American Library, Library Copyright Alliance Statement on the Supreme Court’s Decision in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley
On March 19 the Supreme Court announced its much-anticipated decision in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, a lawsuit regarding the bedrock principle of the first sale doctrine. The 6-3 opinion is a total victory for libraries and our users. It vindicates the foundational principle of the first sale doctrine—if you bought it, you own it. All who believe in that principle, and the certainty it provides to libraries and many other parts of our culture and economy, should join us in applauding the Court for correcting the legal ambiguity that led to this case in the first place. It is especially gratifying that Justice Breyer’s majority opinion focused on the considerable harm that the Second Circuit’s opinion would have caused libraries.
The case involves a US graduate student named Supap Kirtsaeng who coordinated with his family to buy less expensive foreign editions of textbooks abroad and re-sell them to college students in the US. These books were not pirate copies; they were genuine textbooks authorized by Wiley for manufacture and sale abroad. Nevertheless, Wiley brought suit, alleging that the purchase and resale of foreign-made copies in the US infringed copyright.