Tuesday, October 30, 2012

US Supreme Court case on copyrighted parallel imports from Thailand

The US Supreme Court will start hearing a case this week about US copyright law involving a Thai national who while living in the US was sent hundreds of books by his family from Thailand, which he sold on. The Thai versions were priced lower.  Supap Kirtsaeng was a graduate student in California who sold the books his family sent him, through Ebay, which has vigorously supported him along with many other E-tailers.  John Wiley the publisher of some of the books he was sent and sold sued him.

The case turns on the US federal copyright law's first-sale doctrine which covers goods made in the US. The question for the court is whether  the doctrine applies to goods made  abroad. The case has significance for many small scale importers into the US seeking to use price arbitrage and importing goods from Asia.  Meanwhile many copyright goods producers have defended their right to sell goods priced different for different market conditions.  Many publishers are forced to sell low priced books in some Asian countries because of the chronic piracy problems, to counter local arguments that their books are too expensive. AIPLA filed a brief in support of John Wiley.






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