It may have been overshadowed by the drama and tragedy of hurricane Sandy this week, but the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on a case which may determine whether you will be able to sell a used book on eBay or other reseller web sites. In Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a student, through his family in Thailand, legally purchased books that were published there by a U.S. publishing house. That publisher, like many others, publishes similar versions of their U.S. titles in foreign countries at cheaper prices. After the student resold the books on eBay, the publishing company argued that his actions amounted to copyright infringement because the U.S. copyright laws give the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to import copies of a work from outside the United States. The student argued that another provision of the copyright laws give a purchaser of a particular copy of a work "lawfully made under this title" of the copyright law the right to resell the book without getting the permission of the publisher. The case could have a dramatic impact on e-commerce and online resale sites and is being closely watched by both sides.
The trial court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals both sided with the publisher. The U.S. Supreme Court decision is expected by the end of its term in June, 2013.