Oct 8, 2012
Tucked into the U.S. Supreme Court’s agenda this fall is a
little-known case that could upend your ability to resell everything
from your grandmother’s antique furniture to your iPhone 4.
At issue in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons is the first-sale
doctrine in copyright law, which allows you to buy and then sell things
like electronics, books, artwork and furniture, as well as CDs and DVDs, without getting permission from the copyright holder of those products.
Under the doctrine, which the Supreme Court has recognized since
1908, you can resell your stuff without worry because the copyright
holder only had control over the first sale.
Put simply, though Apple Inc. AAPL -2.13%
has the copyright on the iPhone and Mark Owen has it on the book “No
Easy Day,” you can still sell your copies to whomever you please
whenever you want without retribution.
That’s being challenged now for products that are made abroad, and if
the Supreme Court upholds an appellate court ruling, it would mean that
the copyright holders of anything you own that has been made in China,
Japan or Europe, for example, would have to give you permission to sell