First Sale doctrine lives

Capitalism and private property aren’t entirely dead in the West, not yet, anyway:

The Supreme Court has sided with a Thai graduate student in the U.S. who sold cheap foreign versions of textbooks on eBay without the publisher’s permission, a decision with important implications for goods sold online and in discount stores.

The justices, in a 6-3 vote Tuesday, threw out a copyright infringement award to publisher John Wiley & Sons. Thai graduate student Supap Kirtsaeng used eBay to resell copies of the publisher’s copyrighted books that his relatives first bought abroad at cut-rate prices.

Justice Stephen Breyer said in his opinion for the court that the publisher lost any ability to control what happens to its books after their first sale abroad.

This will be interesting because the battle over used electronic items, such as ebooks, is only just beginning.  But at least those who are trying to expand copyright to subsume private property rights will have to change the law first.  Of course, the current life+70 Disneyright tends to indicate that there is a reasonable chance they’ll be able to do it.