US Supreme Court Overturns International Copyright Laws

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that any goods made and sold outside the U.S., can be resold in the United States without violating any copyright laws. The issue arose when a USC student from Thailand was found to be selling textbooks that his family had purchased at a lower rate in his home country. The student was able to support himself through college by selling these textbooks on Ebay. His profits amounted to around $100,000.

John Wiley & Sons, one of the textbook publishers, sued the student in 2009, for infringing on copyright laws. The New York jury that initially heard the case, supported the publisher, so the student was ordered to pay $600,000 in damages. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this decision in 2011, stating that foreign items cannot be resold without the copyright owner's permission.

In a 6-3 decision, however, the Supreme Court, overturned that ruling. It held to the "first-sale" doctrine, which states that a copyright holder can profit from the first sale of a material, but not its resale. Judge Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion, which stated that the rights of the holder expires when their product is sold internationally. The student had lawfully purchased the books in another country and so he was then allowed to sell them as he chose in the U.S.

Their decision has so far proven to be controversial. Some are relieved by this decision, because it supports the rights of buyers, no matter where they purchased the goods. Others say that publishers and students in poorer countries are now facing harm because textbooks were specifically priced at a cheaper rate for third world countries. Publishers may be forced to raise prices so that the US market will not get flooded with copyrighted material that was purchased internationally.

If you are having issues with copyright laws or other business law issues, then you should speak to a Los Angeles business litigation lawyer at The Mirkhan Law Firm. They are extremely knowledgeable in all areas of business law, and can give you the wise counsel you need to defend yourself.

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