If the Supreme Court rules in favor, yard sales are in the past.
An entrepreneurial young man by the name of Supap Kirtsaeng, a native of Thailand, came to the US in 1997 to study at Cornell University. Soon after enrolling he discovered that his textbooks, produced by Wiley & Son, were substantially cheaper in Thailand than they were in Ithaca, N.Y. and when we say substantially, we mean like enough to pack and ship them to the US and still make a very nice profit. So young Supap contacted his relatives back home to buy the books and mail them to him in the United States.
Wiley and Sons, admitting that it charges (a lot) less for books sold abroad than it does in the United States, sued young Suppa for copyright infringement after they discovered that Supap sold the books on Ebay and had already pocketed some $1.2 million in sales revenue. Kirtsaeng’s Lawyers countered with the first-sale doctrine .
A jury awarded textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons $600,000 after deciding that math graduate student Supap Kirtsaeng infringed on the company’s copyrights. But of course that borders on insanity as it turns the whole world of online sales and discount Brands upside down, so the almighty Supreme Court has now decided, under pressure no doubt from stake-holder giants like Ebay, Amazon, Costco and a boatload of other brands, whether the First Sale Doctrine applies to products made with parts sourced from outside the United States.
Should the outcome be negative and the Supreme Court upholds the appellate Second Circuit court’s ruling, we may as well say goodbye to the “right” to re-sell the stuff we once bought that contains copyrighted goods or parts. Technically the ruling requires that the IP (Intellectual Property) holders of anything you own that has been made in China, Japan or Europe or anywhere else in the world for that matter, would have to give you permission to sell it. You want to sell your old used CDs, cell phone, books, TV or even that Ford truck with foreign parts? It may not be yours to sell unless you get explicit permission and presumably pay royalties.
All endangered events
Under the doctrine, which the Supreme Court has recognized since 1908, you can resell your stuff without worry because the copyright holder only had control over the first sale, as the permission is monetized in the sales price. For example Apple Inc. has the copyright on the iPhone, as Wiley and Sons has the copyright on its text books and if purchased here in the States, you can still sell your copies to whomever you please and whenever you want….presumably if this does not cross a Homeland Security line as was the case in the refusal to sell an iPhone at the Apple store in Atlanta GA, that could end up in the hands of an Iranian national. But that is another a completely different story that underscores however, how incredibly absurd and complicated life has become in recent decades.
Impact on Discount Retailers and Online Stores
In the case Wiley and Sons versus Supap Kirtsaeng, the consequences maybe a thousand fold severe according to a group of American Law Professors, as it would mean, if upheld by the Surpreme Court, that it’s going to be harder for consumers to buy used products and harder for them to sell them. The word “Harder” euphemism as it necessarily implies here that if you want to sell your personal electronic devices or the family jewels that have been passed down from your great-grandparents who immigrated from Italy a century ago, you will have to obtain permission from the copyright owner(s) or ignore the ruling and BREAK THE LAW.
Supap Kirtsaeng had his family buy the books published and printed in the Far East by a subsidiary of Wiley and Sons, which makes the whole case even more complicated as it questions if the copyright on the text books remains with Wiley and Sons in the US or was transferred to its fully owned subsidiary. Another huge can of worms, considering how many products companies like Walmart, Apple, Costco, Target, Best Buy etc. have manufactured in China and other parts of the world, through fully owned companies and third party manufacturers. According to the Second Circuit, if you purchase an item from any of these companies, that was made in China , India, Japan, Europe, Mexico, Canada etc. which is protected by US copyright, you cannot resell it without permission from the copyright holder!
What does Future hold for Charity Fundraisers and Yard Sales
A Thing of the Past?
Second hand stores, Thrift Shops, Garage sales, Yard Sales, Storage Sales, Estate Sales, Classified Sales, Charity sales, Farmer’s Markets, Church Sales and Mission Sales, on top of a $63 billion dollar discount stores and online retailers market segment, will be seriously impacted if the Supreme Court is upholding the Second Circuit court’s jury decision to ignore The First Sale Doctrine. Not entirely impossible that in the current economic stagnation, it On the sale end here are also huge implications for a variety of wide-ranging U.S. entities, including libraries, musicians, museums and even resale juggernauts eBay Inc. and Craigslist. U.S. libraries, for example, carry some 200 million books from foreign publishers.
And since laws and rulings are written without prejudice, meaning that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the laws, even donations of books and goods to charities like Micah’s Place, Barnabus, Cat’s Angels and many more are potentially illegal if these goods and books have foreign origins.
Ebay has alerted its millions of sellers to petition this little known case, quietly tucked into the US Supreme Court’s Agenda this fall, which if upheld, will have a huge impact on our society, and create an enormous set-back for a globalized economy.
To be absolutely clear and largely impartial, the Supreme Court may still find against Mr. Kirtsaeng for a variety of other trade/imporation violations and yet NOT uphold the sweeping and in my opinion absurd ruling of the Second Circuit Court. But if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling in its entirety, we will absolutely lose the right to resell any copyrighted good manufactured overseas, even if purchased in the US. Like your iPhone, your vehicle, your record collection, your antiques, your French designer made handbag collection and so on.
And in terms of recycling and sustainability, making the resale of copyrighted goods illegal, unless permission has been acquired from the copyright holder, would certainly result in many products ending up in garbage dumps around the country.
I would love to get some reactions on this potential reality.
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