First it was the UsedSoft vs. Oracle case, and now this… Kirtsaeng vs. John Wiley & Sons. Once again manufacturers need to get a grip and stop trying to monopolize their industries in their entirety. Kirtsaeng vs. John Wiley & Sons is an upcoming Supreme Court case, which involves an eBay seller (Kirtsaeng) who was sued by a textbook publisher (John Wiley & Sons) for reselling books.
The case involves an entrepreneurial graduate student named Supap Kirtsaeng who was trying to raise money for college. Kirtsaeng acquired legitimate textbooks through friends and family in Thailand and sold them in the U.S. through eBay and other various ecommerce sites. These were all legitimate books that the book publisher manufactured overseas and not counterfeit, pirated, or stolen.
The publisher is trying to use U.S. copyright laws to stop the book sales and make the seller pay $600,000 in damages which is more than 15 times what he made from selling the books to begin with. The book publisher, John Wiley and Sons, claim that US copyright law barred Kirtsaeng’s unauthorized sales of the textbooks. Kirtsaeng stands his ground that he was the lawful owner of the books as he had paid full price for them in Thailand, and he could now do with them what he wanted.
In the lower courts the ruling went against Kirtsaeng saying that since the books were manufactured outside the US, he was in violation of U.S. copyright law for being an unauthorized seller. With this extreme interpretation of the U.S. copyright law manufacturers can force retailers and consumers to first have to obtain permission from the manufacturer before reselling or even donating goods manufactured overseas.
This type of ruling could affect most of the goods we use everyday, not just books. It seems crazy to think that manufacturers would retain ownership rights of an item no matter how many times it changes owners. This would type of ruling if it holds up in the Supreme Court would threaten the laws of ownership and resale that we all enjoy.
"This perverse application of copyright law could have severe impacts on global commerce, particularly on the Internet," said Patrick Ruffini, title of Engage DC. "The Internet has provided tremendous value for consumers enabling them to compare prices by shopping from other Internet users and businesses of all sizes, around the globe. We cannot sit idly by and allow manufacturers to use copyright law to eliminate ownership rights and place unfair restrictions on global commerce," Ruffini said.
Being that we are in the business of reselling IT hardware, we find this ruling highly unfavorable for all resellers and buyers. This could gravely affect the way we do business and the discounts our customers enjoy. We urge you to consider joining us and more than 100,000 others in signing a petition that was started by Citizens for Ownership Rights (CFOR). CFOR is a coalition of public interest organizations asking individuals to stand up for their rights as buyers and sellers. This petition will be sent directly to the President and Attorney General to send a strong message that ownership rights are a foundational principle of a strong democracy. It will urge them to support the rights of Americans to purchase legitimate goods, resell those goods, give them away, or use them in any legal manner they desire.
The petition and more information about the issue and the campaign can be found at http://ownershiprights.org .