles of capitalism for most people.

    Again: capitalism is ownership and operation of private property. This is a basic fundamental right, all other rights are only an extension of this one right. If you have no right to own and operate private property, you will not be able to have resources, you will not even be allowed to own and operate your own body. And that's true even today, look at this lack of capitalism, lack of free market and thus lack of freedom even to do what you want with your own body. All these government officials telling you what you must or are not allowed to do, eat, smoke, drink, ingest, who you can and cannot have sex with, etc.

    Unfortunately it is now news when a judge actually protects individual freedoms in a rare case of outbreak of common sense or decency or something like that, it's no longer the rule, it's the exception.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:31AM (#43213609)

    The breakdown of votes is very different to what I'm used to seeing on Supreme Court cases – you've got Breyer, Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan in the majority, and Scalia, Kennedy, and Ginsburg in dissent. That's really weird; usually you've got Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts on the conservative wing voting together, with Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor as the liberal bloc. Kennedy is a bit of a swing vote, though he's gone more with the conservatives recently, and Scalia used to occasionally vote with the liberals on civil liberties cases, but he doesn't any more and is now pretty much an elderly partisan crank. Roberts occasionally crosses the line (as with the decision upholding PPACA) but it's rather unusual to see so much intermixing between the liberal and conservative blocs.

    Just goes to show that copyright as a political issue doesn't neatly break down along existing partisan lines.

  • Re:Broad Application (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:32AM (#43213615)

    Since the digital-lock breaking provisions of the DMCA. Hardware mods have been contraband for many years in the USA. Ask any Canadian mod-chip dealer and they'll tell you they will not ship to the USA because they don't want to risk their livelihood. Granted, it's now also illegal in Canada as of a few months ago.

  • by larry bagina (561269) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:33AM (#43213627) Journal
    What happens when you import a pound of marijuana from a country where it's legal to a country where it's illegal?
  • It's funny -- there are all kinds of incentives for big business to move jobs offshore, or import cheap labor, but when the general public makes use of the same process, they complain. And they got 3 judges on their side, including a "liberal" judge (Ginsburg) and a lieralish judge (Kenedy) and of course Scalia. Expect a legislative solution to be purchased soon so that this "egregious" decision can be fixed and we can go back to falling wages and increasing corporate profits.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:56AM (#43213883) Journal

    I suspect they were primarily concerned with the adverse effect suspending the first sale doctrine would have on currently legitimate business. Surely ending the first sale doctrine overseas would benefit the publishers, but it would hurt a lot of other companies too.

    I doubt the rights of the individual ever came up.

  • Well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Etherwalk (681268) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @11:21AM (#43214119)

    They generally make decisions that are pro-establishment. Part of that is because the establishment has better lawyers (business v. individual cases) or the non-establishment is unsympathetic (criminals) or the establishment has some influence on which cases come up (if it loses in the Circuit Court of Appeals, the SG's office decides whether to appeal based on whether or not they think the case is a good test case--so the first circuit case for whether it's okay to record police officers on Boston Common, for example, doesn't get appealed because it's not a good test case for the government) or the justices have experiences on the prosecutorial side of the system and so tend to favor it.

    However, they're also nine people looking at the law and making decisions based on what seems to make sense to them, in situations where the law can be read to favor either side. Kind of like where all of the courts of appeals had said that committing a crime "with a firearm" included even having a firearm in your pocket at the time a crime was committed. The Supreme Court overturned every circuit because it was an idiotic reading of the law.

    Here, the law is more ambiguous--the question turned on whether a duplication in a foreign country, where the U.S. Copyright Act did not apply, was a duplication "under" the U.S. Copyright Act. Because duplications under the act are susceptible to the first sale doctrine.

    The Court held it was a duplication "Under" the act.

  • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @11:52AM (#43214467)

    And based on my meeting with a publisher rep yesterday (I work in education, publisher was Pearson) the book is only "yours" for a year. Retake the course, or take the next level up course more than a year later, and you can't even use your "own" book for reference/refresher.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @11:56AM (#43214507) Homepage Journal

    I'll say that the founding fathers would likely support corporate personhood.

    Really? The same group of fellas who trashed a shitload of corporate property [wikipedia.org] because they were pissed about how that corporation and the government colluded to screw them over? [wikipedia.org]

    Somehow I'm hard pressed to buy that one...

  • by Loughla (2531696) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @11:59AM (#43214569)

    Jobs and economy are not a banner under which businesses can steamroll our rights as citizens to choose whether or not we sell our home. They want my property? They offer what they believe it's worth. If I think it's worth more, then they're shit out of luck, and should maybe try offering more money.

    Being a corporation and 'job-creator' does not exempt you from playing by the rules the rest of us play by.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @01:20PM (#43215643)

    You mean like:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_of_Columbia_v._Heller [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyllo_v._United_States [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printz_v._United_States [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamdi_v._Rumsfeld [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_Item_Veto_Act [wikipedia.org]

    I think that you'd likely agree with him on every single one of those cases and probably many more.

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