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Kirtsaeng v. Wiley & Sons

On July 3, 2012, ARL joined the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), who all work collectively as the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), to file an amicus curiae brief (PDF) with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of petitioner Supap Kirtsaeng in the case Kirtsaeng v. Wiley & Sons. On the eve of Independence Day, the LCA asks the Court to be true to the values of our country’s founders—people like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who were both founders of libraries and great champions of library lending.

Wiley, a publisher of textbooks and other materials, claims Kirtsaeng infringed its copyrights by re-selling in the US cheaper foreign editions of Wiley textbooks that his family lawfully purchased abroad. The LCA believes an adverse decision in this case could affect libraries’ right to lend books and other materials manufactured abroad.

The “first-sale doctrine” is the provision in the Copyright Act that allows any purchaser of a legal copy of a book or other copyrighted work to sell or lend that copy. However, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the first-sale doctrine applied only to copies manufactured in the United States. This odd interpretation of the law effectively strips libraries of their first-sale right to lend their own copies of works made abroad.

In its friend-of-the-court brief, the LCA asks the Supreme Court to reverse the Second Circuit and apply the first-sale doctrine to all copies manufactured with the lawful authorization of the holder of a work’s US copyright.

This is the second case the Supreme Court has heard on this issue in the last two years. In Costco v. Omega, a case involving the importation of luxury watches with copyrighted logos on them, the Court was deadlocked 4-4, leaving the issue unresolved. Justice Kagan recused herself from the case due to her participation in the litigation when she was Solicitor General, but Justice Kagan will participate in Kirtsaeng.


Additional Resources

The Public View: Two-Minute Video by Owners' Rights Initiative (Jan. 2013)

First Sale Fast Facts for Libraries: One-Page Summary by Library Copyright Alliance (PDF) (Jan. 2013)

Webcast Video: Kirtsaeng v. Wiley & the Threat to Library Lending (Oct. 2012) 

Op-Ed on Kirtsaeng v. Wiley by Butler & Band in Library Journal (Oct. 2012) 

ARL Joins New First Sale Coalition: Owners' Rights Initiative (Oct. 2012)



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