Kirtsaeng v. Wiley: Imports, First Sale, and Unintended Consequences in the Supreme Court

Kirtsaeng v. Wiley: Imports, First Sale, and Unintended Consequences in the Supreme Court
Monday, October 29, 9:30 am
Du Bois Library, 26th floor


The Supreme Court is holding oral arguments on Monday, October 29, in a copyright “first sale” case, ”Kirtsaeng v. Wiley”. The W.E.B. Du Bois Library at UMass Amherst will be holding a talk in advance of oral arguments, at 9:30, with coffee and refreshments. On the table will be how “Kirtsaeng” could affect ”everything”: from libraries’ right to lend books, to your right to re-sell or give away books, music … shampoo bottles, refrigerators, cars.

This case has been flying under-the-radar compared with the more familiar “fair use” doctrine cases, but its implications are mind-blowing. Publishers argue that the “import” rules in copyright give them the right to control the import of copyrighted materials made outside the USA. Libraries, consumer rights groups, and a host of others argue that the first sale doctrine should trump the import rules — so that once the copyright holder has sold the item for the first time, they can’t control the purchaser’s re-sale, lending, or giving it away, no matter where it was made.

Why do we care? Well, not only do libraries buy a lot of foreign titles, but it turns out that a lot of books and journals and copyrighted material of all sorts have been outsourced for “manufacture”. And, moreover, nowadays, all sorts of goods include copyrighted content — everything from shampoo bottles with printed labels, to cars incorporating electronics and software. In other words, the outcome of this case could apply to anything electronic, written, artistic, or with a printed design that is made out of the USA.

So first thing Monday morning, Oct. 29, stop by for a discussion of this fascinating case. Caffeine, calories, and copyright conviviality provided. Contact Laura Quilter,, with any questions.

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