The U.S. Supreme Court last week issued a decision on copyright law that dealt a defeat to educational publishers but eased the fears of teachers and libraries over the use of books published overseas.
The justices ruled 6-3 that the important “first sale” doctrine, which holds that the purchaser of a copyrighted item may redistribute it, applies to copyrighted works that are lawfully published outside the United States.
The decision was a victory for Supap Kirtsaeng, a native of Thailand who was a U.S. college student when his relatives back home sent him cheaper, foreign-published versions of major college textbooks. Mr. Kirtsaeng sold more than $900,000 of such foreign editions on eBay in the United States, pocketing some $100,000 in profits.
In its March 19 decision in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons Inc., the Supreme Court concluded that Congress did not intend to restrict the first-sale doctrine geographically.
The Association of American Publishers issued a statement expressing its disappointment with the decision.
A version of this article appeared in the March 27, 2013 edition of Education Week as Text Publishers Lose In Copyright Case