| | Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: Supreme Court Finds Expansive Scope for First Sale Doctrine By John A. Kvinge
United States copyright law provides the owner of a copyright with certain rights, including the right to prevent unauthorized distribution or sale of a copyrighted work. Section 602(a)(1) of the Copyright Act states that the right to prevent importation into the United States is included in the owner’s right to control distribution. However, under the first sale doctrine, set forth in Section 109 of the Act, the sale of a work “lawfully made under this title” exhausts the copyright owner’s exclusive distribution right, allowing the work to be resold, given as a gift, imported, or otherwise disposed of as the purchaser of the work sees fit.
The Supreme Court previously held in Quality King Distributors v. L’anza Research Int’l, Inc. that the first sale doctrine covers the foreign sale of a work that was printed in the United States. The Supreme Court left unanswered whether a book that was both printed and sold abroad qualifies as a work “lawfully made under” the Copyright Act. In Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., the Supreme Court considered this question, and held that the first sale doctrine covers copyrighted works that are both printed and sold abroad.