Source: JOLT Digest of Harvard Journal of Law and Technology
“The Supreme Court, in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., held in a 6-3 decision that the “first sale” doctrine applies to copies of copyrighted work lawfully made abroad, reversing the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The case involved the resale in the United States of approximately 600 copies of textbooks that originally had been bought in Thailand at relatively inexpensive prices. On remand, the Supreme Court ordered that the Second Circuit conduct further proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion.
The unauthorized importation of copyrighted material is barred by § 602 of the Copyright Act of 1976 (17 U.S.C. § 602), and John Wiley & Sons’ (“Wiley”) right to distribute is protected by § 106(3). However, the first sale doctrine of § 109(a) extinguishes the copyright owner’s interest in a particular copy after the first sale to a consumer. At issue in Kirtsaeng was whether § 109(a) applies to goods of “foreign manufacture”—more specifically, whether the phrase “lawfully made under this title” applied to goods like the Asian editions of the Wiley textbooks.”