The right to sell your own stuff on eBay, Craigslist, at pawn shops, and garage sales is as American as apple pie, right? Not so fast! This year the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether you really do have a right to sell the stuff you own.
And no, I’m not kidding.
A case before the Court, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, threatens what is known as the “first-sale doctrine”or “the right of first sale” in copyright law.
According to Wall Street Journal Market Watch, under the first-sale doctrine, which the Supreme Court has recognized since 1908, Americans may legally “buy and then sell things like electronics, books, artwork, furniture as well as CDs and DVDs, without getting permission from the copyright holder of those products…without worry because the copyright holder only had control over the first sale.”
In other words, the first-sale doctrine says that copyright holders can control the first sale of their product, but not subsequent sales.
A New York appellate court has already ruled against the first-sale doctrine in this case, for products made abroad. Which is why it is now before the Supreme Court.
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