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Today, Public Knowledge filed a “friend of the court” brief in the Supreme Court case of Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., urging it to preserve the first sale right for copies of works made overseas.
The first sale doctrine allows owners of lawfully made copies to distribute them without having to seek the permission of the copyright owner. Without it, it would be illegal to sell, lend, or even give away anything that contains a copyrighted work. The Supreme Court is reviewing a decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that would eliminate first sale for copies of works made outside of the United States.
The following may be attributed to Sherwin Siy, Vice President of Legal Affairs:
“This case threatens to eliminate that right for anything made outside of the United States. That means that if a book or DVD or an electronic device with copyrighted software on it was made outside of the country, Anyone who ever owns it—for the next several decades—will have to get permission from the copyright owner to sell it, lend it, or give it away.
“Our brief points out that this interpretation makes nearly everyone in the country an accidental copyright infringer, and that it isn’t necessary to make sense of the law. In fact, the law makes far less sense if you follow the lower courts’ decision.”
Public Knowledge is joined in the brief by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, U.S. PIRG, the American Association of Law Libraries, and the Special Libraries Association.
Public Knowledge is a Washington D.C.- based public interest group working to defend consumer rights in the emerging digital culture. More information is available at http://www.publicknowledge.org