This Week in the Supreme Court
Okay, okay, last week in the Supreme Court.
A week ago, Monday, the Supreme Court heard petitions for certiorari on two cases involving section 109(a) of the Copyright Act, which codifies the first sale doctrine. The first sale doctrine provides a defense against a copyright infringement action for the the resale of a copyrighted good by a purchaser or transferee – meaning that the new owner of the good may resell or dispose of the item however he or she wishes without fearing being sued for infringement of the distribution right.
Both cases, Liu v. Pearson Education, Inc., and Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., were decided on the appeals level in the Second Circuit in favor of the copyright holder. The Second Circuit held in each that a purchaser or new owner of a copyrighted good may not use the first sale doctrine as a defense when the goods in question are manufactured abroad. In December 2010, the Supreme Court, through an evenly-split decision, affirmed a similar holding by the Ninth Circuit in Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega SA.