U.S. Supreme Court ruling protects people trying to resell items - KCTV5

U.S. Supreme Court ruling protects people trying to re-sell items

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OLATHE, KS (KCTV) -

Thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, people can re-sell old items like computers, cell phones or books with no worries about copyright infringement.

The judges overruled a decision that would have required customers to get permission from copyright holders.

Under the First Sale Doctrine, a person can re-sell their stuff to a pawn shop or online without worrying because the copyright holder only had control over the first sale. An appellate court ruled that should change, which worried business owners like the one of Olathe Trading Post and Pawn Shop.

Owner Brian Anderson worried that the motto "you bought it, you own it" could have been taken away with the initial ruling.

"Well I was quite concerned about how it could affect us. When I started to do my research I was seeing wow, we could have to contact every manufacturer of everything we sell, which would be absolutely devastating and time consuming," he said.

Items made outside the U.S. were at the center of a Supreme Court case. If the court upheld the appellate court's ruling, a person would have to get permission to re-sell anything made in China, Japan and other foreign countries.

Anderson and other pawn shop owners closely watched the case, fearing it could potentially put them out of business. It would have also had a large impact on websites like Craigslist and eBay.

"When you buy something, if it is a legal item and it wasn't produced illegally or (involved) copyright infringement, you should be able to do with it as you see fit. You shouldn't have to get permission from the manufacturer as the first doctrine shows. It shouldn't matter where it was produced," Anderson said.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in a 6-3 opinion against the appellate court and it's back to business as usual at pawn shops across the country.

"Absolutely that is the way it should be. Trying to say that you bought it but we still have the right to tell you what to do with it, that doesn't seem like a very good way for any business to work," Anderson said.

The case began with an attempt to crack down on "gray markets," meaning people who buy items at cheaper costs outside the U.S. and then import them to sell them at a higher price in the U.S.

A college student from Thailand going to school at Cornell in New York had his relatives buy cheap books in Thailand and ship them to him. According to court documents, he then sold $1.2 million worth of books on eBay.

The Owners' Rights Initiative (ORI) issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 opinion in favor of Kirtsaeng, reversing the Second Circuit Court decision. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Breyer, clearly affirmed that the Copyright Act was not intended, and cannot be misconstrued, to limit the distribution of authentic goods. Andrew Shore, executive director of ORI said:

"ORI is gratified by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in favor of Supap Kirtsaeng in this important copyright case. This decision is a landmark win for consumers, small businesses, online marketplaces, retailers and libraries nationwide and an affirmation of the ORI motto, ‘you bought it, you own it.' This decision definitively affirms the first sale doctrine, cementing the right of consumers and organizations to sell, lend and give away goods that they bought and own, regardless of where those goods were made.

"While we are energized by this decision, we expect that some will continue attempts to eliminate owners' rights, reduce competition in the marketplace and restrict the global trade of authentic goods. ORI will continue to be vigilant and diligent in protecting owners' rights now and in the future and we expect policymakers to do the same."

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