Symposium on Copyright Law and Gray Market Goods, John Wiley & Sons v. Kirtsaeng
The DePaul Journal of Art, Technology & Intellectual Property Law is sponsoring a symposium on Copyright Law and Gray Market Goods, John Wiley & Sons v. Kirtsaeng on April 8, 2013 (12 – 3 p.m.)
In John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Kirtsaeng, 654 F.3d 210 (2d Cir. 2011), a publishing company brought an action against a defendant who was importing and selling textbooks within the United States. The defendant had relatives in Thailand purchase foreign editions of textbooks that were legally printed abroad. The relatives would send the textbooks to the defendant and the defendant would sell them for a profit. On appeal, the defendant argued that he should have been allowed to put forth a first sale defense.
The 2nd Circuit affirmed the district court’s rejection of a first sale defense based on a plain language interpretation of 17 USC § 602(a) and 17 U.S.C. § 109(a) and some dicta in Quality King Distributors, Inc. v. L’anza Research International, Inc., 523 U.S. 135 (1998). (Quality King involved goods that were manufactured within the United States, sold abroad and then re-imported). The Supreme Court granted certiorari. Oral arguments were heard on Oct. 29, 2012.
On March 19, 2013, Justice Breyer, writing for a majority of six, emphatically rejected the publisher’s control over the importation of legally manufactured “gray-market” products. The Court held that the “first sale” doctrine, which allows the owner of a copyrighted work to sell or otherwise dispose of that copy as he wishes, applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad. Justice Kagan filed a concurring opinion in which Justice Alito joined. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Kennedy joined, and in which Justice Scalia joined except as to Parts III and V–B–1.
The slip opinion is available here.
Professor Tyler Ochoa, Santa Clara University College of Law
Kevin Tottis, Principal, Law Offices of Kevin Tottis
Professor Matthew Sag, Loyola University School of Law
Robert Paul, Director of Business Operations, Compass Lexecon
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