Friday, March 22, 2013

Great Decision By Supreme Court – Publishers Cannot Control A Book After It is Sold

A Small But Significant Blow Against the Monopoly of Publishers of College Text Books

One of the great, underreported scandals of modern America is the exploitation of  college students by text book publishers.  When a book is assigned for a course students have no choice but to buy it, and as a result publishers charge astronomical prices for the texts.  But one person decided to do something about this.

 Respondent, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., an academic textbook pub­lisher, often assigns to its wholly owned foreign subsidiary (Wiley Asia) rights to publish, print, and sell foreign editions of Wiley’s Eng­lish language textbooks abroad. Wiley Asia’s books state that they are not to be taken (without permission) into the United States.When petitioner Kirtsaeng moved from Thailand to the United States to study mathematics, he asked friends and family to buy foreign edi­tion English-language textbooks in Thai book shops, where they sold at low prices, and to mail them to him in the United States. He then sold the books, reimbursed his family and friends, and kept the profit.

So what’s the problem here, after all when a person legally purchases a book they have the right to resell it if they want.  Oh, John Wiley didn’t want them to.  And young Mr. Kirtsaeng lost to Wiley in District Court and the Appellate Court.  But he got his hearing before the Supreme Court, with this wonderful result which is this.  The first sale doctrine holds, after the first lawful sale unless a person violates the copyright a person owning the book can do with it as he or she pleases, including re-selling it. After Wiley sells you the book they cannot say you cannot take it anywhere you want, including the United

So no John Wiley and others, you cannot gouge American college students and not allow those consumers to lawfully buy your product elsewhere at a lower price.  And once they have purchased the book, common law dating back for centuries and current statutory law say they have the right to do with the book as they please, including bringing it into this country and reselling it. 

The Supremes get it right.  And ultimately the problem here is the greed of text book publishers.  Sell your product at a fair price where you make a decent but not excessive profit and no one has a problem with you.

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