In a 6 to 3, non-ideological and bi-partisan decision, the Supreme Court has upheld the “first sale doctrine”; a decision which will have far reaching implications. The “first sale doctrine” basically says that if you legally buy something, then you own it and can do what you wish with it. It is what allows libraries to lend out books that they purchase, video rentals, and allows you to sell your legally purchased books and CDs to others. Seems simple, right?
And yet, copyright holders have long tried to control what you can do with copyrighted works, even after you buy them. In the case in question, a student from Thailand attending an American university was fined $600,000 for selling eight textbooks that were legally purchased in Thailand and which he then sold on eBay to fellow students in the US (to help pay for his education). The award was upheld by an appeals court, which said that foreign copies are not allowed to be resold in the US without the permission of the copyright owners. The case then went to the Supreme Court, which struct down the lower courts.
Unfortunately, while Forbes magazine applauds the decision, they point out that the decision might soon become moot as publishers exploit loopholes to do a run around of the first sale doctrine.