“How an eBay bookseller defeated a publishing giant at the Supreme Court”

November 26, 2014

In a recent post on ARS TECHNICA, Doug Kari with Arbitech, wrote about how one eBay seller defeated a publishing giant in a major Supreme Court case that has greatly impacted copyright case law.  Supap Kirtsaeng, a graduate student, sold textbooks online to help pay for grad school at USC.  The textbooks he sold were legitimate copies that he’d purchased overseas. However, academic publishing company John Wiley & Sons sued Supap, claiming that his trade in Wiley’s foreign-market textbooks constituted copyright infringement.

Kari explained the importance of this case. “The implications were enormous. If publishers had the right to control resale of books that they printed and sold overseas, then it stood to reason that manufacturers could restrain trade in countless products—especially tech goods, most of which are made in Asia and contain copyrightable elements such as embedded software.”

However, Kari writes that even after a Supreme Court victory, the fight still wages on. “Wiley and other prominent copyright holders have been pleading for legislative restrictions on Kirtsaeng. On the other side, ownership interests want to ensure that Kirtsaeng applies to products with digital content. In September 2014, Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX) introduced a bill called “You Own Devices Act” (YODA) that allows owners of products with embedded software to transfer their rights.”

eBay Inc. strongly supports the “First Sale Doctrine”, or the idea of “you bought it; you own it” and we strong believe in owner’s rights. Without your owners’ rights, manufacturers of products might be able to engage in restrictive practices designed to limit retail, resale, and commerce generally. To help further this cause, eBay Inc. joined the Owners' Rights Initiative.