The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Supreme Court Rules Against Publisher in Copyright Suit

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to publishers Tuesday, ruling that purchasing books and goods legally abroad and then reselling them in the United States doesn’t violate U.S. copyright laws. In a 6-3 decision, the court threw out a lower-court ruling against a graduate student who sold bought cheap textbooks created for foreign markets by a U.S. publisher at below-market prices.

The court ruled that once goods are lawfully sold, publishers and manufacturers lose the protection of U.S. copyright laws.

The case started when John Wiley & Sons successfully sued Thai grad student Supap Kirtsaeng for selling $900,000 worth of international textbooks to other students in the U.S. A New York court ruled Kirtsaeng sold the titles without permission and awarded Wiley $600,000.

Advocates against the lower-court ruling claimed that if allowed to stand, it would hamper the sale of many goods sold online and in discount stores. Retailers estimated that most of the more than $2.3 trillion worth of foreign goods imported in 2011 were bought after they were first purchased abroad.

Dissenting justices argued the court ignored Congress’s intent to protect companies against low-priced foreign copies of copyrighted works.

“We are disappointed that the U.S. Supreme court has decided in favor of supap Kirtsaeng and overturned the Second Circuit’s ruling,” said Stephen M Smith, president and CEO of Wiley, in a statement about the decision. “It is a loss for the U.S. economy, and students and authors in the U.S. and around the world.”

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