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Copyright ruling has ‘significant ramifications’ for publishers Print Email
Written by Christian Retailing Staff   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 04:40 PM America/New_York

RockyGilmoreU.S. Supreme Court decision ‘creates rights issues and pricing challenges’ for publishing houses selling abroad

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that books and other content goods made and sold abroad can be resold online and in discount stores without violating U.S. copyright law.  

In a 6-3 opinion March 19, the court threw out a copyright infringement award to publisher John Wiley & Sons against Thai graduate student Supap Kirtsaeng, who used eBay to resell copies in the U.S. of the publisher’s copyrighted books that his relatives first bought abroad at cut-rate prices, Associated Press (AP) reported.

“We are disappointed that [the] copyright decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ignores broader issues critical to America’s ability to compete in the global marketplace,” said Tom Allen, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP). “The decision will have significant ramifications for Americans who produce the books, music, movies and other content consumed avidly around the world. 

“The court’s interpretation of the ‘first sale’ provision of U.S. copyright law will discourage the active export of U.S. copyrighted works,” Allen added. 

Evangelical Christian Publishers Association President and CEO Mark Kuyper told Christian Retailing that the ruling presents a cause for concern.

“I think this ruling specifically and immediately creates rights issues and pricing challenges on English-language editions for publishers,” he said. “However, it underscores the long-term challenges that may be coming down the road regarding global rights in a digital world.   

Rocky Gilmore, chief operating officer of Group Publishing, said the Loveland, Colo.-based company “does not see the ruling as having a significant impact on our international publishing efforts.” 

“However, we generally agree with the concerns voiced by the AAP that current copyright law has not kept pace with the globalization of our industry or the impact of the Internet,” he said.

In his opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said that once goods are sold lawfully, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, publishers and manufacturers lose the protection of U.S. copyright law, AP reported.

“We hold that the `first sale’ doctrine applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad,” Breyer wrote.

The ruling was a major victory for eBay, Costco and other businesses that trade in products made outside the U.S., AP reported.

“To quote Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion, the divided ruling is a ‘bold departure’ from Congress’ intention ‘to protect copyright owners against the unauthorized importation of low-priced, foreign-made copies of their copyrighted works’ that is made ‘more stunning’ by its conflict with current U.S. trade policy,” Allen said. “AAP expects that Congress will likely consider whether the impact of the court’s divided ruling on the ability of U.S. producers to effectively compete in global markets requires legislative clarification.”

Jossey-Bass, which publishes some religious and spiritual titles, is an imprint of Wiley. contributor Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said the decision was “a major victory for American consumers because it allows them to shop worldwide for their copyrighted content.”