Not technology per se, but a fascinating copyright question

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a very interesting copyright case. Publishers sell different, cheaper editions of their textbooks elsewhere in the world. The text is the same, the paper and binding may be different. Some enterprising American student leveraged this fact and had friends import these cheaper editions, which he resold here, at a modest profit, but way cheaper than the retail US price. A major publisher sued him for copyright violation, and the courts agreed with the publisher, but only barely. Now it’s gone all the way up to the Supreme court. Read about it here and in the Chronicle.  Comments in both locations are interesting too.


4 Replies to “Not technology per se, but a fascinating copyright question”

  1. I learned about this through students of mine, who asked if it made a difference if they bought from one of these sites. I can’t blame a student for doing anything (legal!) to lower their costs of attending college.

  2. Agreed. It’s not as if these are illegally produced books. They are authorized by the publishing houses themselves, so the authors are getting their due, at least by some measure. For that matter, so are the publishers. Just not as much ‘just desserts’ as they think they deserve…

  3. As a professor who teaches and does research in this area, this issue has vastly bigger implications than textbooks. If the doctrine of first sale does not apply to books published abroad, which is the question that the Supreme Court is being asked to decide, selling any book from a foreign publisher would become illegal. If the ruling were enforced, used book dealers on Amazon and other selling sites would be forced to remove all publications that don’t have a US imprint. Libraries would not legally be able to put foreign publications in their book sales. Auction houses would have to remove foreign rare books that are still under copyright from their sales.

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