The U.S. Supreme Court will rule this term on a high-profile copyright suit: the case of a former Cornell student who got sued for copyright infringement after he sold textbooks eBay.Thai national Supap Kirtsaeng had his family at home ship him textbooks made by John Wiley & Son’s Asian unit so he could resell them on e-Bay at a profit.
The publisher got mad and sued him for copyright infringement because it was missing out on the chance to sell texbooks in the more expensive American market. Kirtsaeng lost and got hit with $600,000 in damages.
This term, the nation’s highest court will decide whether it’s OK for people in the U.S. to sell copyrighted materials that were made abroad.
At first glance, it might seem like this case could have huge implications for ordinary Americans. After all, a lot of stuff is made overseas, and a lot of people like to sell used stuff on eBay.
A group called Owners Rights Initiative – a coalition including eBay, Etsy, and Overstock, among others – claims the case could have “far-reaching impacts on all Americans.“
That group even released a video showing ordinary Americans on the street speaking out for their right to be able to resell whatever they buy.
The thing is, a victory for John Wiley probably won’t impact the average person who sells a couple of foreign-made items on eBay.
Kirtsaeng “turned textooks into a profit machine” and made roughly $1 million from his business, though the exact amount of profits he earned is in dispute, the Chronicle of Higher Education has reported.
He was arguably a target worth going after because he was reselling foreign-made items in bulk.
It’s absurd to think copyright owners would have the resources or even the will to file a copyright lawsuit against everybody who sells a foreign-made item in the U.S.
And maybe global copyright owners like John Wiley should be able to sue people big profit-makers like Kirtsaeng.
“If I want to authorise people in Thailand to sell my copyrighted books, and I charge much less for people who sell that book in the U.S., it pretty much destroys my ability to charge different prices in different markets,” intellectual property lawyer Garland Stephens has told Business Insider.
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