View Full Version : Supreme Court case could outlaw resale and trade of items in the United States.

Lord Malakite
10-14-2012, 04:54 PM
Don't want to get too into the politics of it, since that would be better suited for a Rancor Pit discussion. However given what this community is all about I figured this might be important enough to mention here in general discussion as a heads up as this Supreme Court ruling would effect how we collect Star Wars (and other) merchandise in the future.

In 1997 Supap Kirtsaeng moved from Thailand to attend Cornell University. Upon arriving, he confronted a reality all college students in America face: the insane cost of text books. Realizing that the same exact text books cost a fraction of the price in his native Thailand, Kirtsaeng had his family buy a ton of them and ship them to him in the States, where he sold them on eBay at prices undercutting college bookstores to a profit of $1.2 million.

Aside from being the greatest possible education in American style capitalism, Kirtsaeng inadvertently poked the hornet’s nest of U.S. copyright law. Wiley, the company that produced the textbooks, sued him for copyright infringement. Amazingly, a court ruled that the “first-sale principle,” which says businesses can only get paid once for a product and after that the purchaser has the right to re-sell it, only applies to products manufactured in the United States, not abroad.

Kirtsaeng appealed the ruling, but the U.S. Court of Appeals also upheld it. On October 29 the case will go before the Supreme Court, and if the Supreme Court also upholds it it will require Congress to change the law so that people who purchase products made overseas will have to seek permission from the manufacturer, who still holds the copyright on the product, before reselling it.

Since almost everything we buy is made abroad, this would render eBay illegal. Yard sales would become a black market. And the only legitimate business left on Craigslist would be the “casual encounters.”

Needless to say, eBay is keeping a close eye on the case as the wrong ruling could basically torpedo the entire company. EBay filed a statement in relation to the case saying the lower court’s decision “allows for significant adverse consequences for trade, e-commerce, secondary markets, small businesses, consumers and jobs in the United States.”

Market Watch points out that even most American-made cars have electronics parts that are manufactured abroad, so selling even American cars over Craigslist would suddenly become illegal.

Marvin Ammori, a lawyer who specializes in tech issues, has personally bought an antique desk from a Supreme Court Justice in a yard sale, a transaction that would be illegal if the Court upholds the ruling. “Who doesn’t buy and sell things?” Ammori said. “Millions of Americans would be affected by this.”

The campaign to regulate the sale of marijuana is one thing—but by this time in the 2016 election we may be all campaigning for the unregulated sale of our old flat-screens on Craigslist. deathandtaxesmag.com (http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/189466/supreme-court-case-could-outlaw-yard-sales-ebay/)

10-14-2012, 06:23 PM
Even if it is passed, I don't see how it could be enforceable. This would not only shut down eBay, Craigslist and a big segment of Amazon, it would torpedo the entire used car industry and every pawn shop across the country. Not to mention franchises like Gamestop, Slackers, Disc Replay, etc. that sell used games, movies and music right alongside the new stuff.

Would car owners still be allowed to trade in their vehicles without express written permission from the manufacturer of every single part?

It's kind of interesting that it was only 28 years ago when the Supreme Court ruled that VCRs were okay for private ownership and viewing of copyrighted motion pictures at home was not infringement. It was a 5-4 decision and if one judge had ruled differently in 1984, then VCRs would have been outlawed or severely taxed and the home video market as we know it wouldn't exist.

Without getting too political, it's kind of scary how many of these minor freedoms that we take for granted can be totally dependent on one unelected official.

10-14-2012, 10:18 PM
I'm no expert but shouldn't that apply only to products of foreign copyrights that are not also held in the United States? So if the content or design has a US copyright, it's place of manufacture shouldn't matter.

10-15-2012, 12:15 AM
In terms of foreign copyrights, the US is party to a number of international copyright treaties which require that we recognize foreign copyrights in order to protect materials that are copyrighted here. In addition, many publishers and manufacturers do pursue copyrights in different countries to guarantee protection.

I think in the instance of the case at hand, the foreign textbooks were printed in English, they were just manufactured in Thailand. Therefore, they were almost identical to the same books published in the US, they were just manufactured elsewhere. To put things in a little more context, the Supreme Court has already heard a case that was not too dissimilar where they determined (but only as a 4-4 split so it's not precedent) that the First Sale doctrine does not apply when the "first sale" is made overseas. The reasoning was that US copyright law prohibits importation of a copyrighted work acquired overseas without the copyright holder's permission.

Now, I've only taken a couple of IP classes so I'm no expert and wouldn't begin to guess at the outcome the court would reach, but I will say that every time the subject of the First Sale Doctrine was raised by one of my professors, their opinion was that it was an invaluable legal invention that affected most people on a regular basis. One thing the court must consider is the wide scope and impact that any ruling might have on the American public.